Was Ishmael Chavis a Cherokee?

+2 votes
A typescript attached to this profile claims Ishmael was a Cherokee chief.

Can we find any additional sources to confirm this?
WikiTree profile: Ishmael Chavis
asked in Genealogy Help by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (667k points)

1 Answer

+3 votes
Best answer
Ishmael Chavis along with his wife were "Mulatoe" taxables in Bladen county from 1768-1774. In 1790 he was head of household for a family of 10 "other free". His descendants are now known as Lumbees. Like a lot of Lumbee ancestors, including my own Cox ancestors, who came from Robeson/Bladen county, they were likely what is now known as "tri-racial isolates" (multigenerationally mixed people of European, African, and Native American descent).
answered by Jessica Key G2G6 Mach 8 (81.3k points)
selected by S B
So back to the original question... While the typescript attached to this profile makes claim of Cherokee leadership for Ishmael Chavis, what I'm now understanding is that this Chavis branch is associated with the Lumbee who never had any Cherokee connections. Am I getting that right?

AND... (and this is more a policy question for the project...) should we categorize Lumbee-known profiles as Native American? Or do we only recognize those "tribes" (not sure what to call the Lumbee) that are recognized by the BIA?

(Maybe we should create a free-space page for the Lumbee?)
The Lumbee are Federally recognized with a unique and limited status. The Lumbee Act of 1956 states:  "...that the Indians now residing in Robeson and adjoining counties of North Carolina … and claiming joint descent from remnants …. of certain tribes of Indians …..be known and designated as Lumbee Indians of North Carolina.....Nothing in this Act shall make such Indians eligible for any services performed by the United States for Indians...."   They are a very political topic in Indian country. I think it boils down to the facts that some people are willing to accept them as being of Indian descent, but since the Lumbee have no language and no culture they cannot accept their claim to be an Indian tribe.  I personally am comfortable with categorizing documented Lumbee as Native American.  A free-space page with links to the Appalachian State documents might be helpful.
Instead of a freespace page, I added a short description to the Category page and linked to Wikipedia.

And then I found this, which I think should be removed:


It's a subcategory of BIA-recognized tribes, and you've just said it's not.

Pip, I have never found any historical evidence that Mulatto was meant to categorize all non-white people. Indeed, in John Bouvier's law dictionary, published in the 1850s:

"... properly a mulatto is a person one of whose parents is wholly black and the other wholly white; but the word does not always, though perhaps it does generally, require so exactly even a mixture of blood, nor is its significance alike in all the states.)"

From the Medway v. Natick, 1810: "It is our unanimous opinion that a mulatto is a person begotten between a white and a black. This is the definition given by the best lexicographers, and we believe it also to agree with the popular use of the term."

I have seen no evidence that 19th century Americans considered Indians, or mixed Indian/whites, to be mulattos. It seems clear that a certain degree of African blood was necessary to be a mulatto. Indeed, I just found a newspaper that mentioned a lady as a "quarteroon Indian", not a Mulatto. I can believe that more modern-day people, anxious to downplay any African ancestry, try to pretend that their ancestors were "really" Native American or what-have-you.

Here’s some info I found, Jessica. 


In 1705 the Virginia Legislature passed into law that "the offspring of an Indian and a White is a Mulatto." This law went on to state that if the half-Indian 'mulatto' was to marry a white person then that 'mulatto' and his or her offspring were to be legally regarded as 'white' (this is undoubtedly where the notion that a person should be of at least ¼ blood to be considered an Indian arose). The Virginians were using the word 'mulatto' in its historical usage, from the root word 'mule', meaning any crossbreed. With the independent formation of the lower southern states, each state adopted racial classifications roughly equivalent to that of Virginia. Florida's official race laws stipulated that any mixed-blood person, whether of white/Negro, white/India

The Lumbee tribe is not federally recognized. I come from the Ishmael Chavis line (which is one of the strongest lines in the Lumbee tribe), 7 generations behind him. Yes our recognition is unique in that we are what's called state recognized and the tribe has been constantly fighting for federal recognition. I met with the Tribal Chairman/Chief last weekend and he said he is working hard for it. While the tribe doesn't have a traditional Native culture on a daily basis, we often practice our roots with festivals and powwows held throughout a good chunk of the year.
Apparently, the Feds will do only what is in the best interest of the Feds. A shame. The Lumbees deserve better.
Just to clarify, the Lumbee were designated as Indians by the U.S. Congress through the Lumbee Act, but the tribe was not "recognized" by the BIA through the standard process.  They are currently working on getting recognized through the BIA process which will make the tribe eligible for Federal funds and some other benefits, such as Indian-preference hiring for certain positions.  Although the tribe has "state recognition"  states can only recognize an Indian tribe as an organization, not as a tribe/nation, that is reserved to the Federal government since it is a nation-to-nation relationship.
I get it. The process is more convoluted than I though. Thanks, Kathryn, for the clarification.

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