Anyone remember Ward Churchill? Photo: Steve Rhodes

Steve Russell: Fake Indians make money by claiming 'Cherokee' ancestry

Ward Churchill and Jimmie Durham are just two of the many people who have ridden to fame, and even riches, by claiming a "Cherokee" identity. Steve Russell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, continues his look at fake Indians:
Only Cherokees are the gatekeepers of Cherokee bona fides.

Now I step out into naked opinion and if you disagree with this opinion, then you need to step back and re-analyze the Durham problem in accordance with your own ideas.

I believe the right to monetize a tribal name is a collective right, not an individual one, for two reasons.

First, an Indian is only an Indian in relation to a tribal community. Those of us who move away attenuate that relationship to varying degrees but if we break it entirely, all we have left is the fiction that blood carries culture.

Second, what represents tribal culture—both in style and in quality—is not an individual decision. Ward Churchill might still be playing Indian (he did pick on other tribes in addition to Cherokees) if he had not let his representation get so far out of hand that the tribes he faked started looking at his blood to determine if he had family ties so strong they were stuck with him.

Read More on the Story:
Steve Russell: Colonizing Fraud: The Jimmie Durham Dilemma (Indian Country Media Network 7/31)

Related Stories:
Steve Russell: 'Cherokee' artist tired of being pigeonholed as 'Cherokee' (July 11, 2017)
Opinion: Don't be fooled by Jimmie Durham's claims of Cherokee heritage (June 26, 2017)