This article was inspired by a post from some obscure blog proclaiming the Ridgetop Shawnee Tribe of Indians to be a fake-wannabe Tribe. The Ridgetop Shawnee are extremely lucky to actually have a true Native American heritage and a true claim for that heritage to be celebrated as history, not myth. But we are still fighting a steep uphill battle against the formidable myths that permeates every crevasse of our region. Until we defeat the myth the truth will never be free and with truth our heritage will be preserved, the right way.
Our Native American history is a complex one. On one hand we claim Shawnee heritage as a way to honor the ancient ones who ruled over this region for 2000+ years. We have been extremely careful with regard to what is called Original Peoples identity. It is a part of our identity but it is not the majority or cornerstone of our identity. The cornerstone of our identity is the mixed-blood settlers who migrated here during the Treaty period (1750 to 1850). We know there was a remnant Native American population that lived here and they intermarried with these settlers but their identities have always been a point of contention. Most say it was a large Cherokee contingent but in actuality it was a mix between Shawnee, Cherokee and Mingo.
The cycle of myths and legends are extremely hard to break as the myth is built on an exciting foundation and most of the time one's true heritage is mundane. This region has some of the most viral Native American myths in the Nation. The legends read like an old pirate dime novel. The climaxes of these myths are very Hollywood like in their composition. It certainly doesn't help when certain educational authorities misuse their positions and propagate these myths for personal gain.
Lets run down through some of our more interesting regional myths and legends. Now I will begin with a disclaimer; I certainly expect a huge amount of backlash and ridicule, as I have always received backlash and ridicule when I speak up against these legends,. but I simply do not care; the Ridgetop Shawnee Tribe of Indians operate on truth not legend, and if we continue with TRUTH we will be successful.
Chief Aaron "Redbird" Brock
Ole Chief Redbird, what can I say. I have studied this mysterious figure for over 15 years and this is the truth of the matter. Aaron Brock is reputed to have been the patriarch of the Harlan County Brock family, the father of the first settler on Wallins Creek, Kentucky, a man named Jesse Brock. There is little doubt that Jesse Brock is of mixed Native American heritage but how can we in any way associate this Redbird with his family? We can't, we have NO evidence what-so-ever and the evidence we do have disproves the connection in every way.
Exhibit A (Jesse's Birthplace)
According to Jesse Brock himself he was born on 8 Dec 1751, in Cumberland Co., VA.
As you can see Jesse Brock was born hundreds of miles away from Cherokee territory in 1751. So we don't have to elaborate that it is highly unlikely that "his father" was a Cherokee Chief named Redbird who married someone from Cumberland County, VA and had a child there. The numbers don't add up. We also find another connection, that we will elaborate on below, with a George Brock, who was THE ONLY Brock living in the Cumberland County Virginia area during the time of Jesse's birth.
Exhibit B (Jesse Brock's DNA)
Now I will be first to view any Y-DNA study with skepticism if one is searching for the Native American haplogroup, which would be of the Q group. The Sizemore family has a Q haplogroup which means they have a direct male to male to male, back to the origin, Native American ancestor. It usually doesn't work out this way as most of us received our Indian Blood from a Female not a Male. Jesse Brock's family have been heavily sampled and their DNA haplogroup is J1 which is a common Jewish haplogroup. All this means is Jesse likely, just like 95% of us, received his Native American blood from a female not a male.
And the big one is that Jesse Brock's DNA closely matches the a George Brock Sr. who lived near Jamestown Virginia in 1701. It is highly likely that this George Brock is the father or uncle of Jesse Brock. The same George Brock who lived in the Cumberland County Virginia area when Jesse was born.
Exhibit C (Migration of Jesse Brock)
It is a 100% certainty that Jesse Brock followed the same roundabout migration path just as other mixed blood settlers of this region.
I see no Cherokee kinship with regard to Jesse's migration path at all. He followed the same trails and followed the same path as 95% of our mixed-blood Native American settlers.
Exhibit D (The Murder Cherokee named Redbird)
It is a historical fact that a Cherokee named Redbird was murdered along the headwaters of the Kentucky River (likely in Clay County) in 1797 not 1810 though 1815 as the legend states. In 1797 Ned Mitchell and John Levinstone, both from Hawkins County, TN, murdered a Cherokee named Redbird and another Cherokee named Will. But where did Jesse Brock live in 1797? In Russell County, VA, a world away from modern day Clay County, Kentucky. But now the story has mutated to include TWO murdered Chief Redbird(s) both ironically named Aaron Brock, one in 1797 and one in 1810-11. The reason for this legend mutation is the fact that in one version tells of our Clay County Chief Redbird, A.K.A Aaron Brock, being a Treaty signer, which would be a fantastic bragging right in the Native world, but those treaties were signed years after the death of the Cherokee named Redbird in 1797. So a new Chief Redbird A.K.A Aaron Brock was invented and what do you know? He's a Cherokee Chief as well.
