Friday, November 15, 2019

Leverage US resources to understand unknown objects encountered by Navy, defense expert says

By Steve Hammons

All hands on deck! It’s going to take a team effort for the U.S. to deal with a very unusual situation involving “unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP)” that might be a serious threat – or something else, according to a national security expert.

In May 2019, a U.S. Navy spokesperson stated, "There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years…”

This quote is presented by national security veteran Christopher Mellon at the beginning of an article he wrote June 29, 2019. The article, or report, titled “Potential Sources of Information Regarding Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon,” was included in an e-newsletter dated Nov. 12 and distributed Nov. 15 from the start-up "public benefit" company called To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science.

Mellon serves as national security affairs director and advisory panel chairman for the company and has a significant background in the U.S. national security community.

Mellon writes that, “… the U.S. Navy’s public recognition of the problem is an excellent first step towards mobilizing the military and the Intelligence Community to find answers regarding the identify of these vehicles and determine whether they pose a threat to the United States.”

Is it really the “first step” for the Navy, other military branches and our national security community? Movies, TV shows and books have told us many stories of a “UFO situation” emerging for the U.S. in the World War II era and the 1950s.

But if we examine Mellon’s comments more closely, he specifies that the Navy announcement is a good first step “towards mobilizing the military and the Intelligence Community to find answers …” He seems to want to expand size and scope of the U.S. personnel and resources that probably have already been working on this issue for several decades.


As has been reported in news stories over the past two years, the U.S. Navy has encountered and tracked multiple unusual unidentified objects near aircraft carrier strike groups at sea off the west and east coasts, and elsewhere, over a number of years.

Mellon provides some words of concern. “The UAP phenomenon off the East Coast of the US in recent years is unprecedented in terms of the number and appearance of the vehicles involved as well as their persistence in a specific geographic region.”

There seems to be a certain urgency in Mellon’s message. “It suggests not only a new level of brazenness or contempt for US defense and intelligence capabilities, but also the possibility that operations have advanced to a new stage towards some as yet unknown objective.”

The phenomena is not new, he acknowledges. “There have been numerous instances over the years of UAP intrusions over military facilities, some which I can personally attest to or am aware of with one degree of separation,” Mellon wrote in his article.

“For example, in March of 1984, a close friend who was training to become a naval aviator called me excitedly from Pensacola NAS [Naval Air Station] to relate an event involving a UAP flying circles around a USN aircraft in broad daylight over the base.”

“Numerous incidents involving UAPs and military facilities have been reported by retired military personnel and validated via the FOIA process. These reports include verified UAP overflights of nuclear weapons and nuclear storage facilities,” Mellon pointed out.

“Consequently, a review of these cases might help shed important new light on the question of reported UAP interest in the US strategic triad and nuclear chain of command (Note: I have not listed undersea monitoring capabilities due to classification issues although they are obviously highly pertinent to this question).”

Wrapping our minds around the situation may be difficult but necessary, Mellon counsels us. “The UAP issue is already uniquely challenging. It lacks recognition or understanding; it lacks acceptance; there is a serious stigma to overcome …”

We should increase our preparedness and readiness on several levels, he says. This includes our psychological and emotional preparedness and readiness, Mellon seems to say when he writes, “… and even more difficult is the deceptively serious challenge of helping government officials and the public process such incongruous, disorienting, disruptive and potentially disturbing information.”

“Finally, if these are vehicles created by another species there is the wholly unprecedented challenge of seeking to study an intelligence greater than our own that apparently does not wish to communicate or be understood.”

So what the heck is going on? Mellon doesn’t claim to know, or doesn't say 
 but does state, “To even stand a chance of success in this scenario it seems trite to suggest that we need to draw on all pertinent information available and apply the best and brightest analytical minds available.”

He may not have all the answers for us, but Mellon appears to have some worthwhile questions:

- “Are different kinds or types of vehicles associated with different locations, time-frames or types of targets? If so, are we possibly dealing with multiple, potentially even competing actors?”

- “Is there a pattern that suggests an ongoing effort to monitor the US strategic triad or nuclear command and control?”

- “Is there a pattern that suggests an effort to monitor US weapons development and deployment?”

- “Is there a correlation between advances in US technology and the presence of UAPs?”


In his article, Mellon also explores U.S. government assets that he believes could be used to respond to the UFO and UAP situation. He indicates that these efforts are inadequate and he lists several national security resources and systems that he says could be helpful.

If there have been classified and special activities related to this situation, Mellon seems to believe that these can be strengthened by additional resources and personnel.

Referring to the vast national security systems of our country, he writes, “Hopefully, the US officials charged with investigating the UAP phenomenon will receive the support needed to access and analyze data from these and other sources.”

And again referring to coordinating and making use of existing defense resources, Mellon states, “Since billions have already been spent collecting the information, it seems wasteful and inappropriate not to allocate whatever modest sums may be required to help to resolve vital questions regarding the origin and capabilities of the unidentified vehicles that continue to violate US airspace with impunity.”

