Sons of Selu: masculinity and gendered power in Cherokee society, 1775-1846

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jamie Myers Mize (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Greg O'Brien

Abstract: My study analyzes moments of conflict and gender crisis in Cherokee society from 1775-1846; moments when balance and harmony were threatened, and the efforts by Cherokee men to either reestablish a balance between men and women or harmony between men. The pressures of colonialism required Cherokee men to continuously renegotiate their manhood. This project considers change and continuity in Cherokee society through the consideration of masculinity: how it was contested and how it evolved. To do this I look at the impact of gender relations on Cherokee politics and diplomacy, and other expressions of manhood. This work analyzes how competing notions of masculinity shaped experiences such as Cherokee participation: in the American Revolution, the creation of the Chickamauga towns, the United States’ “civilization” program, voluntary migrations, and forced Removal. Ultimately, gender relations among men and between men and women shaped Cherokee politics and identity in the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries. The vast majority of Native gender histories have, up until very recently, been about women due to the assumption that all history is men’s history. Gender, including manhood, is a social construct, and as a result it is always evolving to respond to internal and external pressures. My study is important because it is not just an examination of Cherokee men, it is an illustration of how they reinterpreted and recreated their roles and responsibilities in response to colonial pressures. This says a great deal about Cherokee identity more broadly, and the active role that American Indians played in shaping their identities. Knowing one side of Native gender constructions is not enough, and my work addresses this significant gap in Cherokee and Southeastern American Indian historiography. Ultimately, Cherokee ideals of manhood and womanhood lay at the center of what it meant to be a Cherokee; therefore, this project utilizes gender not only as a category for analysis but also as a lived experience.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Cherokee, Masculinity, Southeastern Indians
Indians of North America $z Southern States $x Social conditions
Cherokee Indians $x Social conditions
Gender identity $z Cherokee Nation
Masculinity $z Cherokee Nation
Sex role $z Cherokee Nation

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