Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard L. Jantz

Committee Members

William M. Bass, Margaret C. Wheeler, Mary A. Bass, Francis Jones


Health conditions such as the presence of infectious and acute diseases, substandard living conditions, and nutritional status may influence the attainment of adult stature among Eastern Cherokees living in the western North Carolina mountains in the late Nineteenth Century. Stature measurements and genealogical information were collected in 1892 by Fred Starr under the direction of Franz Boas. Living descendants of individuals measured in 1892 were identified. This sample was measured and interviewed. These data sets were used to access the attainment of height among adolescents and adults.

Historical photos taken by Mooney (circa 1880) provided visual image of fat patterning among the Eastern Cherokees at the turn of the century. Further information on the health status of the historical Eastern Cherokees was obtained by examining the health records of the Cherokee Agency School (1894-1905) and Cherokee Hospital Quarterly Reports (1914-1921). Interviews and key informants were able to provide the emic view of the emergence, the causes, and preventative measures of diabetes.

It was found that Eastern Cherokees experienced a negative secular trend in stature during the last half of the Eighteenth Century. The trend reversed during this century. Adolescents living today are taller than their 1892 counterparts.

There is evidence of obesity and fat patterning among the Eastern Cherokees, especially as an individual ages. It is probably that diabetes was present on the Qualla Boundary much earlier than previously believed. Diet was identified as the cause of diabetes and also as a preventative measure along with exercise.

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