Mellon wrote, apparently to the best of his knowledge, that, “Because this phenomenon has only recently been acknowledged, little if any effort has been made to use ‘national technical means’ for purposes of identifying or tracking these objects.”

He says certain existing U.S. capabilities can be utilized for analysis of previous UAP incidents as well as ongoing and future encounters, and provides the following lists as well as additional details:

Collection Systems:

- The Global Infrasound Acoustic Monitoring Network: Mellon describes the system as “comprised of 60 stations operating in 35 countries that monitor low-frequency pressure waves in the atmosphere.”

 - The U.S. Space Surveillance Network “consists of at least 29 distinct world-wide space surveillance systems, including the world’s most powerful radars …”

- The Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) “is a network of satellites in low-earth, highly-elliptical and geosynchronous orbits that together provide nearly continuous global coverage of infrared (heat) sources,” Mellon noted.

- Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA radars). He explained that, “In addition to the Navy’s Aegis radar systems, all military platforms outfitted with AESA radars are potentially valuable sources of information …”

- Aegis radar: “We know from the Nimitz incident that the Navy’s Aegis radar systems are capable of tracking low radar cross-section UAPs that operate at extreme altitudes and velocities,” Mellon writes.

- The Joint Surveillance System links the FAA’s long-range radar systems to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), he explained.


- “NORAD maintains a database called the ‘Unknown Track Reporting Database’ and/or ‘Unknown Track Reporting System’,” Mellon wrote.

- “Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) who staff the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) airspace management sites (airports, alert centers, etc.).”

- “OPREP-3 Reports [operations reports] are an additional source of information distinct from NORAD aerospace defense reporting. This system is used by all branches of the military to report ‘urgent’ and ‘ongoing’ events to higher echelons,” according to Mellon.

And yet more assets can be brought to bear on these UAP challenges, he claims. As “other potential opportunities” to bring together robust resources, he includes the following:

- Allies

- ELINT/COMINT [electronic intelligence, communications intelligence]

- HUMINT [human intelligence]

By leveraging these capabilities and assets wisely, we can improve our preparedness and readiness for future developments, Mellon advises us.

Monday, October 28, 2019

US Navy UFO encounters: Space scientists speculate on 'first contact' with visitors

By Steve Hammons

In an Oct. 27 article on the news and current events website The Daily Beast, writer David Axe notes the views of several space researchers on the topic of “first contact” with extraterrestrial visitors.

Recent disclosures about observations of unusual objects by U.S. Navy fighter pilots and other Navy personnel have seemingly sparked increased interest by many people about the topic of UFOs.

In his article headline, “How Will We Make First Contact With Alien Life?” Axe seems to take the position that we have not yet made contact.

He wrote, “Still, first contact is increasingly likely, scientists told The Daily Beast. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe a decade from now. Maybe much, much farther in the future. For human civilization, that encounter could change everything. Then again, it probably won’t.”

“The reaction will depend on people’s expectations,” said Douglas Vakoch, according to Axe. Vakoch heads the “Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence” organization.


Vakoch also pointed out to Axe that many people apparently would not be surprised by such a development. Axe wrote, “And today millions of people already believe there’s life beyond Earth, he added. They’re just waiting for confirmation.”

That might be a reasonable viewpoint. Axe also reminds readers that, “Our galaxy alone includes no fewer than four billion planets that are similar to Earth.”

And there are also theories out there that we might discover different dimensions that are natural parts of the Universe. Visitors might originate from these types of home environments, according to some speculation.

For those people who somehow missed the multiple news reports over the last couple of years, Axe writes, “Navy pilots on at least two other occasions in recent years had similar run-ins with UFOs. Cockpit videos of the encounters have racked up millions of views on social media.”

Axe explains that U.S. government funding was made available to attempt to conduct responsible and thorough research into these Navy encounters. He notes that, “Amid a surge of interest in possible alien visitors, news broke that a trio of powerful U.S. senators for years channeled tens of millions of dollars [reportedly $22 million for a five-year effort] into a military-run office that investigated UFO sightings.”

To some taxpayers, that might seem like a wise investment. What are unusual, apparently foreign craft, drones or objects of some kind doing in the vicinity of Navy aircraft carrier strike groups at sea?

Retired Navy Commander David Fravor, formerly a Navy fighter jet squadron leader, has taken a leadership role in explaining his encounters to the public. And Axe included Fravor’s accounts in his article.

Axe wrote, “It appeared to be an aircraft of some sort. Oval in shape. Around 40 feet long. It hovered over the water, churning up waves and foam. Fravor steered the F/A-18 directly at the object. Abruptly the UFO sped away, Fravor told The New York Times. ‘It accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen.’ He was, he said, ‘pretty weirded out. I have no idea what I saw. It had no plumes, wings or rotors and outran our F-18s’.”


It might be a delicate situation for the Navy. For decades, there have been reports of both overt and covert U.S. government monitoring and investigation of UFOs. The overt “Project BLUE BOOK” in the 1950s and ‘60s operated from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, southwest Ohio. That project might have also had covert elements.

Additionally, there have been some indications that more discreet research has been done that has been kept highly confidential and compartmented, or even moved outside of the U.S. government organizational structure to maintain security.

