A mixed-race woman’s long quest to prove her Native American ancestry

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Biography, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2019-01-05 20:47Z by Steven

A mixed-race woman’s long quest to prove her Native American ancestry

The Washington Post
2019-01-04

Neely Tucker, Contributing reporter


Darnella Davis, center, with her siblings and their parents, John and Mary, in 1955. Mary was Muscogee Creek, and John said he had Cherokee blood; a grandfather received a land allotment for Native Americans. But Darnella’s Indian heritage was later disputed. (University of New Mexico Press; courtesy of Lafayette West)

When Darnella Davis was a shy, “sandy-colored and sandy-haired” teenager growing up in Detroit in the 1960s, she knew she was “part Indian.” It wasn’t entirely clear what that meant. In that era of Motown, the civil rights movement and the devastating 1967 riot/rebellion that wrecked that city, she knew that her Oklahoma-based family was not culturally kin to the black neighbors who’d fled sharecropping and the Deep South. As a standout arts student at the city’s premier (and racially mixed) high school, Cass Tech, she knew she wasn’t white, either.

Her dad talked of growing up as a Cherokee kid; people sometimes called her Muscogee Creek mom “Pocahontas,” and the family drove 19 hours to their ancestral spot in northeast Oklahoma every summer and school holiday. Her grandfather, Crugee Adams, had once grown rich there, drawing on the mineral rights of his land allotment for Native Americans dating back to the late 19th century.

So imagine her surprise when she applied for a post-graduate scholarship in Boston reserved for Native Americans and was told, both by the state of Massachusetts and the Cherokee Nation, that she wasn’t Indian, either. The resulting, decades-long experience of white and Native American bureaucrats telling her what percentage of Indian blood she must possess to qualify as a certified member of the tribe proved to be the background for “Untangling a Red, White, and Black Heritage: A Personal History of the Allotment Era.”…

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Untangling a Red, White, and Black Heritage: A Personal History of the Allotment Era

Posted in Autobiography, Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2019-01-05 20:32Z by Steven

Untangling a Red, White, and Black Heritage: A Personal History of the Allotment Era

University of New Mexico Press
November 2018
312 pages
21 figs
6×9 in.
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8263-5979-7
E-book ISBN: 978-0-8263-5980-3

Darnella Davis
Washington, D.C.

Examining the legacy of racial mixing in Indian Territory through the land and lives of two families, one of Cherokee Freedman descent and one of Muscogee Creek heritage, Darnella Davis’s memoir writes a new chapter in the history of racial mixing on the frontier. It is the only book-length account of the intersections between the three races in Indian Territory and Oklahoma written from the perspective of a tribal person and a freedman.

The histories of these families, along with the starkly different federal policies that molded their destinies, offer a powerful corrective to the historical narrative. From the Allotment Period to the present, their claims of racial identity and land in Oklahoma reveal inequalities that still fester more than one hundred years later. Davis offers a provocative opportunity to unpack our current racial discourse and ask ourselves, “Who are ‘we’ really?”

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Declared Defective: Native Americans, Eugenics, and the Myth of Nam Hollow

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2018-05-27 23:50Z by Steven

Declared Defective: Native Americans, Eugenics, and the Myth of Nam Hollow

University of Nebraska Press
May 2018
246 pages
9 photographs, 1 illustration, 3 maps, 2 tables, 8 charts, index
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4962-0200-0

Robert Jarvenpa, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
State University of New York, Albany

Declared Defective is the anthropological history of an outcast community and a critical reevaluation of The Nam Family, written in 1912 by Arthur Estabrook and Charles Davenport, leaders of the early twentieth-century eugenics movement. Based on their investigations of an obscure rural enclave in upstate New York, the biologists were repulsed by the poverty and behavior of the people in Nam Hollow. They claimed that their alleged indolence, feeble-mindedness, licentiousness, alcoholism, and criminality were biologically inherited.