We also know that only one potential Brock family member, of the Brock line in question, lived anywhere near Hawkins County, TN in 1797, that would be George Brock who lived in Grainger County, TN. The Wallins Creek stock, George, Jesse and a James Brock, were all recorded on Russell County, Virginia tax records in 1798. And these same three men show up on the 1810 Knox County, Kentucky census records. But this Grainger County George Brock may in fact be an uncle to Jesse Brock as DNA suggests.
So we know that these three men were likely brothers, or they could be Jesse's son's, as some family history states. We also have a huge amount of the legend that revolves around Aaron Brock Jr's exploits right after the murder of Redbird. This Aaron Brock would have to have been at least 20 years old in 1797 but we can find no records of his existence. These stories revolve around another Aaron Brock, who was between the age of 16 and 24 in 1810 as dictated by the 1810 Knox County Kentucky census. This Aaron was most certainly the son of Jesse. He would have been, at most, 11 years old at the time of Redbird's murder.
Exhibit E (When did the Aaron Brock Redbird legend begin?)
We know there was a vivid oral history of Indian Blood in the Brock family in the 19th century but we can absolutely ascertain that there was NO oral history of Chief Redbird A.K.A Aaron Brock. According to a Brock descendant by the name of Savanna Miller, who provided a deposition On 24 September 1908 in Goldthwaite, TX, there was a oral history of Cherokee blood in the Brock family. She claimed her blood through the reputed daughter of Chief Redbird a woman named Susan Brock. She gave a deposition on the EASTERN CHEROKEE application No. 30921, which was of course denied.
The interesting part of her testimony is this quote:
"My father got his Indian blood through his mother, SUSAN BROCK. I can tell nothin about SUSAN BROCK only that she lived in Ky. and she died there. She was said to be a full blood Indian."
This statement says it all. This woman knew of her Indian Blood, her father told her as he apparently tried to gain his Indian rights in the late 1860's. But she knew nothing of her famous Cherokee Chief grandfather Chief Redbird A.K.A Aaron Brock. How can this be? Well, it clearly shows that the "legend" of Redbird was concocted after 1908, at least in the Brock family.
We continue with the testimony given to Annie Walker Burns, a well known Appalachian historian of the early to mid 20th century, by Elijah Brock. The purpose of the testimony clearly revolved around genealogy and he begins his statement by describing the then recognized patriarch of the Harlan County Brock family Jesse Brock b1751, not Aaron Brock. He speaks of the fact that Jesse was known to have Indian blood but he also fails to mention his famous Cherokee Chief grandfather, the one and only Redbird. I don't know the exact date of Elijah's testimony but we can date it between the years 1920 and 1940 with a certain amount of confidence.
So we know there was not a peep of this Cherokee Chief Redbird A.K.A Aaron Brock before, say, 1940. A historical road marker was erected in Clay County in 1966 honoring the Cherokee named Redbird for which a local river and preserve is named. So if the legend was strong in the Brock family when this road marker was erected in 1966 I would dare to venture a guess they would have said something about it, but not a peep. But there was a legend of people in Clay County claiming heritage from Chief Redbird.
In the Harper's Monthly magazine in late 1914 and early 1915 there is a story related to the music of the region that recorded a few quotes from an unknown woman (sadly she was not named at all, identified as a Mountain Woman only). She believed she descended from a Cherokee Chief named Redbird. We can speculate from the account this Mountain Woman provided that she was likely a Sizemore as she described her family in Clay County as a prominent Indian family.
We also find a claim in 1986 in the Appalachian Journal from a Sizemore family member who claims Redbird was in fact a Sizemore. And in my studies of this legend I can certainly declare that the Sizemore family have the oldest Chief Redbird tradition.
We have no way of pinpointing the exact time period of the origin of Chief Redbird A.K.A Aaron Brock but we can safely say that the Sizemore family were claiming this birthright in the early 20th century. So we can take that back a generation to the mid 19th century.
We have presented evidence, non circumstantial evidence mind you, that blows this legend, as it is commonly told, out of the water. The reason I am hammering on this particular legend is the fact that the Ridgetop Shawnee Tribe of Indians are working feverishly to be recognized for our true history, no matter how mundane and unexciting it may be. We have to present truth because I have seen the faces of legislators and those who could help us melt with agitation when these legends are presented as a foundation for our historical truth. They cannot be supported, sourced or proven but they can be ripped to shreds in a matter of hours and thus our efforts are ripped to shreds in the process.
Its good to tell stories for entertainment but when people support their heritage built on myth that heritage is a myth.