Navy public information officers are probably able to take a constructive approach in orienting us. Axe wrote in his article that, “To avoid taking a firm stance on the subject of flying saucers, the Navy prefers to use the term ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,’ or ‘UAP,’ to describe what everyone else calls ‘UFOs’.”

Of course, a key word difference in the terms is that “phenomena” represents a broader scope of situations than “objects.” Some of the unconventional things seen in the skies certainly seem to be solid objects, such as the UAP that Navy pilots observed. Other unusual phenomena in the skies at various altitudes (including ground-level) might not exactly be solid objects.

How do we move the ball forward on sharing information and understanding of this situation with the American people and people around the world? Does the Navy have a communication and orientation game plan? They might.

If Navy and other key national security people are going to prepare us and inform us in more complete and robust ways about UAP, how are they going to break the news to us?

Maybe exactly as they have done so far.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

New films, TV series, books tell stories of ‘Ohiyo’ River Appalachian mountain region

By Steve Hammons

In different ways, via different media platforms and with different stories to tell, five recent and significant media projects explore the southern Appalachian mountain area including the Ohio River region abutting Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

“Country Music” – The recently-broadcast Ken Burns documentary “Country Music” on PBS is filled with Bluegrass and “old-time” mountain music, and stories about the history and people of the southern Appalachian region.

“Dark Waters” – The first movie trailer has been released for “Dark Waters” starring Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway. The film is based on the true story of a Cincinnati attorney investigating reports of streams and waterways poisoned by toxic chemicals in nearby Parkersburg, West Virginia.

“The Pioneers” – Historian David McCullough’s recently-published best-selling book “The Pioneers” explores the history of that same area of southeastern Ohio abutting the Ohio River and West Virginia, particularly in the era of the 1700s.

“Hillbilly Elegy” – The best-selling book “Hillbilly Elegy” is about the growing-up years of author J.D. Vance in a small town between Cincinnati and Dayton. The migration of Kentuckians and Appalachians into the southwest Ohio area is a key part of his story. Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment has been filming the movie version for Netflix.

“Project Blue Book” – Dayton is also the setting for Season 2 of the A&E History Channel series “Project Blue Book.” The real Project Blue Book operated from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton while investigating UFO reports in the ‘50s and ’60s.


Back in the 1700s, "the Ohio country” was an attractive piece of real estate for the French, British and the government of a newly-formed alliance of former colonies called the United States of America.

The Shawnee, Mingo, Cherokee and others who had lived in the area for tens of thousands of years also apparently liked the region.

Who can blame them? Pure and pristine creeks, streams, rivers and waterways flowed through lush forests covering the hills, mountains and valleys, eventually flowing into the vast river called the “Ohiyo”  or “Ohi yo.”

There was fishing, hunting, and plots of corn, beans and squash ("the three sisters"). Nuts, berries, edible wild plants and roots (including medicinal plants) were literally there for the picking. The land and forests provided plenty of building materials for permanent homes, villages and towns. 
Canoes provided transportation on the many waterways.

And like today, fairly harsh and dreary winters always finally gave way to beautiful spring seasons bursting with life, followed by warm summers and the spectacular autumn color show when the forest leaves covering the hills and mountains turn to bright red, orange and gold.

When Anglo, Scottish, Scots-Irish and other colonial explorers and settlers began interfacing with the people of the eastern slopes of the southern Appalachian mountain range (the Cherokee in many cases) there was a significant scope of friendly contact.

Before long, prior to and after the American Revolution, traditional Scottish and Scots-Irish tunes like those in “Country Music” would be echoing through those hills and mountains in Cherokee country, around campfires and in frontier cabins and communities.

As we know, as the 1700s progressed, so did the western expansion and migration of colonists and new “Americans” seeking land and a better way of life. They moved steadily deeper into the southern Appalachian mountain range, and eventually to the western slope of the range in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

After the American Revolution, as McCullough explains in “The Pioneers,” the new government passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. It basically claimed the “Northwest Territory” for the U.S. government -- what are now Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota – and promptly started selling off large land parcels to investors and others. This also raised much-needed money for the new federal government. These lands had previously been claimed by the French and British.


Now, many generations later, more recent stories of the region are also informing us. And some current narratives seem to dovetail with important developments and interesting elements of the area’s deeper history.

The A&E History Channel series “Project Blue Book” essentially covers the period when the project was active at Wright-Patterson AFB from Dayton, 1952-1970. But the overall topic of what’s now being called “unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP)” reportedly might stretch back to WWII, earlier, or even much, much earlier.

Very recent reports and developments coming from the U.S. Navy on this subject seem worth noting, and might give us more insight about Project Blue Book activities.

Ohio itself and surrounding states have been areas where people have reported "UAP." Some of these reports have reportedly been credible and came from military personnel and public safety peace officers.

The book and movie “Hillbilly Elegy” tell a story of a generation or so later. The author was born in 1984 and spent his youth in a small town just south of Dayton in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

His family had roots in Kentucky and Appalachia, like many people of southern and southwest Ohio. Director Ron Howard and the cast and crew filmed for four days in the author’s hometown of Middletown.

