“Ramps are wild onions that Native Americans have harvested for thousands of years. They’re also a staple ingredient in traditional Southern Appalachian kitchens. Over the last several years, the bold-tasting green has become wildly popular among foodies, apt to appear on the menu of a trendy restaurant or bunched at farmers’ markets.
“[Forest resource specialist Tommy] Cabe said forest-harvested ramps fetched as much as $50 per gallon last year. ‘That’s a pretty good economy for someone who can spend a day in the woods,’ he said. The website Earthy.com listed the retail price of one pound of fresh ramps for $15.95, though currently out of stock in the off-season.
“While a permit is required to harvest ramps from national forests, not everyone follows those regulations, which can be difficult to enforce. As a result, Cabe and other gatherers must go deeper into the forest to find healthy plants….”
Wouldn’t Thad Eure be tickled!
“There’s a cultural amnesia about what it means to be Native American, says Cherokee woodcarver Christy Long. ‘When you look at what people understand about a native, you get people who only understand natives from [a] romantic point of view.’
“Such misconceptions mean tourists to Cherokee seek headdresses and dreamcatchers — neither of which are native to the tribe. That doesn’t mean, however, that headdresses and dreamcatchers aren’t sold. ‘When you’re trying to make a living, you still have to look at those things that people will purchase, so that you can make money to feed your family,’ says Long. ‘It’s [an] existential struggle for a native person.’ ”
— From “Cherokee artists consider life beyond the mountains” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (Dec. 22)
From the Miscellany vault: Examples of Cherokee image vs. reality in postcards and pinback buttons.
On this day in 1730: At the site of present-day Franklin, Sir Alexander Cuming persuades seven young Cherokee men to accompany him to London. During their four months in England they will have their portraits painted by William Hogarth, kiss the hand of King George II and sign a treaty of alliance.
“….W why have so many Americans laid claim to a clearly fictional identity? Part of the answer is embedded in the [Cherokee] tribe’s history: its willingness to incorporate outsiders into kinship systems and its wide-ranging migrations throughout North America. But there’s another explanation, too.
“The Cherokees resisted state and federal efforts to remove them from their Southeastern homelands during the 1820s and 1830s. During that time, most whites saw them as an inconvenient nuisance, an obstacle to colonial expansion. But after their removal, the tribe came to be viewed more romantically, especially in the antebellum South, where their determination to maintain their rights of self-government against the federal government took on new meaning.
“Throughout the South in the 1840s and 1850s, large numbers of whites began claiming they were descended from a Cherokee great-grandmother. That great-grandmother was often a ‘princess,’ a not-inconsequential detail in a region obsessed with social status and suspicious of outsiders. By claiming a royal Cherokee ancestor, white Southerners were legitimating the antiquity of their native-born status as sons or daughters of the South, as well as establishing their determination to defend their rights against an aggressive federal government, as they imagined the Cherokees had done.
“These may have been self-serving historical delusions, but they have proven to be enduring….”
— From “Why Do So Many Americans Think They Have Cherokee Blood? The history of a myth” by Gregory D. Smithers at Slate (Oct. 1)