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Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom

Tiya Miles
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 329
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  • Book Info
    Ties That Bind
    Book Description:

    This beautifully written book tells the haunting saga of a quintessentially American family. It is the story of Shoe Boots, a famed Cherokee warrior and successful farmer, and Doll, an African slave he acquired in the late 1790s. Over the next thirty years, Shoe Boots and Doll lived together as master and slave and also as lifelong partners who, with their children and grandchildren, experienced key events in American history-including slavery, the Creek War, the founding of the Cherokee Nation and subsequent removal of Native Americans along the Trail of Tears, and the Civil War. This is the gripping story of their lives, in slavery and in freedom. Meticulously crafted from historical and literary sources,Ties That Bindvividly portrays the members of the Shoeboots family. Doll emerges as an especially poignant character, whose life is mostly known through the records of things done to her-her purchase, her marriage, the loss of her children-but also through her moving petition to the federal government for the pension owed to her as Shoe Boots's widow. A sensitive rendition of the hard realities of black slavery within Native American nations, the book provides the fullest picture we have of the myriad complexities, ironies, and tensions among African Americans, Native Americans, and whites in the first half of the nineteenth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94038-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    When Ralph Ellison wrote about the history of blacks in Indian Territory in 1979, expressing his sense of wonder at “the sheer unexpectedness of life in these United States,” he might well have included the life and times of an uncommon family known as the Shoeboots.¹ The Shoeboots descended from a famed Cherokee warrior named Tarsekayahke, or “Shoe Boots,” who, in mid-autumn 1824, appealed to the members of the Cherokee Nation’s governing body on behalf of his mixed-race black-Cherokee children. Addressing the council members as “My Friends and Brothers,” Shoe Boots said,

    Being in possession of a few Black People...


    • ONE Captivity
      (pp. 13-24)

      AT THE TURN OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY, the Cherokee man known as Shoe Boots was a warrior in exile. According to a report of John Howard Payne, a white American journalist, lay historian, and visitor to the Cherokee Nation, Shoe Boots fled his home after accidentally killing a man who refused to sing for him. An ardent music lover, Shoe Boots seems to have become enraged when a bystander would not sing to accompany Shoe Boots’s dancing. He then assaulted the man, pummeling him to death.¹ Judging by this account and several others, Shoe Boots was an arresting figure, distinguished...

    • TWO Slavery
      (pp. 25-43)

      WHAT DID IT MEAN to be described in the possessive, categorized in a collective, listed among things? What were the psychic and physical costs of becoming someone owned, of having one’s humanity diminished by custom and law, of being fully subject to the authority of another? Sometimes we, as twenty-first-century students of history, think we know the answers to these questions. But Harriet Jacobs, who wrote the exemplary slave narrativeIncidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself,after she had escaped from her master in North Carolina, tells us that we are mistaken. “O virtuous reader!”...

    • THREE Motherhood
      (pp. 44-63)

      SHOE BOOTS’S EURO-AMERICAN “wife.” Clarinda, had lived in Cherokee country for approximately seven years when Doll was delivered to her

      doorstep. After witnessing the Shawnee raid on Morgan’s Station and being forcibly carried to Cherokee territory by a warrior she did not know,

      Clarinda’s own arrival to that farm must have been traumatic. The two young women, captives of a different color, may have comforted one another. They may have felt something akin to affection at a time when the daily labors of life were backbreaking and when the security and duration of life itself were uncertain. Clarinda and Doll...

    • FOUR Property
      (pp. 64-84)

      THE EBB AND FLOW OF DOLL’S DAYS began with nursing her newborn child, preparing the hearth, and starting a fire with wood that she herself had collected. In the early morning Doll would have cooked large pots of food for the other slaves and for Shoe Boots to eat during the day—soaking corn and pounding it into meal for bread, boiling corn in lye and water and washing it clean to make skinned corn, roasting pork or deer meat, boiling greens. She also would have worked in her kitchen garden, tending the vegetables that sustained her small household. When...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • FIVE Christianity
      (pp. 85-99)

      SHOE BOOTS EMERGED FROM THE CREEK WAR with a new stature and a new name. In honor of his reputation for crowing in battle, “the Indian formerly called Shoeboot,” Moravian missionaries recorded, “received the name Crowing Rooster at the last National Council.” Shoe Boots was also referred to as “Crowing Cock” by one of the warriors under his command.¹ He took on the title of captain in keeping with his military rank and was one of nine Cherokee men who received special recognition for their efforts in the conflict. In 1815, along with Colonel Path Killer and Major Ridge, Captain...

