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African-Native American Research Forum Archive

Re: Cherokee Indians - their surnames

Hey Mel,

You may want to note that many nations were enslaved when Europeans came to the Americas, but not all nations were enslaved. Many of the smaller nations in the SE had indeed been enslaved.

Note that the Cherokees were not unfamiliar with slavery when Europeans arrived. It was not uncommon when they had been in conflict, to enslave some of the persons whom they had defeated. However, keep in mind the period of enslavement of captured prisoners was not a permanent one for life. In many cases the "slaves" eventually became members of the tribe. This predated the arrival of Europeans.

There were some of the Cherokees as well as other nations that were enslaved by whites. However, Cherokee enslavement was not as widely practiced, due to the size and power of the nation and not as widely practiced as it was with other nations in the SE.

Regarding names and surnames, keep in mind that many people from the Cherokee Nation had their own traditional names for themselves, and thus traditional names were later Europeanized.

For example a very famous person in Cherokee history was Tsi'yu-gunsini. He is known however, by his more Europeanized name---- Dragging Canoe His father was known by the name of Attakullakulla. The issue of surnames, or family names is more European than anything.

Regarding European surnames many of the European names became infused in the nation, when trappers, and hunters married Indian women. Their children bore the names of their fathers, and still maintained the culture and language of their mothers as well as their fathers. It was later to be this mixed blood population that would make up the largest of the slave owning population in the Cherokee Nation.

However, by the 19th century, there were many European names in many nations. Some resulted from family, some by choice and some one might surmise may have come through an earlier period of enslavement. The most common surnames as they became more common, for persons from the Cherokee nation, you will find on early rolls.

I am referring to these rolls:

For Cherokees from NC, GA, TN
Reservation Rolls 1817
Emigration Rolls---1817-1835
Henderson Roll---1835
Mullay Roll---1848
Siler Roll ---1851
Chapman Roll --- 1852
Swetland Roll --- 1869
Hester Roll --- 1883

For Western Cherokee
Old Settler ---1851
The Drennan Roll ---1852
Dawes Roll ---1898-1914


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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