Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Gerald F. Schroedl

Committee Members

Charles H. Faulkner, John R. Finger, Michael Logan


Nineteenth century accounts of Cherokee Indian society consistently refer to the existence of two classes among the Cherokees: the acculturated "mixed blood[s], who speak English and are considered the intelligent and wealthy class" and the culturally conservative fullbloods, whom white observers denigrated as "backward," "indolent," and "ignorant" pagans. This perceived dichotomy reflected the poles of a socioeconomic and cultural continuum that developed as a result of the differential Westernization of Cherokee individuals and households during the post-Revolutionary War era. As these socioeconomic classes diverged, they developed as the primary axis of competition and conflict within Cherokee society. Because these groups were progressively distinguished by ancestry, language use, lifestyle, and ideology, they may be characterized as emergent ethnic groups subsumed within the Cherokee national polity. As identity-conscious groups in competition for economic resources and political power, the Cherokee-speaking fullblood majority and the English-speaking metis minority used various media, including material goods and property, to construct and maintain ethnic boundaries. This study examines documentary and archaeological evidence for the use of such material media by Cherokee families in southwestern North Carolina during the Removal period. (1835-1838) and seeks to define material patterning that distinguished the English-speaking metis minority from the Cherokee-speaking fullblood majority.

Four independent primary datasets are successively analyzed and discussed to accomplish a synthetic overview of Cherokee wealthholding and material culture. Bioracial, linguistic, and certain aspects of economic variation within the study population are defined through examination of the 1835 War Department census of the Cherokee Nation east of the Mississippi. General trends of bioracial endogamy, community composition, and wealth distribution evident in the 1835 census indicate active ethnic differentiation within the Cherokee population of southwestern North Carolina. The population of the study area was ethnically and socioeconomically homogeneous, with a dominant component of monolingual Cherokee fullblood subsistence farmers who formed a distinctly conservative and materially impoverished "aboriginal" stratum of Cherokee society. Contrasted with this majority was a small group of Anglo-Cherokee households who exhibited high rates of English literacy and slaveholding, and who managed extensive market farms in the larger river and creek valleys in the southern portion of the study area A relatively small number of fullblood and AngloCherokee families were arrayed between these extremes, forming a heavily skewed socioeconomic continuum largely reflective of household ethnicity.

The improved real properties of Cherokee households in southwestern North Carolina are documented by U.S. government property appraisals conducted in the winter of 1836-1837. These appraisals include narrative descriptions and dimensions of dwellings and other buildings, cultivated fields and other cleared or fenced land, fruit trees, ditches, wells, mills, and other facilities present on 684 properties. Hierarchical agglomerative (Ward's method) cluster analysis is used to define "types" of properties based upon similarities in the values assigned to dwellings, nonresidential structures, and agricultural improvements by the federal appraisers. The resultant cluster solution is interpreted as a series of farmstead models that can be ranked from those more traditional in composition to those more closely resembling Western agrarian modes. These analyses indicate that Cherokee properties in the study area were remarkably homogeneous in composition; more than 85% of the Cherokee farmsteads in southwestern North Carolina consisted of twelve or fewer acres of cropland, small, cribbed log dwellings valued less than $32.00, and few outbuildings other than corn cribs and an occasional asi. Properties owned by a small number of Anglo-Cherokees families contrast sharply with this traditional farmstead mode, and reflect thorough incorporation and integration of Western agrarian material modes of life. The largest and most highly valued Cherokee properties included substantial, hewn log dwellings valued in excess of $70.00, 35 or more acres of cropland, and a wide array of ancillary domestic structures (e.g. kitchens, springhouses, smokehouses), farm buildings (e.g. stables, cribs, barns), and specialized facilities (e.g. stores, mills, blacksmith shops). These farms substantially resembled the typical holdings of Anglo-American "middling" farmers and small planters in the southern highlands, and the Cherokee owners of such properties occupied a socioeconomic status parallel to the upper middle class of the Anglo-American rural South. A relatively small sector of Anglo-Cherokee and fullblood Cherokee families maintained homes and farms that formed a continuum between these extremes. Contrastive modes of farmstead composition are interpreted as evidence for the operation of distinct Western and traditional systems of household economy and material lifeways. These distinct systems are largely, but not exclusively, correlated with the bioracial and linguistic affinities of Cherokee households, and contrastive farmstead composition is interpreted as evidence for ethnic differentiation among Cherokee households in southwestern North Carolina.

Spoliation claims which Cherokees from the study area filed against the United States government following forced removal of 1838 document losses of clothing, furniture, household goods, cookware and tableware, agricultural equipment and other tools, livestock, and other material possessions by more than 400 Cherokee households from the study area. These data are initially explored through univariate comparisons of the distributions of major functional groups of chattel property among bioracial/linguistic subsets of the study population to determine differential patterns of ownership. Hierarchical agglomerative cluster analysis is applied to classify individual household cases by inventory composition. The membership of these groups of households is then evaluated with respect to racial/ethnic affinity to determine whether ethnicity played a significant role in the formation of household assemblages. Analyses of the chattel properties data. reveal patterning similar to that of the real properties data, with a large, homogeneous group of relatively poor, predominantly fullblood families forming the basal economic stratum of Cherokee society contrasted with a small, predominantly English-speaking, group of wealthy Cherokees. A relatively small group of both fullblood and Anglo-Cherokee households span these extremes. These patterns are interpreted as evidence for a traditional-Western continuum in material lifestyles and economic modes; the poles of this continuum appear to represent the contrastive content of an ethnic dichotomy.

Archaeological data present a collateral, yet independent gauge of variation in the material lifeways of Removal Period Cherokee households in the study area. To illustrate the differences in material culture that distinguish more Westernized from more traditionally oriented Cherokee households, artifact assemblages representing one Anglo-Cherokee metis occupation, and six fullblood Cherokee household occupations are compared and contrasted in terms of diversity, content, and relative composition. Archaeological assemblages recovered from surface and excavated contexts at these farmstead sites evince a high degree of interhousehold variation in scale and content; this variability is interpreted as evidence of differential acculturation and contrastive cultural orientations. Most of these assemblages are dominated by Qualla series ceramics and other goods reflective of indigenous traditions; these configurations suggest that many of the Cherokee inhabitants of southwestern North Carolina retained strong native identities expressed through continuity of traditional technologies. However, high frequencies of commercially manufactured goods associated with the metis household (the Christies) occupation also indicate substantially higher levels of material wealth and construction of a Westernized material lifestyle informed by AngloAmerican models. which commercial consumption was particularly prominent.

These analyses illustrate the broad themes of variation in Cherokee material culture on the eve of the removal of 1838. The extremes of variation evident in these datasets are interpreted as evidence for differential Westernization of Cherokee households, and illustrate the material modes that conservative Cherokees and Westernized Anglo-Cherokees used to define and distinguish their communities of association as nascent ethnic groups struggling over the cultural identity and political fate of the Cherokee Nation.

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