Monday, March 26, 2012


My Native American Connection

We are the people no doubts, but our applications was wrong I suppose.”
ECA # 10133 by Frank Sizemore

We are Cherokee, we just aren’t allowed to claim it because our ancestors chose not to sign up on the government’s official lists and now our claims to the money are denied. (--, 2003)

This is only part of the frustration and confusion experienced by members of the Whitetop Laurel Band of Cherokee in the early 1900’s. Most of them had been told their whole lives that they were of Cherokee blood and the money? That - was a huge payout that the American government was made to pay to members of the greater Cherokee Nation. This was because of broken treaties - particularly the Treaty of New Echota Cherokee Indians (1835). (History)

As it turns out the Sizemore family are certainly of Native American blood but how much and of which tribe are subjects of debate to this very day. Who were they? Where did they come from? Why all the confusion? And what is a Me’tis?

The research into Native American heritage is a daunting task, more so than the task of finding, say, European connections, for instance. There are a few reasons for the added complications: 

For one thing, Indians did not keep track of birthdays and anniversaries the way most cultures do. There was no sense of belonging to a particular set of parents – each child had several fathers and several mothers. The tribe was a large extended family. The survival of the tribe was the most important thing.
 Tracing ones ancestor to a tribe or region is often easier than finding their mother or father. Mothers were more important than fathers as the society is matriarchal. They kept their lineage through the mother’s line and not the father’s line as we do. 

Also, polygamy was an accepted practice. A man could have as many wives as he wanted as long as he could provide for them and as long as all parties were in agreement with the arrangement. 

             Former Navajo tribal chairman Peter MacDonald explains Navajo polygyny this way:

              “A man would marry a woman, then work hard for his     family. If she had a sister who was not married, and if the man proved to be caring, a good provider, and a good husband, he would
be gifted with his wife’s sister, marrying her as well.”
             (Indians-201-Native-American-Marriage, 2011)

So it was not uncommon for a man to have many children with many wives and they did believe in having lots of babies. So, for a brave to father 20 to 30 children or more was not unheard of. This is particularly true with chiefs and successful warriors.

There is a story of one Sizemore - Chief Goldenhawk who was said to be a big hulk of a guy and not at all a handsome man.

… George “Goldenhawk” Sizemore fathered approximately 50 children, census records show Goldenhawk at one time supporting four different families with 7 to 10 children in each of them. In 1860, he was indicted for bigamy in Floyd Co. KY, and according to minutes from the hearing, the judge said, “Mr. Sizemore, I understand you have about 50 children, to which Goldenhawk replied, “I guess you’re right. But, judge, if I’d been half as pretty a man as you are, I’d had more than that.” There are no known portraits of Goldenhawk, but he was said to be one of the ugliest men that ever was, puzzling his descendants, leading them to believe he had more attractive qualities than good looks. (DeGidio, 1999)

Next: Where did the Sizemore family come from?

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