Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Really Am an Indian

I got a copy of one of my ancestors' applications for Cherokee citizenship. My great great great grandfather, Bayless J. Edwards, claimed that his mother was a full blooded Cherokee with the maiden name of Polly Redbird. If I don't have any other Indian ancestors, this would make me 1/128th Cherokee, not enough to permit me to open my own casino but enough to permit me to rant about the victimization of my people by the White Man.

Although this particular application was denied based on Polly's not having been enrolled in the tribe on a specified date, I have little reason to doubt Grandpappy Bayless's claims other than that the census taker in 1850 put her down as white. Polly's husband, Henry Edwards, and Polly were both born in North Carolina in about 1780 or so when the western part of the state was occupied primarily by the Cherokee. Intermarriage was not unusual among early settllers. Henry and Polly were early setlters in the Dahlonega area in the 1830s and moved further into Northwest Georgia as the Cherokees retreated. Since they were not inhabitants of the Cherokee nation and made no tribal claims, they were under no obligation to move when the tribe was evacuated to Oklahoma in the late 1830s. Their children and grandchildren passed for white. although that side of my family has long acknowledged Cherokee heritage even before it was fashionable to do so.

I hope someday to obtain confirmation of Bayless's claim, perhaps through DNA testing.

My genealogical research is difficult because so many of my ancestors were illiterate mountaineers who left few records of their marriages, births and deaths aside from long lost Bible entries. They certainly left no wills. So any information or documentation that I find is a treasure.

So, I wasn't lying when I filled out all those EEOC questionnaires by claiming that I'm multi-racial. I'm an African American because my ancestors came from Africa (60,000 years ago); I'm HIspanic because I had some ancestors from Spain (dating back to the 13th century); I'm Asian because my ancestors came from Asia (over the Bering Land Bridge 12,000 years ago), and I'm Native Americam because of Polly Redbird and possibly others. I haven't figured out a way to be Australian or Pacific Islander yet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Vache, we share the same gg-grandfather. I'd like to see if we can exchange information. Please email me at kvivian at cloud9 dot net. Thanks!