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From Malcolm X Boulevard to pow-wow road trips, a black man from Georgia adopts a Cherokee persona despite questionable ties to any Native American roots.
Robert Banks’ one-bedroom flat is lavishly decorated with Native American artwork—sculptures and dreamcatchers that the 71-year-old Georgia native created himself. On his kitchen cupboards are hand-painted feathers with tips of burnt-orange. A grand self-portrait hangs above Banks’ dark green velvet couch, where he often sifts through pictures of his past—a family he says descends from Cherokee Indians.
Also known as Eagle Eye, Banks has embraced a Native American “spirit” he says has lived within him ever since he was a little boy. That’s when those who raised him led him to believe that unlike other black boys who grew up in the south, his forebears were never slaves. After a childhood of doubting the genealogical claims of his parents, Banks left the outskirts of Atlanta for the urban environs of Harlem. It was in the north that he says he came into contact with other “Indians of color” and began to believe and embrace all that he was told about being Native American.
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