And now the new movie “Dark Waters” will look at that same Ohio River region circa 1998 when reports of a farmer’s dead cows in the Parkersburg, WV, area led to the discovery of toxic chemicals in the waterways there.

Interestingly, part of the filming was done just south of Middletown in the town of Hamilton (sometimes known has “Hamiltucky”). And Parkersburg is just 13 miles downriver from Marietta, the town of McCullough's pioneers.

Mark Ruffalo plays the role of the real-life Cincinnati corporate attorney who took legal actions on behalf of the local people affected by the poisonings.

That might bring us around full circle to the deeper history of the confluence of the states of Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and surrounding areas, contrasting the “Dark Waters” case and our modern society with days long, long ago.

As we might remember, there once was a time when pure and pristine creeks, streams, rivers and waterways flowed through lush forests covering the hills, mountains and valleys, eventually flowing into the vast river called the “Ohiyo”  or “Ohi yo.”

Monday, July 22, 2019

Hillbillies, pioneers and UFOs: Current major media projects explore southern Ohio

By Steve Hammons

Filming for the upcoming movie “Hillbilly Elegy” is underway and the cast and crew, including director Ron Howard, will soon be heading to Middletown, Ohio, just south of Dayton in the southwestern part of the state.

Middletown is where part of the personal story of author J.D. Vance takes place. His best-selling non-fiction book of the same name tells a story about his upbringing in Middletown and Kentucky.

Meanwhile, historian David McCullough’s latest book “The Pioneers” takes a deep look at the changes that occurred in southeastern Ohio on the other side of the state in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

The American Revolution had ended and the new government of the United States of America claimed vast lands in Ohio and beyond, previously claimed by the French and British. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established how these lands would be settled and governed.

And Season 2 of the popular History Channel TV series “Project Blue Book” about the U.S. Air Force UFO research program is in the works, with a teaser-trailer on the Roswell incident recently released. 

The real Project Blue Book was based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton (home of the Wright brothers) and officially operated from 1952 to 1970. The TV series is set there, with the Air Force investigators traveling to sites of UFO-related incidents.

On the surface, there does not seem to be any connection in these current and prominent media projects, other than the link to southern Ohio. Yet, maybe there are some common denominators and overlapping elements that could be interesting.


One obvious overlap is that “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance spent part of his challenging youth in Middletown in the 1980s and ‘90s, 27 miles south of Dayton. Project Blue Book had been investigating UFO incidents from Dayton for 20 years until more than a decade before Vance was born in 1984.

And while McCullough’s New Englander Revolutionary War veterans and investors were buying a piece of newly-available real estate in the deep forests and hills of southeastern Ohio (and founding Ohio University in Athens), others were eyeing southwestern Ohio around what is now Cincinnati (named after a Revolutionary War Continental Army officers' group).

Just north of Cincinnati along the Great Miami River, the towns of Hamilton, Middletown and Dayton sprang up. Today, this area is considered barely outside the official Appalachian region.

As McCullough explains in his book about southeastern Ohio, the designation of the new “Northwest Territory” (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota) as a non-slavery region led to other significant historical developments. It provided a moral compass of sorts, at least on the slavery issue.

This takes us back over to the southwestern side of Ohio again, because when the Northwest Territory was designated non-slave, many Quakers throughout the colonies, and the new U.S., moved from the South to north of the Ohio River.

Quaker migration to the colonies from England, Scotland and Ireland began in the 1600s and many settled in the southern colonies. They witnessed slavery first-hand. Slavery was not consistent with Quaker beliefs and perspectives.

As a result, when the Ordinance of 1787 passed, many Quakers headed north of the Ohio River (as did many African-Americans escaping slavery). An area just north of Cincinnati between the Great Miami River and the Little Miami River was sold by the government to investors and Quaker settlers,
 known as the Symmes Purchase or Miami Purchase.

The lands that were part of the Symmes Purchase extended up to the Dayton region.

Famous "Wild West" sharpshooter Annie Oakley was actually a Quaker girl from rural southwestern Ohio, still an area of many Quaker communities today.

And there are stories of significant Underground Railroad activities in the area involving local Quakers during slavery and the Civil War.

Pioneers, Quakers … and hillbillies. Southwestern Ohio and Cincinnati, Hamilton, Middletown, Dayton and points northwest have historically been towns where Kentuckians have migrated, looking for economic opportunity. 

Hamilton, just south of Vance's hometown of Middletown, is known as “Hamiltucky.”

Pioneers, Quakers, hillbillies … and Germans. Several waves of German immigrants migrated to the Cincinnati area and southwestern Ohio, largely starting in the 1800s. Cincinnati was one of the major centers of German immigration to America. German culture is still a big part of the Cincinnati region.

Following World War II, when German rocket scientists were brought to the U.S. in “Operation Paperclip,” they were flown into and spent time at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, a major Air Force aerospace research center. These Germans became key scientists for NASA and the U.S. space program 
(an issue explored in Season 1 of the "Project Blue Book" TV series). 