Declared Defective reveals that Nam Hollow was actually a community of marginalized, mixed-race Native Americans, the Van Guilders, adapting to scarce resources during an era of tumultuous political and economic change. Their Mohican ancestors had lost lands and been displaced from the frontiers of colonial expansion in western Massachusetts in the late eighteenth century. Estabrook and Davenport’s portrait of innate degeneracy was a grotesque mischaracterization based on class prejudice and ignorance of the history and hybridic subculture of the people of Guilder Hollow. By bringing historical experience, agency, and cultural process to the forefront of analysis, Declared Defective illuminates the real lives and struggles of the Mohican Van Guilders. It also exposes the pseudoscientific zealotry and fearmongering of Progressive Era eugenics while exploring the contradictions of race and class in America.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • List of Tables
  • Series Editors’ Introduction
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: The Menace in the Hollow
  • 1. Native Americans and Eugenics
  • 2. Border Wars and the Origins of the Van Guilders
  • 3. A “New” Homeland and the Cradle of Guilder Hollow
  • 4. From Pioneers to Outcastes
  • 5. The Eugenicists Arrive
  • 6. Deconstructing the Nam and the Hidden Native Americans
  • 7. Demonizing the Marginalized Poor
  • Conclusion: The Myth Unravels
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Living a white lie

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, History, Media Archive, Passing, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2017-08-10 02:30Z by Steven

Living a white lie

Silver Chips Online: Montgomery Blair High School’s Online Student Newspaper
Silver Spring, Maryland
2009-02-23

Lily Alexander, Managing Features Editor, Print-Online Coordinator


Jim Queen, 70, now lives in San Francisco with his wife of 40 years. From 1954 to 1957, he attended Montgomery Blair High School, where he was forced to pass as a white student by hiding his far more complex and multiracial heritage.

In 1954, Jim Queen arrived at Montgomery Blair High School. The school was all white. He was not.

The janitors would come to watch him run. They knew – or at least sensed – he wasn’t who he said he was. As he raced around the quarter-mile track at old Blair High School, they would silently agree about what was never said aloud. And at a time when race relations in the United States were defined by divisions, from water fountains to hospitals, Jim Queen was an anomaly. The janitors suspected it. His parents knew it. And so did he.

The school system did not.

Three years before MCPS [(Montgomery County Public Schools)] officially opened its doors to integration, Jim Queen was a student with a mixed heritage – part white, part black, part Native American – studying at a school comprised entirely of white students. For over two years, Queen maintained this façade, keeping his racial background a secret from friends, teachers and classmates.

Now 70, Queen is far-removed from his time at Blair, but the experiences of his upbringing and childhood clouded by questions of racial identity and self-discovery have played a large role in small farm in shaping the man he has become…

…More recently, Queen launched the “One Race Movement.” This movement promotes the idea that we all belong to one race – the human race – and that the concept of multiple races is “a false social construct used historically to divide and exploit people,” rather than a scientifically-based idea. He developed this idea after rediscovering his own Wesort roots and learning about the Genome Project conducted by Craig Venter, which aimed to prove that all humans originally come from Africa. To convey his movement’s core message, Queen designed a symbol that now adorns clothing and posters, depicting the silhouettes of many different colored faces and the word “ONE” beneath it…

Read the entire article here.

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The mystery of the Melungeons

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States, Virginia on 2016-08-25 01:17Z by Steven

The mystery of the Melungeons

The Economist
2016-08-24

VARDY, TENNESSEE AND BIG STONE GAP, VIRGINIA

The story of an Appalachian people offers a timely parable of the nuanced history of race in America

HEAD into Sneedville from the Clinch River, turn left at the courthouse and crawl up Newman’s Ridge. Do not be distracted by the driveways meandering into the woods, the views across the Appalachians or the shadows of the birds of prey; heed the warnings locals may have issued about the steepness and the switchbacks. If the pass seems challenging, consider how inaccessible it must have been in the moonshining days before motor cars.

