Updated Beginning/Claims

So far this is my updated thesis and claims for my final paper. I would appreciate some early feedback and maybe some suggestions about how to improve it.

Indigenous Americans are often left out of the narrative in many important events in American history. Unless the event was solely based on Indigenous Involvement, like Indian Removal, many tribes and nations are not included in the dominant memory of major events. The Civil War is one of the most important events in American history. It is a critical moment in history because it decided what type of nation America was going to be: one; with or without slavery. The war also determined the fate of slavery within the tribes and nations of Indigenous peoples. One of the Indigenous Nations that expands the narrative of the Civil War is the Cherokee Nation. Their involvement in the war complicates the racial narrative form being solely a Black and White issue.

The Cherokee Nation complicates the narrative of the Civil War because they owned slaves, assimilated to American racial ideologies, and also had influential nationalist groups who were against any involvement in American affairs. However, their involvement on the western front is not covered well by many historians. In the article “Lest We Remember” by historian Jeff Fortney, he discussed how memory was shaped in Oklahoma after the Civil War.  Fortney makes the argument that Native Americans did not commemorate a war that represented an unjustified and unavoidable interference with American affairs[1]. Though many fought for the Union and the Confederacy, memorials are often not erected during was times. He argued “public sentiment during the post-war period tends to be dictate commemorate endeavors” which is why Native involvement in the war is frequently overlooked and forgotten.[2]  The Cherokee Nation’s decision not to commemorate the war in an American way, with the raising of monuments and memorials, allowed for their memory to be lost in the dominant narrative. Fortney also mentioned how the lack of recognition or memorialization of the Civil War by the Cherokee led the memory to be written by white settlers from the South who “attempted to assimilate the Native story into their own narratives via public commemorative endeavors” to fit into their lost cause. [3] Thus the dominant memory of the Cherokee was they were slaveholders who supported the Confederacy. But newer scholarship, like Fortney’s, shows a different perspective as to why they fought in an American war that almost split the Cherokee into two nations.

The Cherokee story cannot be told without the inclusion of complex racial ideologies, religious influences, Cherokee Nationalism, political rivalries, and their relationship with the United States government. Encompassing all parts of the story allows for the memory of the Cherokee to break free from the notion that they were all supporters of the Confederacy. There is no place for the Civil War monuments that stand for the “lost cause” ideals or defense of the American Union on Native lands. The Cherokee fought in the war to guarantee their own survival and protection from the American controversy. Similar to any time in history, they did what they thought was best for their survival. What is important to recognize in their history is they were both an oppressor and oppressed based on race. Their adoption of slavery and economic ties to the Southern economy made joining the Confederacy the more logical choice, however, many in their nation sided or deflected to the Union. But no matter what side they chose, their Nation suffered major consequences after the war as their land sovereignty was taken from them again. So the Cherokee Nation chose to rebuild and move on, instead of memorializing another ruination of their people.

[1] Jeff Fortney, “Lest We Remember: Civil War Memory and Commemoration among the Five Tribes,” The American Indian Quarterly 36, no. 4 (2012): 525–44.

[2] Fortney, 527.

[3] Fortney, 526.

One Reply to “Updated Beginning/Claims”

  1. Nathaniel Jarvie

    I think the updated version is good. It has an explanation of why exactly to care about the Cherokees in relation to the war. It would be easy to brush it off as not significant, and focus on Antietam instead. You make the case for why its not so simple to make that assumption.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *