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Old 04-04-2011, 08:46 PM   #19
MtnLiving
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Native Americans "passing" for white

Tah-Chee (Dutch), A Cherokee Chief, 1837, Smithsonian American Art Museum; image from McKenney and Hall's Indian Tribes of North America: with lithographer Albert Newsam's signature; based on a painting by Charles Bird King

Historically, mixed-race European-American Indian and sometimes full blood Indian families of the South adopted the terms "Black Dutch", and to a lesser extent, Black Irish, first in Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The practice of Cherokees' identifying as "Black Dutch" originated during and after the 1830s Indian Removal era. They used this term to explain their dark looks and to avoid being removed to Indian Territory or stigmatized by Anglo-American society.[9]

One of the earliest Cherokee recorded as having been called "Dutch" was Tah-Chee, who died in 1848. He was known both as "Dutch," and "Captain William Dutch" -- and noted as such when his portrait was published in the 1837 book Indian Tribes of North America by Thomas L. McKenney (17851859) and James Hall (17931868). Dutch was a revered Cherokee chief and talented hunter. Trying to escape the forced removal to Indian Territory, he led his people to Texas. There he acquired a significant amount of land for his tribe along the Canadian River in Texas after fighting against the Osage and Comanche tribes of the territory. After he and his warriors were defeated by U.S. government forces, Tah-Chee was forced to move to the Indian Territory, later known as the state of Oklahoma.[10]

Some Native Americans, mainly Cherokee, but also Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and other tribal people, sometimes claimed "Black Dutch" or "Black Irish" heritage to purchase land in areas which United States treaties and other laws had reserved for people of European descent. Once they owned the land, such families who had escaped forced removal during the Trail of Tears era would not admit to their heritage, for fear the property would be taken away from them.[9]

The following explanation of the terms "Black Dutch" and "Black Irish" is displayed on the wall of the Oakville Indian Mounds Park and Museum in Lawrence County, Alabama:

Before the Indian Removal Act in 1830, many of Lawrence County's Cherokee people were already mixed with white settlers and stayed in the country of the Warrior Mountains. They denied their ancestry and basically lived much of their lives in fear of being sent West. Full bloods claimed to be Black Irish or Black Dutch, thus denying their rightful Indian blood. After being fully assimilated into the general population years later, these Irish Cherokee mixed-blood descendants, began reclaiming their Indian heritage in the land of the Warrior Mountains, Lawrence County, Alabama. During the 1900 U.S. Census only 78 people claimed their Indian heritage. In 1990, more than 2000 individuals claimed Indian descent. Today more than 4000 citizens are proud to claim their Indian heritage and are members of the Echota Cherokee tribe.[11]
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