Halfway down, as Snake Hollow appears on your left, you reach a narrow gorge, between the ridge and Powell Mountain and hard on Tennessee’s north-eastern border. In parts sheer and wooded, it opens into an unexpected valley, where secluded pastures and fields of wild flowers hug Blackwater Creek—in which the water is not black but clear, running, like the valley, down into Virginia. This is the ancestral home of an obscure American people, the Melungeons. Some lived over the state line on Stone Mountain, in other craggy parts of western Virginia and North Carolina and in eastern Kentucky. But the ridge and this valley were their heartland.

The story of the Melungeons is at once a footnote to the history of race in America and a timely parable of it. They bear witness to the horrors and legacy of segregation, but also to the overlooked complexity of the early colonial era. They suggest a once-and-future alternative to the country’s brutally rigid model of race relations, one that, for all the improvements, persists in the often siloed lives of black and white Americans today. Half-real and half-mythical, for generations the Melungeons were avatars for their neighbours’ neuroses; latterly they have morphed into receptacles for their ideals, becoming, in effect, ambassadors for integration where once they were targets of prejudice…

The two big questions about them encapsulate their ambiguous status—on the boundaries of races and territories, and between suffering and hope, imagination and fact. Where did the Melungeons come from? And do they still exist?…

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String of Pearls: Exploring the Melungeon mystery

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2016-04-13 00:27Z by Steven

String of Pearls: Exploring the Melungeon mystery

SWVa Today
Wytheville, Virginia
2016-03-29

Margaret Linford, President
Smyth County Genealogical Society, Marion, Virginia

Judge Isaac Freeman spoke to the Smyth County Genealogical Society on Tuesday, March 22, regarding the Melungeon people. He has been intrigued by this topic for many years. His father was best friends with local historian Goodridge Wilson, who often spoke of the Melungeons. Judge Freeman said he can remember him talking about which local families were part of this unique group.

“Where have all the purebred Melungeons gone?” This question was posed in an article many years ago. Judge Freeman laughed as he shared this question with our group. “Of course,” he said, “the answer to this question is that there is no such thing as a ‘purebred’ Melungeon.”

Who are the Melungeons? There is no simple answer to this question. In N. Brent Kennedy’s book, “The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People: An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America,” he proposes that Turkish slaves were brought to America by Portuguese sailors. Once they arrived in America, they joined with female Cherokee Indians and other local tribes. This was the beginning of the “Melungeons.”

Most definitions of the Melungeons simply state that they are a “mixed race people.”…

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Lumbee Indians seek end to a century of questions about identity

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2016-04-13 00:02Z by Steven

Lumbee Indians seek end to a century of questions about identity

The Baltimore Sun
Baltimore, Maryland
1993-10-12

Richard O’Mara, Staff Writer

Proud people from North Carolina find a home in Baltimore

Shirley Jeffrey, an East Baltimore resident, remembers the painful moment five years ago when two Sioux Indians told her that “Lumbees aren’t really Indians.”

Jimmy Hunt recalls a similar experience as an Army recruit when a sergeant asked the American Indians in the group to stand up. “There were two others besides myself,” he says. “Later they said I wasn’t an Indian because I was a Lumbee.”

Not really Indians? How could this be said of the largest American Indian group east of the Mississippi? The ninth-largest in the United States, with nearly 50,000 members, according to the Bureau of the Census. About 4,300 of them are in Maryland.

The question of identity has troubled the Lumbees for more than a century, but it may be resolved this year if Congress approves a bill introduced by Rep. Charles Rose III, D-N.C., to extend full recognition to the tribe.

It’s not that Mrs. Jeffrey is uncertain about who she is. Nor is Mr. Hunt…

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Seeing Baltimore’s Native Americans Clearly

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2016-04-12 22:46Z by Steven

Seeing Baltimore’s Native Americans Clearly

BmoreArt
Baltimore, Maryland
2015-05-26

Cara Ober, Founding Editor

An Inverview with Ashley Minner about her Exquisite Lumbee Project, currently on display at Trickster Gallery

Ashley Minner is a community based visual artist from Baltimore, Maryland. She holds a BFA in Fine Art, an MA and an MFA in Community Art, which she earned at MICA. A member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, she has been active in the Baltimore Lumbee community for many years. Her involvement in her community informs and inspires her studio practice. Ashley is currently a PhD in American Studies student at University of Maryland College Park, where she is studying vernacular art as resistance in tri-racial isolate communities of the U.S. South and Global South

Read the entire interview here.

