Native, Aboriginal, Indigenous: Who Counts as Indian in Post Apartheid Virginia

Posted in Anthropology, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Papers/Presentations, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States, Virginia on 2011-11-04 03:56Z by Steven

Native, Aboriginal, Indigenous: Who Counts as Indian in Post Apartheid Virginia

Mid-Atlantic Conference on the Scholarship of Diversity, Conference Proceedings
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia
April 2004
17 pages

Jay Hansford C. Vest, Associate Professor of American Indian Studies
University of North Carolina, Pembroke

In 1948, sociologist William Gilbert wrote: “Indian blood still remains noticeable in our eastern States population in spite of the depletions arising from over 300 years of wars, invasions by disease and white men from Europe and black men from Africa.” Gilbert chronicled remnant Indian groups of the eastern states from Maine to Texas and Virginia to Illinois. In his findings, he reported that only Vermont and New Hampshire exhibit no residual Native tribal population while Georgia, Arkansas and Illinois manifest no surviving social groups. At the time, Gilbert estimated the survival of 75,000 to 100,000 mixed-blood Natives “Who may frequently be more white or Negro in appearance” than Indian. Having fallen into disuse, the original tribal names were largely lost in time and most often the distinguishing terms applied to these Native Americans has been nicknames given them by the dominant white people.

Noting that Virginia’s surviving Indian groups tended to retain traditions of their Native origin, Gilbert identified several mixed blood groups along the Blue Ridge and Piedmont zones of the state. Stating that these concentrations “beginning with Rappahannock County in the north and continuing southward along the Blue Ridge through Rockbridge and Amherst Counties and striking directly southward to Halifax County on the North Carolina border,” he gave definition to the geographical occupation of these interior Virginia tribal groups. Specifically he identified 500 to 600 mixed bloods in central and the extreme western end of Amherst County near Bear Mountain and Tobacco Row Mountain of the Blue Ridge. Known locally as “Issues,” he describes these people as having “a very rich brunette with straight black hair and Caucasian features.” Noting a second group northwest of Amherst County, he further identified a population of over 300 “Brown people” exhibiting “a mixture of white, Indian, and occasionally Negro blood.” A third group who claimed Indian descent was identified by Gilbert in “Halifax County on the North Carolina border. Locally both groups were considered to be “mulattoes” but acknowledged as “a group apart from both whites and Negroes.” While this brief summary exhausts the information supplied by Gilbert, it does not begin to manifest the social history and cultural significance of these and other surviving Virginia Piedmont and Blue Ridge Indian groups.

Considered in an ahistorical context, these sociological reports of “tri-racial isolates” have largely been taken as a means of undermining the aboriginal-indigenous character of surviving Native Americans in the eastern United States. Minding this conclusion, it is the intent of this paper to, first, supply to an historical background of Colonial Indian assimilation and explore the American institutional racism that has plagued these Natives, particularly in the south, and second, to consider factors of their Native-aboriginal-indigenous birthright…

Read the entire paper here.

Tags: , , , ,

Memorandum Concerning the Characteristics of the Larger Mixed-Blood Racial Islands of the Eastern United States

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2011-01-27 03:45Z by Steven

Memorandum Concerning the Characteristics of the Larger Mixed-Blood Racial Islands of the Eastern United States

Social Forces
Volume 21, Number 4 (May 1946)
pages 438-477
DOI: 10.2307/2572217

William Harlen Gilbert, Jr.
Library of Congress

Prefactory Statement

In many of the eastern States of this country there are small pockets of peoples who arc scattered here and there in different counties and who are complex mixtures in varying degrees of white, Indian, and Negro blood. These small local groups seem to develop especially where environmental circumstances such as forbidding swamps or inaccessible and barren mountain country favor their growth. Many are located along the tidewater of the Atlantic coast where swamps or islands and peninsulas have protected them and kept alive a portion of the aboriginal blood which greeted the first white settlers on these shores. Others are farther inland in the Piedmont area and are found with their backs up against the wall of the Blue Ridge or the Alleghenies. A few of these groups arc to be found on the very top of the Blue Ridge and on the several ridges of the Appalachian Great Valley just beyond.

No satisfactory name has ever been invented to designate as a whole these mixed outcasts from both the white and Negro castes of America. However, their existence can be traced back practically to the beginning of settlement by whites in the various areas in which they occur. The early white settlers called these racial intermediates “free colored” or “free negroes” and considered them frequently as mere squatters rather than as legitimate settlers on the land. The laws were interpreted to the disadvantage of these folk and they were forbidden to testify in court. Acts were passed to prohibit their immigration from other States and they were considered as undesirables since they bridged the racial gap between free whites and slave Negroes.

After the Civil War these mixed folk were still classified as “colored” or as “mulattoes” but they were frequently encouraged to develop their own institutions and schools separate from the Negroes. In recent years there are some indications that the numbers of these intermediate mixed populations are growing rather rapidly and that they may total well over 50,000 persons at the present time.

There is little evidence for the supposition that they are being absorbed to any great extent into either the white or the Negro groups. Their native breeding grounds furnish a seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of population which periodically swarms into cities and industrial areas. The characteristics of illiteracy, poverty, and large families mark them as members of the more backward section of the American nation. Draft boards and the armed forces have found it difficult to classify them racially for military service. As a sizable native minority they certainly deserve more attention than the meager investigations which sociologists and anthropologists have hitherto made of their problems. A recognition of their existence by social scientists can hardly prejudice their social prospects since the vast majority can not possibly hope to pass as “white” under the present social system. In the hope of enlisting the interest of scientific bodies and foundations in research on these mixed groups, then, the following brief memorandum outline of ten of these mixed “racial islands” is presented…

[The list described in the memorandum are:]

  1. Brass Ankles and Allied Groups of South Carolina
  2. Cajans and Creoles of Alabama and Mississippi
  3. Croatans of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia
  4. Guineas of West Virginia and Maryland
  5. Issues of Virginia
  6. Jackson Whites of New Jersey and New York
  7. Melungeons of the Southern Appalachians
  8. Moors and Nanticokes of Delaware and New Jersey
  9. Red Bones of Louisiana
  10. Wesorts of Southern Maryland

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , , ,