In Serving the Nation, Julie L. Reed examines the development of the Cherokee Nation’s social welfare system from the removal era through allotment and Oklahoma statehood. She describes institutions like the Cherokee Orphan Asylum and the Cherokee National Prison, while tracing the evolution of Cherokee government policies regarding mental illness, disability, and public health. This system, she argues, demonstrated the persistence of Cherokee communitarian values, while reflecting the emergence of a more centralized political structure in which the Cherokee national government assumed responsibilities traditionally held by clans and matrilineages. When they established institutions to care for the needy, in other words, Cherokees both honored an ethic that strongly informed their traditional sense of peoplehood and contributed to the creation of political practices designed to protect Cherokee nationhood. This hybrid system, Reed suggests, offered greater benefits and broader protection than did the...

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