Friday, November 03, 2017

Does It Matter If Jimmie Durham, Noted Cherokee Artist, Is Not Actually Cherokee?

Does it also matter that Senator Elizabeth Warren allegedly for decades claimed to be Native-American, only to be busted when she turned to national politics? Or is self-identification enough?
All this dates back to June 26, when a group of ten Cherokee artists, educators, and leaders published a letter to the website of Indian Country Today, just four days after his retrospective opened at the Walker. The group’s letter claimed Durham was “a trickster” who is “falsely claiming to be Cherokee” and went on to state that he “has no Cherokee relatives; he does not live in or spend time in Cherokee communities; he does not participate in dances and does not belong to a ceremonial ground.” In the ensuing weeks and months he was labeled everything from “The Artist Formerly Known As Cherokee” to the “Art World’s Rachel Dolezal,” and the Walker issued the following disclaimer to the webpage and wall credits of their show: 
While Durham self-identifies as Cherokee, he is not recognized by any of the three Cherokee Nations, which as sovereign nations determine their own citizenship. We recognize that there are Cherokee artists and scholars who reject Durham’s claims of Cherokee ancestry.
Read the whole fascinating article in Vulture here.