Becoming Indian: The Struggle over Cherokee Identity in the Twenty-first Century

Circe Sturm

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In 2000, the US Census revealed a phenomenal increase in the total American Indian population, a growth of 647 percent over forty years. This startling jump cannot be explained by natural processes such as birth and death rates. Instead, it appears to be dominated by what Circe Sturm calls “racial shifters,” individuals who have changed their racial identity from white to Native American. A disproportionate number of these racial shifters, Sturm has found, are Cherokee.

In Becoming Indian, Sturm explores the social and cultural values that lie behind this phenomenon, and delves into the motivations of these Americans—from so many different walks of life—to reinscribe their autobiographies and find deep personal and collective meaning in reclaiming their Indianness. “This is something people were not so willing to do forty years ago,” says Sturm, “and the fact that they do so now, I believe, reveals much about contemporary race relations in the United States.”

Tiya A. Miles of the University of Michigan says, “With her engaging style and crystal clear understanding of complex race and social relations, Circe Sturm unveils the intricate motivations of individuals and groups with newly claimed Cherokee identities, as well as the reactions to their claims by members of the three federally recognized Cherokee nations.”

Find out more and purchase Becoming Indian by visiting the SAR website (opens in new browser window).

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