Julie L. Reed. Serving the Nation: Cherokee Sovereignty and Social Welfare, 1800–1907. New Directions in Native American Studies Series. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016. 376 pp. $34.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8061-5224-0.
Reviewed by Dixie Ray Haggard (Valdosta State University)
Published on H-AmIndian (January, 2017)
Commissioned by F. Evan Nooe
Social Policy and Native Identity
Julie L. Reed’s insightful monograph, Serving the Nation: Cherokee Sovereignty and Social Welfare, 1800-1907, chronicles the Cherokee Nation’s transformation of eighteenth-century social and cultural constructs into an organized, nineteenth-century social welfare system. This system held true to basic Cherokee values at the same time this new system solidified Cherokee claims to political self-determination and preserved a distinct, Cherokee social and cultural identity. Reed traces traditional social policy, referred to as “osdv iyunvnehi” consisting of “matrilineal kinship, egalitarianism, gadugi (coordinated work for the social good), and communal landholdings” as it transformed into a national approach “that governed the distribution of services administered by the Cherokee Nation or were accessible only to the large groups of people based on citizenship” (p. xix). Consisting of eight chapters with endnotes, a bibliography, an introduction, a conclusion, and an epilogue, Reed’s book centers on those Cherokees who needed osdv iyunvnehi the most.
The introduction provides a solid overview, details the eighteenth-century social and cultural foundations of osdv iyunvnehi, and explains Reed’s ethnohistoric methodology. The first chapter, “Taking Care of Our Own, 1800-1829,” centers on the initial movement toward Cherokee nationhood as the US federal policy of civilization and Anglo-American racism threatened Cherokee sovereignty. The Cherokee used the concept of osdv iyunvnehi to ensure the protection of Cherokees as they nationalized their institutions. The second chapter, “The Crises of the Removal Era, 1830-1860,” explores the impact removal had on the Cherokee people. Faced with the potentiality of lasting poverty, the Cherokee government, families, and local communities organized their efforts and assets to protect Cherokees at risk during and after removal. In chapter 3, “The Civil War and Reconstruction Treaty, 1860-1868,” Reed examines the Cherokee Nation’s social policy reform and demonstrates it to be a response to the war and the Treaty of 1866. The fourth chapter, “Strengthening Our Institutions, 1869-1877,” covers the creation of codes and institutions put in place to protect orphans and those with disabilities and mental illness. In the fifth chapter, “Institutional Lives, 1877-1880,” the author inspects the nature and functioning of the social welfare institutions created after the Civil War. The sixth chapter, “‘We Will Solve the Indian Problem,’ 1880-1893,” delves into Cherokee responses to the Dawes Commission. In chapter 7, “Talking Back to Our Civilized Nation, 1893-1898,” Reed reveals the internal Cherokee discussions covering social welfare policy that occurred as they resisted allotment. The eighth chapter, “Social Services and Tribal Sovereignty, 1898-1907,” examines Cherokee opposition to Oklahoma statehood. It stresses the damage done to social welfare caused by the Curtis Act. In the concluding chapter, Reed reviews the attempts of accommodationist DeWitt Clinton Duncan and traditionalist Red Bird Smith to oppose allotment and deduces that despite both using different resistance methods both were motivated by osdv iyunvnehi.
Reed’s focus on social welfare policy provides a fresh and innovative look at the history of the Cherokee and the research is meticulous. The author avoids the usual pitfalls of policy history and is able to write in an engaging fashion so as to make her book accessible to the general public and the student of Native history. This monograph is a valuable contribution to Native American history as well as social history.
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Dixie Ray Haggard. Review of Reed, Julie L., Serving the Nation: Cherokee Sovereignty and Social Welfare, 1800–1907.
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