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Ruth Muskrat's Dueling Identities

 

Ruth standing on the green dressed casually with books in her hands. Courtesy of MHC Archives.

 
 
 

"[We need]...to get the Indians to think and act for themselves and not let a governement, however beneficient, think for them...we must stop trying to make Indian communities into little replicas of our own..." (13) -Here Ruth comments on the goals of Indian solidarity.

Ruth's Early Years: Born the daughter of a full blood Cherokee father and an Irish mother on October 3rd, 1897 in Grove Oklahoma, Ruth attended high school in her home town and then the University of Oklahoma. In 1923 she received a full scholarship to Mount Holyoke College and entered with advance standing as a junior.(14) Before her entrance at Mount Holyoke she had already expressed interest in Indian race solidarity with her involvement in the 1922 World’s Student Christian Federation Conference in Peking. During her visit to Peking she distinguished herself as the first American Indian to represent at a world conference, an enormous accomplishment for her time.(15)

Construction of a Unique Identity: Ruth had a strong Christian faith as well as a strong commitment to her own cultural heritage, which she carried with her to South Hadley. The complex conflict of dueling identities within her person helped her to gather support for her efforts in education and her interest in the rebirth of her own Cherokee culture. Ruth carefully constructed an image that allowed her to appreciate the opportunities that white assimilation had offered her, such as religion and education, while at the same time reject notions of complete cultural assimilation which would strip her of her language, dress and heritage.

 

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This page was created by Melissa Joyce '08 in History 283, Spring Semester 2006 - meljoyce@mtholyoke.edu