OU Student Wants American Indians’ History Integrated in Appalachian History

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When you think of Appalachia, you may think of poverty, string music and quilts, but those cultural icons are not the accurate representation of the region.

To get real Appalachian roots, you would have to dig far deeper.

Stephen Pearson, an Ohio University graduate student, says it is the American Indians' views of Appalachian history that should be integrated into how Appalachians view their past.

"As the indigenous people of America, American Indians had complete sovereignty over the area," Pearson says.

That was until settler European groups began to "encroach, illegally using their resources and appropriating their land," Pearson says, "often through massacres or coerced treaties under threat of genocide."

Pearson decribes the history as one that is "not pleasant", which "does not cast the groups that would later be identified as Appalachians – predominantly European Americans – in a positive light."

Pearson says that Appalachians want to portray their past in a very positive manner due to the group being oppressed as an economic group in the past.

"They want to reclaim history as having a positive meaning," Pearson says. "People don't want to hear about it. They feel like they're being personally blamed when there's no reason to think that. It's just about understanding the past – and that is the only way to move forward."

But according to Pearson, Appalachian studies, scholars and historians "have not done well in integrating American Indians into the history of the region."

Pearson says that although the Appalachians' denial of their past itself is not deliberate, the genocidal processes that led to it were.

"For example, the Cherokee Removal (the forced relocation of American Indians in the early nineteenth century to the Western United States) was deliberate," Pearson says. "It was forced; a government policy."