Friday, November 5, 2021

The Cherokee princes jeweler

While on lunch break at Walmart in 1997, I heard a woman associate comment on another woman’s bracelet. “Thank you,” said the second woman. “A friend gave it to me. It was made by a Cherokee princes.” 

Seldom allowing a historical inaccuracy to go unanswered, I asked, “Was her father a king?”

“Pardon?” the woman said.

I said, “I wondered if her father was a king. If a girl is a princess, doesn’t that mean her father was a king? I don’t recall the Cherokee having a royal system.”

That was smart-ass me. I do not like historical inaccuracies. Most are spoken by people who are assured of their own knowledge, that what they know exceeds any other person’s.

The “Cherokee princess” is one of those phrases that is not spoken as often as in past years. Used to be when one spoke of Indian ancestry, the forbearer was Cherokee and a woman, often labeled “a princess.” The phrasing followed that sequence, that pattern, because one did not want a savage man, a dark man, as an ancestor, but a noble woman. The ancestor was never spoken of as “warrior” or even “chief.” The statement usually was “My great-great-grandmother was a Cherokee.” And to maintain a class not found in the white or black person making the claim, “a Cherokee princess.”

Why the distinction? White people of the 20th century considered Cherokee sort of white, and for some reason more white than other Indian tribes. Cherokee, like others in the Five Civilized Tribes, owned black slaves and allied with the Confederacy in the 1861-65 war. Black people who claimed partial Cherokee ancestry could, in their own estimation, stand a step above other slave descendants and even above some whites, by claiming, “My great-great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess.”




  1. “My great-great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess.”
    I was told that before I began the genealogy of my family. The paper trail and DNA test do not prove that.

  2. MW: I did not expect any Indian DNA, and there is none. My youngest sister was quite disappointed and said, "Well, maybe your DNA doesn't have any Native American, but I believe mine does." Uh, we do have the same father.

    1. But you don't get 50/50 from your parents. I have far more from my mother than I do from my father. So there is a possibility that there is a VERY tiny trace that further tests would have to confirm. But most likely, no, neither of us have "Cherokee Princess" blood