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Beyond the Book

336 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 10 illus., 1 map, appends., notes, index

A project of First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies

ISBN  978-0-8078-7204-8
Published: September 2011

Sustaining the Cherokee Family

Kinship and the Allotment of an Indigenous Nation

By Rose Stremlau

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the federal government sought to forcibly assimilate Native Americans into American society through systematized land allotment. In Sustaining the Cherokee Family, Rose Stremlau illuminates the impact of this policy on the Cherokee Nation, particularly within individual families and communities in modern-day northeastern Oklahoma.

Emphasizing Cherokee agency, Stremlau reveals that Cherokee families' organization, cultural values, and social and economic practices allowed them to adapt to private land ownership by incorporating elements of the new system into existing domestic and community-based economies. Drawing on evidence from a range of sources, including Cherokee and United States censuses, federal and tribal records, local newspapers, maps, county probate records, family histories, and contemporary oral histories, Stremlau demonstrates that Cherokee management of land perpetuated the values and behaviors associated with their sense of kinship, therefore uniting extended families. And, although the loss of access to land and communal resources slowly impoverished the region, it reinforced the Cherokees' interdependence. Stremlau argues that the persistence of extended family bonds allowed indigenous communities to retain a collective focus and resist aspects of federal assimilation policy during a period of great social upheaval.

About the Author

Rose Stremlau is assistant professor of history and American Indian studies at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.


“The reader will not be disappointed by her treatment of the Cherokee history of retaining as much of culture as possible.”
--Natives News

"Highly recommended, especially for Native American history and studies shelves."
--The Midwest Book Review

“[In explaining] how the Cherokee family allowed the tribe to survive multiple generations of duress, this work succeeds more than admirably.”
--Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources

"Stremlau draws on a wide range of sources generated both within the Cherokee Nation and by the federal govemment from roughly 1880 to 1930."
--North Carolina Historical Review

“Stremlau works hard to perform a scholarly balancing act; her work demonstrates the ‘affection and joy’ of Cherokee families who adapted to and survived a policy that despite their resilience resulted in the exploitation and economic devastation of Cherokee communities.”
--Journal of American History

“Stremlau’s book is an exceptional example of the best new work being done in Indigenous studies today.”
--Great Plains Quarterly

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