Kim and Carney, who met as teenagers, both grew up in Adair County, in the heart of Cherokee Nation, with a population that is about 45 percent Native and has the country’s biggest percentage of Cherokee speakers. Drawings of Cherokee creation myths by Shace, their 16-year-old son, a slender student with almost waist-length hair, line their walls. They go to stomp dances and pow wows, play stickball, celebrate the Cherokee National Holiday.
On Sunday mornings, they attend services at the Old Green Baptist Church, the simple white wooden 1911 building where Carney preaches. A few worshipers in jeans and flannel shirts will lead the congregation in hymns whose mountain music melodies, like “I’ll Fly Away,” evoke the tribe’s pre-exile home in North Carolina and are sung in both Cherokee and English.