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Bad Fruits of the Civilized Tree

Alcohol and the Sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation

Izumi Ishii

Publication Year: 2008

Bad Fruits of the Civilized Tree examines the role of alcohol among the Cherokees through more than two hundred years, from contact with white traders until Oklahoma reached statehood in 1907. While acknowledging the addictive and socially destructive effects of alcohol, Izumi Ishii also examines the ways in which alcohol was culturally integrated into Native society and how it served the overarching economic and political goals of the Cherokee Nation.
Europeans introduced alcohol into Cherokee society during the colonial era, trading it for deerskins and using it to cement alliances with chiefs. In turn Cherokee leaders often redistributed alcohol among their people in order to buttress their power and regulate the substance’s consumption. Alcohol was also seen as containing spiritual power and was accordingly consumed in highly ritualized ceremonies. During the early-nineteenth century, Cherokee entrepreneurs learned enough about the business of the alcohol trade to throw off their American partners and begin operating alone within the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokees intensified their internal efforts to regulate alcohol consumption during the 1820s to demonstrate that they were “civilized” and deserved to coexist with American citizens rather than be forcibly relocated westward. After removal from their land, however, the erosion of Cherokee sovereignty undermined the nation’s ongoing attempts to regulate alcohol. Bad Fruits of the Civilized Tree provides a new historical framework within which to study the meeting between Natives and Europeans in the New World and the impact of alcohol on Native communities.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Series: Indians of the Southeast


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pp. vii

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Series Preface

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pp. ix-x

Bad Fruits of the Civilized Tree: Alcohol and the Sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation is a sophisticated study of political sovereignty and culture change. In this work Izumi Ishii historicizes alcohol. She examines the ways in which the Cherokees incorporated drinking into their culture in the eighteenth ...

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pp. xi-xiv

I first encountered Cherokee history in my sophomore year at Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan. Since then, a number of professors, colleagues, and friends have both intellectually and personally assisted me in my efforts to contribute to our understanding of that history. Without their immeasurable ...

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pp. 1-12

Before European contact, Native people of North America, with a few exceptions, had virtually no knowledge of alcohol. 1 Early European accounts of Indian drinking, however, suggest that once Indians acquired a taste for liquor, it functioned as an agent of European conquest. Through the gift ...

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1. Alcohol Arrives

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pp. 13-38

The Cherokees had no tradition of alcohol consumption, so the history of alcohol among the Cherokees begins with its introduction by Europeans. To the purveyors of spirits, the Indians' consumption of alcohol appeared to support the Europeans' view of Native Americans as profligate and ...

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2. A Struggle for Sovereignty

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pp. 39-58

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Cherokee society began to experience profound changes. A more sophisticated commercial economy emerged, and tribal government began to centralize and assert its sovereignty. Missionaries and U.S. agents attempted to instill a new value system of ...

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3. The Moral High Ground

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pp. 59-82

When tribal alcohol regulations challenged the U.S. government and generated interference in Cherokee internal affairs, the Cherokees strengthened their legal claims by asserting moral authority over drinking through their temperance activities. Evangelical missionaries, particularly those of the ...

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4. Alcohol and Dislocation

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pp. 83-110

Alcohol took a serious toll on the Cherokees in the years surrounding removal. Unregulated and widely available, liquor offered comfort to disillusioned Cherokees, particularly men. The justice of their cause and the moral fiber of their people seemed to carry little sway in the United States. The Nation ...

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5. A Nation under Siege

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pp. 111-132

The American Civil War rekindled old animosities. Chief John Ross's strong plea for neutrality could not offset bitter internal factionalism that ultimately forced him to ally with the Confederate States in the treaty of October 7, 1861. Barely a year had passed when Ross, following a majority of ...

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6. Cherokee Temperance, American Reform, and Oklahoma Statehood

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pp. 133-164

Until the 1880s, the consumption and regulation of alcohol had been potent political issues in the Cherokee Nation in large part because they involved the broader question of sovereignty. As Cherokee women, who could not vote or hold public office, became more visible in the temperance ...

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pp. 165-168

As the Cherokee experience demonstrates, the story of Native Americans and their relationship with alcohol is a complicated one. Taking the long view—across two centuries—suggests that a single analytical model or a deeply held moral conviction cannot adequately explain the role of ...


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pp. 169-218


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pp. 219-244


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pp. 245-260

E-ISBN-13: 9780803216303
E-ISBN-10: 0803216300

Page Count: 370
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Indians of the Southeast