Shaping Bowlin Family Identity, the confluence of policy, opportunity and determination
Darnella Davis, Ed.D.
2018 Symposium on the American Indian
Northeastern State University
Walking with our Ancestors: Preserving Culture and Honoring Tradition
History from an Indigenous Perspective
Using oral histories and archival documents, the proposed presentation traces the Bowlin family from the Allotment Era to the present as they worked their land in the Cherokee Nation. Over time, the family business grew from a small scale trading operation to the focal point of their framing and mining community situated along the upper reaches of Pryor Creek. Based on original research contained in Untangling a Red, White, and Black Heritage, a Personal History of the Allotment Era, forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press, November 2018, the work takes an interdisciplinary approach to the Bowlin family’s 1904 application for Cherokee citizenship, contrasting the written testimony with the stories passed down to the descendents of John and Elizabeth Bowlin who grew up in Bowlin Spring and now are scattered around the globe. Although there is merit in preserving this singular family’s 150-year saga, its value in enriching our collective understanding of the evolution of race thinking in American is incalculable. This multiracial family offers a microcosm of the American Dream as it played out in the heart of Cherokee country (akin to work by Kendra Field, Tiya Miles, Celia Naylor, Claudio Suant, Circe Sturm, and Fay Yarbrough). Their story is told by a descendent who searched and found roots that lay tangled but endure to this day. In the spirit of public history, the presentation will discuss the discovery of resources that made it possible to retrace the family legacy. Such resources were hidden in plain sight and available to anyone.