Pioneers, Quakers, hillbillies, Germans … and UFOs. Wright-Patterson is not only associated with Project Blue Book, it has long been proposed that material from the alleged Roswell UFO crash in the summer of 1947 was flown promptly to Wright-Patterson for examination because the base was a center for aircraft analysis. 

What else about the southern Ohio area might add another enlightening, or confusing, puzzle piece to the mix?

Pioneers, Quakers, hillbillies, Germans, UFOs … and Native Americans.


When the new post-American Revolution U.S. government claimed the lands of the Northwest Territory that the British and French had previously claimed, no one checked with the Shawnee, Miami, Erie, Delaware, Huron, Wabash, Potawatomi and other Native peoples who lived there.

In Ohio, the Shawnee were a significant presence in both the southeast and southwest parts of the state. In southeast Ohio, the Shawnee, Mingo and Delaware fought the new pioneers and the military forces backing them at the bloody Battle of Point Pleasant near the Ohio River in 1774 (the site of UFO and multiple unconventional incidents in 1967).

The Shawnee kept fighting to protect their Ohio lands and way of life all the way to 1794 and the Battle of Fallen Timbers in northwestern Ohio. The famous Shawnee leader Tecumseh led an alliance of several tribes, but they were defeated by Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s troops and a force of Kentuckians.

Tecumseh's father had been killed 20 years earlier in the Battle of Point Pleasant.

Interestingly, Tecumseh was reportedly born on the Mad River near Dayton. Wright-Patterson AFB is located on that same river.

And just a bit northwest of Hamilton is Oxford, home of Miami University of Ohio, named for the Miami Indians of the area. In 1997, the school changed its mascot name from the Miami University Redskins to the Miami University Red Hawks.

While the Shawnee homeland was north of the Ohio River (reportedly named from the Seneca word or words "
Ohiyo" or "Ohi yo") to the south of the river were Cherokee lands in the southern Appalachian mountain region. Cherokee territory spanned parts of what are now Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

The Cherokee intermixed and intermarried with white settlers, explorers, traders and hunters. Anglo, Scottish and Scots-Irish men found that Cherokee women were ready, willing and able to establish romantic encounters, relationships and marriages, notably in the 1700s. Mixed-ethnicity children were born.

Subsequent generations of these kids intermarried and continued marrying into the larger regional and U.S. population. This Cherokee genetic heritage is reportedly widespread in the southern Appalachian region, surrounding areas and beyond.

In fact, many mixed-ethnicity people of the region transitioned to the Anglo, Scottish and Scots-Irish names of their fathers and grandfathers (a big change from matrilineal, female-oriented Cherokee clan culture), could “pass as white,” and in many cases were mostly white.

This became important when Cherokees were rounded up at gunpoint and bayonet point, their homes, farms and lands stolen, put in holding camps and forced west to Oklahoma on the “Trail of Tears” in 1838-39. Thousands of Cherokee died along the way including babies, children, the elderly, women and men.

And over the decades, many of the families with Cherokee background who did not leave on the Trail of Tears no doubt migrated to southern and southwestern Ohio with other Kentuckians and people from the southern Appalachian region.

And here is a Project Blue Book connection: Today, some researchers and investigators looking into UFOs, unconventional phenomena, exotic “weird science” and forward-leaning possibilities have noted connections to American Indian history and Native American lands today.

In the Pacific Northwest, Arizona, Utah, the Four Corners area and Indian Country around the U.S., reports of UFOs and very unusual incidents and situations have drawn researchers’ interest. 

Some Native cultures incorporate the assumption that there are “sky people” who have visited from time to time as well as unusual phenomena of other kinds.

It has been pointed out by some observers that American Indians encountered a technologically-superior civilization from England, France and Spain who invaded, and in a slow-motion conquest, took Indian land and killed tens of thousands of Native children, women and men through warfare and the spread of deadly disease epidemics.

Is this a warning for us today? 

McCullough’s pioneers in southeastern Ohio spelled the beginning of the end of the Shawnee in Ohio, and reflected the fate of many other American Indian people.

Vance’s hillbillies include the broad scope of "hybrid" Appalachians and others who may have Cherokee DNA in the family tree – Cherokee who were significantly affected by the European pioneers.

And Season 2 of "Project Blue Book" again continues to tell the unfolding story of UFOs and the U.S. government's involvement from the focal point of Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, near the birthplace of Tecumseh and center for the study of aerospace technology.

In these modern media projects and histories of the region, are there patterns to perceive? Clues to investigate? Lessons to learn? Insights to discover? 

Friday, October 26, 2018

How many Americans have Cherokee connection in their lineage?

By Steve Hammons

Recent national discussions have brought attention to Americans who may have varying degrees of historical, cultural and genetic connections to the Cherokee. These discussions might turn out to be very helpful in achieving greater understanding of Cherokee history.

This history is both similar to and different from other Native American tribes. This is true even for other tribes that were indigenous to regions surrounding the old Cherokee homeland in the southern Appalachian mountain range of North Carolina, Tennessee,  Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. 

