By the early 1900s when reparations were being paid by the government to Cherokee descendants, the word Cherokee became ubiquitous with Native, especially in descendants in the eastern US who had Native ancestry, but didn’t necessarily know which tribe. In fact, in many cases, mine included, the Native ancestry had been played down, if not outright hidden, due to discrimination and the fact that Native people were considered to be “of color” and therefore forbidden many civil rights.
Therefore, Cherokee became synonymous with “Indian” and many people claim Cherokee ancestry from areas where there were no Cherokee tribes or villages. This doesn’t mean these people didn’t have Native ancestry, but it very likely was not Cherokee.
The following testimony taken in Marion, Indiana on August 13, 1908 is a good example.
“My name is James Robbins and I am about 90 years of age. I was born in Orange County, NC. I came to Indiana in 1843. I know the family of Jerry Shocraft who has just testified. Silas Shocraft was my mother’s brother. I think he was at least a ½ blood. At the time of my knowing old man Silas Shoecraft there were not many Cherokee Indians living in that section of NC and we did not know very much about them. There was no color blood in Silas Shocrafts family and one of them were ever held as slaves. I claim to be of Indian descent and did not apply to participate in this fund because I thought it was all a ‘water haul.’ My grandfather was named William Shocraft. He had no recognition as a Cherokee Indian because there were not many in that part of NC. My grandmother was named Bicey Nickens and she was supposed to be a full blood Cherokee Indian, and was an Indian doctor, and went around doctoring the women. There was no talk of Indians in that County. I have heard of Catawba Indians being in that county.”
Cherokee by Blood by J. W. Jordan
Robbins testimony contributed by James Nickens.