Interview with Tiya Miles on NPR’s Tell Me More

Prof. Miles was yesterday interviewed about the history of the Cherokee Nation and Freedmen here.

MILES: Well, I think that those legacies remain with us. And I think that in the case of the Cherokee Nation and other native nations, there’s a felt conflict between the sovereignty of those nations and the question of what the role should be, what the place should be of minorities in those nations.

So, whereas the United States can and has at times protected the status of minorities and not felt itself threatened by Canada, for instance, about what it does. Native nations definitely feel themselves threatened by the United States government. They are concerned that their sovereignty, the right to make decisions for themselves, is going to be undermined by the U.S. government as it has been so many times in the past.

But what I feel is a real problem here is that the Cherokee Nation is taking its definition from what really has been a white supremacist U.S. nation that fought to – I’m sorry. Go ahead, Michel.

She also recounts what she was doing when she found out she won a MacArthur Genius Grant:

MARTIN: So before we let you go, we always have to ask. Where were you and what were you doing when you got the call? For people who are unaware of the MacArthur so-called Genius Grants are not things you can apply for. You have to be nominated. People generally don’t find out that they’ve won until they get the call. So, what were you doing when you got the call?

MILES: I was at home cleaning the kitchen when I got the call. And this was something that was so completely out of the blue and so completely overwhelming that I actually had to just sit down. I was on the staircase in our house. I had to sit on the steps just to kind of get my bearings and to let this sink in.

MARTIN: Any idea what you’ll do with the grant?

MILES: Well, I’ve never actually contemplated so much money, but I do have a couple of ideas. One thing that I’m really excited about is continuing my research and taking it into other areas within the U.S. and Native American history. So, I’ve worked so far on the South and Indian territory. But now, I want to really look at slavery in the north and in particular in Detroit and in Michigan, because this is a place where we also don’t really think about slavery existing, but it did. And the slaves in Detroit and in Michigan and Ontario were African-American and also Native American.

MARTIN: Well, I hope you’ll get a nice bottle of wine, too, in there, maybe.

MILES: Maybe. Maybe I’ll do that.


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