We of The Overhill Nation of Cherokee Descendants are exactly who and what we represent ourselves to be. We are a nation of Cherokee descendants ***. We have Overhill Cherokee ancestors, and we choose to honor them by learning and passing on their traditions.
Many of us are mixed-blood. We are learning and practicing what many of our white ancestors unfortunately chose not to learn - the customs of our Cherokee ancestors.
Many of the Overhill Cherokee remained in their homeland by adopting white customs, clothing, and language. Many of them avoided the Trail of Tears, but at the cost of not being able to be openly Cherokee. Any customs passed on had to be in secret, for fear of losing their homes or families.
This oppressive climate has changed, and the Overhill Nation seeks to undo some of the damage that was done. Once-secret customs are now being taught again, and their practice encouraged.
In blending with the whites' culture, the Overhill became largely a mixed people. We should feel no shame in having mixed blood. John Ross was one of the most influential Cherokee chiefs. He was 1/8 Cherokee by blood!
Look at John Ross's picture. This man could have walked unnoticed through the streets of Boston, New York, or Atlanta just by wearing the right clothing. It wouldn't occur to anyone he was an Indian.
We need to be respectfully aware that as much as we consider ourselves to be Cherokee, our society has made distinctions between those who actually look Indian and those who don't.
Wrong as it is, many people are still prejudiced against Native Americans. If you haven't grown up facing prejudice, you really can't fully understand what it's like. It's one aspect of being Native American that many mixed bloods don't face.
Another aspect most of us don't grow up with is the economic disadvantages of living on reservations. Most of the reservations were deliberately located in areas that whites didn't want for one reason or other. Well-paying jobs have hardly been plentiful around most of the reservations. This is changing somewhat on some reservations, but there's a lot of past history to overcome.
Yet another thing to consider is that many (if not most) of us have learned about Cherokee customs and culture relatively late in life - after our basic ideas and attitudes toward life were formed in childhood. A child growing up in a Cherokee family may have a markedly different approach to life if his family has embraced and practiced their heritage since the child's birth.
To understand us, a good comparison to think about is that of an older adopted child in a blended family. The biological children grow up with the family's traditions, but the traditions are new to the adopted child. Though the biological children may have markedly different outlooks and attitudes from the adopted child, he is no less a part of that family.
We have chosen to embrace our Cherokee heritage. In doing that, we do not mean to detract from any other Cherokee group or organization, or for that matter, any other Native American group. We do strive to help keep Cherokee traditions and culture alive to help ensure that our ancestors did not live and die in vain.
*** If you know of an Overhill member who is misrepresenting him or herself in any way, please contact us.