Controversies in the media recently have included elements such as:

- Americans with family stories or other indications of Cherokee or Native Americans in family trees 

- Degree and scope nationally of Cherokee heritage in the U.S. population 

- Animus toward and shaming of Americans who might or do have Cherokee lineage 

By learning more about U.S. history and gaining more insight about key factors involved, we could discover that people who might or do have Cherokee in the family tree have no need to feel ashamed or to be affected by shaming. 

In fact, this national discussion may lead to increased education and awareness, and prompt more Americans to explore their heritage. 


What is the scope of Cherokee intermixing with the general U.S. population today? 

Gregory D. Smithers, PhD, is an expert on Cherokee history and culture. He is a professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of the book "The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity." 

In a 2015 article on the website Slate titled “Why Do So Many Americans Think They Have Cherokee Blood?” Smithers wrote, “Recent demographic data reveals the extent to which Americans believe they’re part Cherokee. In 2000, the federal census reported that 729,533 Americans self-identified as Cherokee.” 

Smithers noted, “By 2010, that number increased, with the Census Bureau reporting that 819,105 Americans claimed at least one Cherokee ancestor.” 

“Census data also indicates that the vast majority of people self-identifying as Cherokee—almost 70 percent of respondents—claim they are mixed-race Cherokees.”   

He added, “Today, more Americans claim descent from at least one Cherokee ancestor than any other Native American group.” 

This situation results from a number of factors, according to Smithers. The position that women held in early Cherokee culture and society was one key aspect. 

Smithers explains: “When Europeans first encountered the Cherokees in the mid–16th century, Cherokee people had well-established social and cultural traditions. Cherokee people lived in small towns and belonged to one of seven matrilineal clans.” 

“Cherokee women enjoyed great political and social power in the Cherokee society. Not only did a child inherit the clan identity of his or her mother, women oversaw the adoption of captives and other outsiders into the responsibilities of clan membership.” 

“As European colonialism engulfed Cherokee Country during the 17th and 18th centuries, however, Cherokees began altering their social and cultural traditions to better meet the challenges of their times. One important tradition that adapted to new realities was marriage.”


During the 1700s, before and after the American Revolution, explorers, hunters and settlers were steadily moving into the Appalachian mountain region. Many of these were Anglo, Scottish and Scots-Irish. This was the recipe for a significant scope of intermarriage with the Cherokee. 

Even before that period, Smithers states that intermarriage was accepted or encouraged. In the Slate article, he wrote, “The Cherokee tradition of exogamous marriage, or marrying outside of one’s clan, evolved during the 17th and 18th centuries as Cherokees encountered Europeans on a more frequent basis. Some sought to solidify alliances with Europeans through intermarriage.” 

“It is impossible to know the exact number of Cherokees who married Europeans during this period. But we know that Cherokees viewed intermarriage as both a diplomatic tool and as a means of incorporating Europeans into the reciprocal bonds of kinship,” Smithers said. 

There were other practical reasons as well as romantic motivations for these marriages, according to Smithers’ research. 
“Eighteenth-century British traders often sought out Cherokee wives. For the trader, the marriage opened up new markets, with his Cherokee wife providing both companionship and entry access to items such as the deerskins coveted by Europeans.” 

“For Cherokees, intermarriage made it possible to secure reliable flows of European goods, such as metal and iron tools, guns, and clothing,” he wrote. 

And again, the unique female-oriented culture of the early Cherokee played a role, Smithers claims. “The frequency with which the British reported interracial marriages among the Cherokees testifies to the sexual autonomy and political influence that Cherokee women enjoyed.” 

He added, “It also gave rise to a mixed-race Cherokee population that appears to have been far larger than the racially mixed populations of neighboring tribes.”

Over the decades and centuries, this intermixing of Cherokee lineage in the general population continued. This has been widespread, far beyond the Appalachian mountains and the Oklahoma region. 

“But the Cherokee people did not remain confined to the lands that the federal government assigned to them in Indian Territory,” Smithers explained in the Slate article.

“During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Cherokees traveled between Indian Territory and North Carolina to visit family and friends, and Cherokee people migrated and resettled throughout North America in search of social and economic opportunities.” 

Smithers also noted that, “While many Native American groups traveled throughout the United States during this period in search of employment, the Cherokee people’s advanced levels of education and literacy—a product of the Cherokee Nation’s public education system in Indian Territory and the willingness of diaspora Cherokees to enroll their children in formal educational institutions—meant they traveled on a scale far larger than any other indigenous group.”

(If you liked this article, please see my other recent ones about the Cherokee on the Joint Recon Study Group and Transcendent TV & Media blogs.)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

‘Official Cherokees’ disrespecting mixed-ethnicity Americans?

By Steve Hammons 

In recent days a robust, if often misguided, national conversation has taken place in our country: Who is a Cherokee? 

The questions and answers about this interesting and important subject have been influenced by politics, lack of understanding of U.S. history and Cherokee history, “white guilt” and an odd kind of reverse racism. 

Well-meaning journalists and others have dismissed and disrespected millions of Americans who likely have Cherokee ancestors in their family trees. 

