The Cherokees: A Population History

The Cherokees: A Population History

The Cherokees: A Population History

The Cherokees: A Population History

Synopsis

The Cherokees: A Population History is the first full-length demographic study of an American Indian group from the protohistorical period to the present. Thornton shows the effects of disease, warfare, genocide, miscegenation, removal and relocation, and destruction of traditional lifeways on the Cherokees. He discusses their mysterious origins, their first contact with Europeans (prob-ably in 1540), and their fluctuation in population during the eighteenth century, when the Old World brought them smallpox. The toll taken by massive relocations in the following century, most notably the removal of the Cherokees from the Southeast to In-dian Territory, and by warfare, predating the American Revolution and including the Civil War, also enters into Thornton's calculations. He goes on to measure the resurgence of the Cherokees in the twentieth century, focusing on such population centers as North Carolina, Oklahoma, and California.

Excerpt

This book is a population history of a great American Indian people of what is now the United States. It traces the Cherokees as a physical population from their first contacts with Europeans and Africans to their existence today.

The Cherokees were and are a demographically amorphous population. Their origins remain a mystery, and a controversial one. Scholars have long argued the issues and have arrived at plausible hypotheses, but no one knows for sure how the Cherokees came into being, where they originated, or even when they first arrived on their traditional lands in the Southeast. Demographically defining today's Cherokees is equally perplexing. They now (1990) encompass some 8,500 to 9,000 enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina, some 90,000 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and about 7,500 in the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma. The population also includes the 232,344 self-reported Cherokees in the 1980 United States census and those who will self- identify as Cherokee in the 1990 census. Many other people--whites, blacks, and others--have some degree of Cherokee ancestry but are not identified as Cherokees, at least for the census. In the twentieth century it is appropriate to consider the Cherokees as different populations rather than as a single people--diverse populations defined by separate locations and criteria.

The story I tell is often not a happy one--certainly not for the first several centuries after the Europeans and Africans arrived on Cherokee lands. More often than not it deals with misfortune, tragedy, sorrow, and death. It is the story of the Cherokees' struggle with demographic change as Europeans and Africans arrived upon American Indian land, colonized the original people, and supplanted Cherokees and other native populations. The demographic changes for the Cherokees, as for other American Indian peoples, included drastic . . .

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