    • SIX Nationhood
      (pp. 100-128)

      WHILE CAPTAIN SHOE BOOTS INVOLVED HIMSELF in the local politics of Hightower, his neighbors and fellow slaveowners, the prominent Ridge family, were embarked on a political project of national import. Shoe Boots and Doll knew the Ridges well, since their homes were relatively close to each other. A slave of the Ridges, named Thomas Ridge, recalled: “I was owned by Major Ridge, Old Capt. Shoeboot lived near Etowah River, I lived about thirty miles from Shoeboots. Capt Shoeboots owned my brother and I often went there. He owned a woman besides my brother . . . I was well acquainted...

    • SEVEN Gold Rush
      (pp. 129-144)

      SHOE BOOTS HOPED TO PROTECT HIS OFFSPRING in the event of his death by appealing to the General Council for their freedom. And five years after altering the course of his children’s lives, Shoe Boots did die, “at the Thompson Ferry on the Hightower River.”¹ The announcement of his passing was published in theCherokee Phoenixnewspaper on November 11, 1829, by John Ridge and Thomas Woodard, a mixed-race Cherokee of white ancestry and a nephew of Shoe Boots.² As executors of Shoe Boots’s estate, Ridge and Woodard announced the procedure for all claims and debts: “Notice, To all whom...


    • EIGHT Removal
      (pp. 149-161)

      ELIZABETH SHOEBOOTS WAS THE HEAD OF HER HOUSEHOLD, the mother of small children, and a survivor of enslavement. She was also among the thousands of Cherokees who faced the rude awakening of Indian Removal. Twice she was forced out of her home, made to recover and rebuild, first at the hands of slavecatchers and then at the hands of American soldiers. The expulsion of the Cherokees from the Southeast had its foundation in an illegal compact. In 1802 the U.S. government entered into an agreement with the state of Georgia, promising to expel the Indians in the state’s territory in...

    • NINE Capture
      (pp. 162-178)

      IN THE WINTER AND SPRING OF 1839, Elizabeth and Polly Shoeboots dragged themselves into present-day Oklahoma with other Cherokees who had resisted removal. The land they entered was not empty, nor was it solely theirs, since two groups of Cherokees had previously settled in the northeastern corner of Indian Territory. To avoid white encroachment, a band known as the Old Settlers had traveled from the Southeast to present-day Missouri, Arkansas, and finally Oklahoma between 1794 and 1820.¹ This group, which came to be called the Western Cherokee Nation, governed itself by a loosely constructed ethical code that bore little resemblance...

    • TEN Freedom
      (pp. 179-190)

      THE 1850S ARE OFTEN CALLED THE “GOLDEN AGE” of Cherokee history. In this period after removal and the political turmoil of its immediate aftermath, Cherokees managed to rebuild shining communities in the West, studded with farms, plantations, schools, salt mines, ferries, and mercantile shops. Though the harsh predicament of most slaves owned by Cherokees belied this new model, for Doll the 1850s proved to be among the best decades of her life. Doll had been transported West with the Ridge family in 1837. She had come into the hands of John Ridge at the death of Shoe Boots and was...

  10. EPILOGUE: Citizenship
    (pp. 191-203)

    ON THE CUSP OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, as the period known as the Reconstruction era slid into the Dawes Allotment era, the descendants of Shoe Boots and Doll were fading from the Cherokee record books. The Dawes Roll of 1898–1914 and the Guion-Miller Roll of 1909–1910, major censuses of Cherokees compiled by U.S. government officials, do not include any people named Shoeboots.¹ There are myriad reasons for the family’s disappearance. The daughters of Shoe Boots and Doll, Elizabeth and Polly, married Cherokee men whose full names are not given. It is likely that the children of these unions...

  11. CODA: The Shoeboots Family Today
    (pp. 204-206)

    The Shoeboots family story does not conclude with William’s children’s failed attempt to achieve Cherokee citizenship. Nor does the Shoebootses’ struggle for community belonging and integrative identity reach closure in successive generations.¹ The continually complex and ambiguous position of this family is revealed yet again in the recent life of Haskell James Shoeboot, a latter-day descendant who became well-known as a respected cowboy, physician, and police o‹cer in mid-twentieth-century Oklahoma and Colorado.

    For instance, during a remarkable run for election to the governorship of Colorado in 1966, Haskell Shoeboot stressed his identification as a Native American but not as an...

  12. APPENDIX ONE Research Methods and Challenges
    (pp. 207-213)
  13. APPENDIX TWO Definition and Use of Terms
    (pp. 214-215)
  14. APPENDIX THREE Cherokee Names and Mistaken Identities
    (pp. 216-218)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 219-272)
    (pp. 273-292)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 293-306)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-307)