In the spirit of supporting an abused and oppressed underdog and minority, the Cherokee, good-intentioned people are jumping on the bandwagon to trash anyone who claims Cherokee heritage but is not an official member of one of the three U.S. government-approved Cherokee groups. 

Some reactions in the media do not appear to reflect knowledge of American history regarding the highly-significant blending of the Cherokee culture with the early  Anglo, Scottish and Scots-Irish arriving in North America. 

There was a robust degree of intermarriage between Cherokees and Anglo, Scottish and Scots-Irish in the Appalachian region throughout the 1700s. The children from these marriages then married, and as the generations rolled on into the 1800s and 1900s, this Cherokee cultural heritage and genetic material were spread far and wide, not only in the Appalachian region, but in families throughout the U.S.   


For thousands of years, the Cherokee lived in the Appalachian region that today we call Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia. That is the ancestral homeland, though there reportedly are accounts from other tribes that recall ancient times when the people we now call the Cherokee may have migrated from elsewhere. 

The forced removal of the Cherokee from this homeland prior to and during the organized ethnic cleansing known as the Trail of Tears was traumatic, some might even say criminal, as it resulted in thousands of deaths including the elderly, children, babies and adults. 

Yet, some Cherokee were able to avoid the removal. Perhaps they hid out deep in their beloved mountains and avoided the soldiers. Perhaps they fled to surrounding regions. 

And those of mixed ethnicity, who had adopted Anglo, Scottish or Scots-Irish names from their fathers or grandfathers, and had lighter skin, might have tried to “pass as white” out of necessity. 

At the same time, many mixed-ethnicity Cherokee/Anglo/Scottish/Scots-Irish faced the horrific trials of the forced removal and the long, terrible journey to Oklahoma. 

Today, two of the three Cherokee groups recognized by the U.S. government are in Oklahoma, with the group called The Cherokee Nation being the largest by far. 

And in the east, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians remains based in the heart of the ancient homeland in the region of the border between eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. 

It could be argued that generations of people with various degrees of Cherokee ancestry who remained in the Appalachian region actually remained closer to the roots of Cherokee culture and history. They stayed close to the deep, dense forests of the mountains and valleys. Close to the trees and lush plant life. Close to the wildlife such as bears, the other animals large and small, and the birds of the forests. Close to the creeks, streams and rivers, and the fish and living things in them.

They stayed close to the deep, deep memories of eras long ago. 


In recent days, our national discussion has included the nature of the biological genetic material DNA within the body’s cells as well as culture and history. We have talked about psychology and human behavior.

All quite interesting, but have we understood the situation in a comprehensive and accurate way? 

As far as ethnic percentages, there is no doubt a long continuum of fractional percentages of Cherokee lineage for many people in the U.S. – from full-blood, to half, quarter, sixteenth, etc. There are people raised with similarly varied proximity to Cherokee geography, history and culture. 

Growing up in the region around Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas would certainly expose people to a good degree of Cherokee culture and history, and that of multiple other tribes that were relocated there. 

Likewise, the old Cherokee homeland region that includes Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia also retains a significant degree of connection with Cherokee and Native American culture and history. 

Many, many people who live in this region today, and have for generations, are conscious of their Cherokee heritage. Others might suspect this connection. And some may be totally unknowing about this possible element of their ancestry. 

Cherokee culture and history are part of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (a partner of the National Park Service) in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. It includes Cherokee heritage events, arts and crafts, music, museums, festivals and more. 

How many Americans each year are drawn to visit the many Cherokee-connected experiences in the Appalachian region? And why? 

As we try to learn more and understand more about the complex question of “who is a Cherokee?” it might be worthwhile to consider  all of the circumstances involved. It’s not black and white – or red and white. 

The millions of Americans today who have Cherokee connections in their family trees do not need the official approval of the U.S. government or officials of tribal groups to know who they are. They do not need the recognition of journalists and politicians. 

They cannot be disenfranchised from their heritage. Their heritage can be disrespected but cannot be stolen. They know about their deep roots in the Appalachian region and in the Cherokee culture.  

(If you liked this article, please see my other recent ones about the Cherokee on the Joint Recon Study Group and Transcendent TV & Media blogs.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Government-approved Cherokees don’t tell whole story?

By Steve Hammons

There are three groups of Cherokees that are officially recognized by the U.S. government. Each maintains their own criteria for membership. Additionally, over the years U.S. government actions and court cases have also influenced membership decisions.  

During the so-called “Cherokee diaspora” beginning in the early 1800s prior to the “Trail of Tears" (1838-39), Cherokee individuals, families and communities were spread far and wide, settling in several states.

The three groups currently recognized by the U.S. government are: 

- The Cherokee Nation with headquarters in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. This is largest official group and includes more than 220,000 tribal members. 

- The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, also based in Tahlequah, has approximately 10,000 members and is the smallest of the three federally-recognized groups. 

- The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is headquartered in Cherokee, North Carolina, which includes approximately 12,000 members. 

