Blood Politics: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

Blood Politics: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

Blood Politics: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

Blood Politics: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

Synopsis

""Blood Politics offers an anthropological analysis of contemporary identity politics within the second largest Indian tribe in the United States--one that pays particular attention to the symbol of "blood." The work treats an extremely sensitive topic with originality and insight. It is also notable for bringing contemporary theories of race, nationalism, and social identity to bear upon the case of the Oklahoma Cherokee."--Pauline Turner Strong, author of "Captive Selves, Captivating Others: The Politics and Poetics of Colonial American Captivity Narratives

Excerpt

In a back room outside a bar stand two men estranged by chance from one another, a grandfather and his grandson, tentatively speaking their first words. Otis Payne, the elder of the two, is an imposing African-American man with intense eyes, a wide girth, and a round, soft face. His grandson barely resembles him and is bookish, shy, and uncomfortable. Otis literally owns the space, a bar he has lovingly tended for twenty-five years. But he also owns the space with his presence, which floods the room like warm summer light. He is standing with his grandson in a shabby, makeshift museum, a memorial to the Black Seminoles, a tribe of Native and African Americans who after intermarrying and exchanging their cultures and identities became a single people. Old lithographs, newspaper clippings, and photos cover the wall, each placed on the dingy whitewash with careful precision. The grandson wants to know how his grandfather got interested “in all this. ” Otis explains that these are their people, that Paynes are looking back at them from all corners of the room.

“Does that mean we're Indian?” the grandson wants to know.

“By blood”, Otis says, “but blood is what you make of it. ”

Blood has so many layers of meaning and is such a familiar metaphor that this exchange between Otis Payne and his grandson causes me to smile with recognition whenever I think about it. The scene is taken from John Sayles's 1996 film, Lone Star, about race relations in a Texas . . .

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