Cherokee - James Mooney
One of the most dangerous frauds is James Mooney who studied the Cherokee people during the later part of the 19th Century and wrote extensively regarding his so called knowledge of the Cherokee way of life. Mooney's works were specifically aimed at a White liberal, intellectual audience both in the United States and Europe who were interested in the mysterious "Noble Savages". He is best known for his "compilation" of Cherokee stories and his description of traditional Cherokee spirituality. Unfortunately Mooney was either one of the greatest dupes or one of the greatest opportunists in recent Cherokee History.
More likely than anything, Mooney was likely both a dupe, opportunist and "Classic White Liberal". Concerned with stopping what he saw as a decline in "real Indian" traditional expression, Mooney left the realm of traditional science with the goal of destroying independent Cherokee culture and creating a strong monolithic American Indian identity. To this end Mooney helped to import the hallucinogenic cactus peyote which was then incorporated in special peyote ceremonies. In 1918 he wrote the charter for and incorporated the Native American Church which has led countless thousands of culturally unknowledgeable Cherokee astray .
By the end of the 19th Century, his writings on the Cherokee people were widely criticized by Cherokees for their complete distortion of the Cherokee way of life. Ironically his so called "compilation" of Cherokee stories included many stories that he had written himself. It is possible that in some cases Mooney may have believed his stories were genuine when they were in fact not. This is because of the fact that when anthropologists enter a closed community and are unable to convince Elders to speak to them the easiest persons to convince to talk to them are children and opportunists who are willing to tell stories for money, trinkets or candy.
While not Cherokee, Lakota author Vine Deloria, in his book entitled Custer Died for Your Sins described an encounter that an American Indian village had with a group of anthropologists. In this case no Elders would speak to the "scientists" and they were getting nowhere quickly so the anthropologists bribed the children with candy to tell the old stories. The children who hoped to get as much candy as possible made up as many stories as they could, even meeting together before their meetings with the "scientists" to create more Indian sounding stories. The children would lay in the grass eat candy and create ancient legends for the "scientists" who would later run home publish the stories and then forever create new false additions to the tribe's culture.
Although we have traditionally had an oral tradition, a disturbing trend has developed. Even though Mooney was widely criticized by the Cherokee community, because his lies are in print and many Cherokee have forgotten the old stories of the people and have taken on a White-European outlook the oral tradition is eroding and Mooney's heresies are growing in popularity. Today those Cherokee who have for whatever reason grownup without knowledge of our traditions are turning to the quick fix. Rather than sitting and learning at the feet of real knowledgeable Elders (NOT ALL OLD PEOPLE ARE ELDERS! - SOME PEOPLE ARE JUST OLD!) , many Cherokee trying to gain knowledge of their people by turning to frauds like Mooney. For this reason Mooney is the #1 Cherokee Fraud. He has single handedly deceived both Cherokee and non-Cherokee alike for one hundred and sixteen years.