Volume 46 - Article 37 | Pages 1109–1136  

Race and agriculture during the assimilation era: Evidence from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

By Matthew Gregg, Melinda C. Miller


Background: The role of race within tribal communities is a contentious topic, and some of this acrimony emerged from 19th-century Indian policies rooted in scientific racism. There has been relatively little written on the role of intermarriage within indigenous communities.

Methods: We link household data from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina at the turn of the 20th century to individual two-generational family trees located in legal documents to investigate the link between personal property and whether a household head had white ancestry.

Results: We find that the racial gap in property does not follow simple racial hierarchies but rather depends on the gender of the household head. However, once selection into intermarriage is accounted for, the racial gap in property from intermarriage is eliminated. In fact, households containing a male head with close white ancestors held less property than households containing a male head without white ancestry.

Contribution: Understanding who chose to intermarry and how intermarriages impacted the economic status of both families and their children as adults can provide key insights into understanding racial inequality today.

Author's Affiliation

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