The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity

By Precht, Jay | The Journal of Southern History, May 2017 | Go to article overview

The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity


Precht, Jay, The Journal of Southern History


The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity. By Gregory D. Smithers. Lamar Series in Western History. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2015. Pp. [viii|, 358. $40.00. ISBN 978-0-300-16960-7.)

In The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration. Resettlement, and Identity, historian Gregory D. Smithers attempts the ambitious feat of providing a history of the Cherokee people from their origins to the twentieth century that considers multiple Cherokee communities, families, and individuals dispersed throughout the United States and occasionally the world. Smithers employs diaspora as the central theme that holds his narrative together. He deftly uses the secondary literature on Cherokee history, indigenous identity, race, and migration combined with his primary research in archives around the world to outline Cherokee patterns of migration and resettlement and to argue that the people's memories of these experiences are central to their Cherokee identity. The importance of the Trail of Tears to Cherokee identity is well established, but Smithers expands on this idea by arguing that voluntary relocations before and after forced removal also played a role in defining what it means to be Cherokee. Through his analysis, Smithers effectively demonstrates Cherokee agency by highlighting the various ways that individuals and communities changed in innovative ways to ensure their cultural survival.

The book is divided into two parts. In the first part. Smithers begins with the migration and coalescence that resulted from the dissolution of the Mississippian chiefdoms in the fifteenth century and highlights the importance of migration narratives to Cherokees' sense of identity during the colonial period. …

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