From 1963 to 1979 a series of controversies raged over the Tennessee Valley Authority's proposal to build the Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River in eastern Tennessee, a region haunted by the legacy of Cherokee Removal. Throughout this period conservation organizations, local landowners, and the Tennessee Valley Authority all sought the support of the three federally recognized Cherokee nations in their efforts. Not only was the valley home to the endangered snail darter, a small species of perch, but it was also considered sacred by many Cherokee Indians, as well as historically important. But many Cherokee political leaders were reluctant to side with the environmentalists. Some feared doing so would disrupt their otherwise cordial relationship with the TVA, others feared that they would become too identified with radicalism---be it American Indian radicalism or environmental radicalism, and others simply distrusted the motives of environmentalists and feared that they only wanted their support to use of the image of the "ecological Indian" to lend legitimacy to their environmental concerns, rather than protect the sites that were of importance to the Cherokee people. Additionally, changing conceptions of American Indians shaped how others, such as displaced farmers with Cherokee ancestry and commercial developers, utilized Indianness in relation to the project.
This dissertation examines the struggles between non-Indians and Cherokees, and amongst Cherokees themselves, over how their identity as Indians would be defined and used within the context of the environmental and Red Power movements during the 1960s and 70s. Underlying these contests over Cherokee identity was the legacy of the 19th century removal of Cherokees from the region. Removal fractured the Cherokee Nation into three separate nations, each with its own history, identity, and strategies for sovereignty. Removal also had a diasporic effect on some Cherokees, pulling them out of the nation and into surrounding non-Indian communities, ultimately laying the groundwork for a late twentieth century resurgence of claims to Indian identity. And finally, the memory of removal also gave Cherokees and non-Indians a powerful tool for garnering public support for their cause. Drawing on methods from history and ethnography, my research explores the multiple meanings individuals and groups assigned to "Indianness" and how those ideas not only shaped their reaction to the proposed Tellico Project, but also how those ideas were shaped by changing discourses about the environment, environmentalists, and American Indians during that time period.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2011. Major: History. Advisors: David Chang, Jean M. O’Brien. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 305 pages.
Gilmer, Robert A..
In the shadow of removal:historical memory, Indianness, and the Tellico Dam Project..
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.