Because of the significant degree of intermarriage between Cherokee and mostly Anglo, Scottish and Scots-Irish in the Appalachian region during the 1700s, many Americans today have varying degrees of Cherokee ancestry. 


According to the website of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area website (partner of the National Park Service), “The Cherokee, and what some anthropologists deem to be their pre-Cherokee ancestors, have lived in the mountains of North Carolina since the end of the last ice age, or about 10,000 B.C. The early Cherokee hunted, fished, and farmed, thriving in the rugged mountain landscape.” 

“More than a thousand years ago, these people began developing a distinctly Cherokee way of life. They shared decision-making and endeavored to reach democratic consensus on issues. Theirs was a matriarchal society, with land being handed down through the women of the tribe.” 

“The Cherokee lived in towns of rectangular log houses and worked extensive, communally-held farms nearby. Corn, beans, and squash—called the ‘three sisters’—were staples in their diet. They also raised potatoes and grew peaches. Each of their towns had a council house for meetings and religious ceremonies,” according to the website. 

To put Cherokee culture in context, from about 40,000 B.C. to 15,000 B.C. it is believed that migration to North America from Asia over the Bering Land Bridge occurred during irregular intervals. 

During the Paleo-Indian Period, 10,000 B.C. to 8,000 B.C, Native Americans lived a nomadic lifestyle, hunted small and large animals, and ate wild plants. 

In the Appalachian region, researchers have documented continuous occupation at Williams Island near Chattanooga, Tennessee, for more than 10,000 years. Hunting camps and artifacts have been found at upper elevations throughout the southern Appalachian mountain range.

According to some reports, ancient Cherokee tales tell of hunting mastodons in Appalachian forests. 


European colonists, who eventually became “Americans” after the American Revolution, arrived and gradually but steadily made their way into Cherokee lands in the Appalachian Mountains. 

At first, it was often friendly contact. Daniel Boone, for example, is a common symbol of relatively friendly interactions between colonial explorers and the Cherokee. There were reportedly a significant number of marriages between Cherokee women and Daniel Boone’s contemporaries.  

Boone and his associate Col. Richard Henderson purchased the land for the Fort Boonesborough settlement from the Cherokee in 1775. Boonesborough was established in April 1775. 

As the decades rolled on, newly-minted Americans started moving west from the colonies on the East Coast into and over the Appalachian Mountain range. Many coveted the Cherokee lands. 

By the early 1830s, it was clear to many people that the Cherokees would, sooner or later, be forced off their lands. Many Cherokees saw the writing on the wall and started moving west on their own. 

Some Cherokee and their supporters felt they could protect themselves by getting court rulings protecting their right to remain in their homeland. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor. But the court’s ruling was not enforced. 

In 1838-39, federal troops and state militia soldiers rounded-up Cherokee, forced them into holding detention camps and finally sent them on harsh forced marches and via other forms of transport to Oklahoma – the “Trail of Tears.” Thousands died.

During this phase of Cherokee history, there were accusations of betrayal and treason against certain Cherokees who were accused of making deals to surrender Cherokee land in the Appalachians. Scores were eventually settled within the Cherokee community, including by murder. 


Today’s Cherokee groups that are recognized by the federal government are related to multiple census lists, known as “rolls.” These rolls were developed and completed by government Indian agents and others over the years for a number of different purposes. 

Many Cherokee were undoubtedly not included in these rolls, either inadvertently or intentionally, by the census takers or by Cherokee themselves. For the 1835 Henderson Roll ("Trail of Tears Roll") i
t’s probable that many Cherokee were living way out in the mountains or away from the census-takers, and who may have wanted nothing to do with these whites doing a head count of the Cherokee. 

The rolls ended up including and excluding many Cherokee. 

Some of these rolls are related to the eastern Cherokee, some to the Oklahoma Cherokee and some involved both: 

- 1835 Henderson Roll (“Trail of Tears Roll”) 

- 1848 Mullay Roll 

- 1851 Siler Roll 

- 1852 Chapman Roll 

- 1854 Act of Congress Roll 

- 1867 Powell Roll 

- 1869 Swetland Roll 

- 1884 Hester Roll 

- 1898 and 1914 Dawes Roll 

- 1910 Guion Miller Rolls 

- 1924 Baker Roll 

Today, certain of these rolls are key to official membership in the officially-recognized Cherokee groups. For example, the Dawes Roll is crucial to membership in The Cherokee Nation. The Baker Roll is important for Eastern Band membership. 

The modern history of the Cherokee people, during and since the 1700s, has been plagued by ill-conceived alliances in war, internal disputes and betrayal, and the fragmentation of the Cherokee people. 

This, and other obvious external forces, has resulted in what Gregory D. Smithers, PhD, professor of history at Virginia Commonwealth University, calls the “Cherokee diaspora.” His book "The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity" includes valuable insights about Cherokee history and U.S. history.

This diaspora, the dispersion of a people from their original homeland, seems to continue today, taking new forms in our contemporary American society.

(If you liked this article, please see my other recent ones about the Cherokee on the Joint Recon Study Group and Transcendent TV & Media blogs.)