“Who's your people?”: Cumulative identity among the Salyersville Indian population of Kentucky's Appalachia and the midwest muckfields, 1677–2000
The Salyersville Indian Population is a composite of Cherokee, Saponi and “Old Virginia” Indian families that consolidated in the late colonial period to form a distinct Appalachian Indian population. The families have preserved their identity as an Indian people ever since. An analysis of this identity through time shows that Salyersville Indian identity is the product of cumulative historical actions guided by specific sociocultural processes that subvert notions regarding race, class, ethnicity, religiosity, or political affiliation. In this case, the effective operational definition of Indian identity is based on family relations that provide kinship links, social integration, cooperative efforts, sources of knowledge and emotional support. Highlighting the functional aspects of kin arrangements—articulated through and supported by interrelated family groups—over time reveals that the economic and social cooperation of kin works to maintain the size and strength of the families. The operationalization of kinship acts to focus Salyersville Indian identity on a definition of “kin” which subsumes various attitudes about race and ethnicity that are encountered at specific times and under specific circumstances. By assigning kinship a higher priority than relations based upon religious, class or political affiliation, the Salyersville Indians have managed to keep their kin affiliations and thus their Indian identity, from being obscured over time. Family is the vehicle by which this cumulative identity as “Indian” has been maintained. That is because kinship is the only constant serving to define and maintain Salyersville Indian identity through time and space.
Minority & ethnic groups;
0337: American history
0631: Minority & ethnic groups