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Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South by Melissa Schrift (review)

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2016-04-12 02:30Z by Steven

Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South by Melissa Schrift (review)

Journal of American Folklore
Volume 129, Number 511, Winter 2016
pages 102-103

Jim Clark

Melissa Schrift, Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013)

In the thorough but concise introduction to her book Becoming Melungeon: Making an Ethnic Identity in the Appalachian South, East Tennessee State University Anthropology Professor Melissa Schrift comes quickly to the following conclusion: “Thus, in my research, interviews with individuals living in Melungeon-related areas resulted in an overwhelming lack of oral history evidence that being Melungeon related to any kind of experiential reality distinct from being Appalachian” (p. 22). The archival material, as well, she says, reinforces the conclusion that “there is simply no evidence that Melungeons existed as a culturally bounded group of people” (p. 22). This being the case, and admitted so early on, one might wonder why she would bother to complete her book about Melungeon identity. Schrift’s purpose, as she states, is to examine the social construction of Melungeon identity especially through the complex and sometimes contradictory lenses of race and class. Specifically, Schrift claims:

In this book I argue that the contemporary revitalization of Melungeon identity borrows from the past to create a new white ethnicity that capitalizes on the cache [sic] of the cultural exotic while underplaying stigmatized aspects of heritage. I trace the ways in which individuals employ genealogy, blood metaphors, narratives of oppression, and physiological traits as they become Melungeon. In this way the process of becoming Melungeon reflects a kind of racial passing from a collectively imagined whiteness to a more desirable non-white, or, perhaps, off-white, otherness.

(p. 28)

In chapters 1 and 2, Schrift explores early media representations of the Melungeons, a mysterious, dark-skinned, presumably mixed-race people living in Hancock County, in northeast Tennessee. Schrift ties these writings, the earliest dating from about 1880, to the literary “local color” movement, an early, nationalistic phase of the progression toward literary realism that focused on the quaint, the atmospheric, the colorful, and the unusual, in language that typically featured large amounts of equally colorful and unusual dialect. “The effect of local color writing in Appalachia, and elsewhere,” Schrift writes, “was to create images of an exotic otherness” (p. 33). One of the earliest and most popular writers to depict the Melungeons was “a female Nashville reporter named Will Allen Dromgoole” who had indeed actually visited Hancock County and talked with the natives. “Dromgoole’s articles were sensationalistic and ethnocentric,” Schrift says, “producing a national template for future media coverage on Melungeons” (p. 38). Continuing in chapter 2 with an analysis of the media representation of Melungeons over the next 100 years, roughly speaking, Schrift reaches a startling conclusion:

A critical analysis of hundreds of Melungeon articles yields an incredible truth—the Melungeon story is a respindled yarn with little or no basis in ethnographic reality. As I examine the context in which the earliest Melungeon articles were written, I argue that the media manufactured a Melungeon legend that has little to do with any lived experiences of an identifiable group of people.

(p. 53)

Much like other perennial mysteries—UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot—the Melungeon legend is largely a socially constructed “media phantasm” (p. 68).

However, this is hardly the end of this fascinating story. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, an outdoor drama about the Melungeons, Walk Toward the Sunset, was produced in Hancock County. The brainchild of some members of the Hancock County Resource Development Committee, working with Carson Newman College Professors Gary Farley and Joe Mack High in 1966, the play was regionally popular. It was, however, somewhat controversial locally, especially owing to short-lived bus tours through Vardy Valley, in Hancock County, organized by local businessman and Development Committee member Claude Collins, during which it was suggested that tourists might be able to catch a glimpse of an actual Melungeon. Nevertheless, the impact of the drama on the Melungeon legend, as well as on Hancock County, was large. As Schrift points out: “With the drama, Melungeonness secured a public presence in the community for the first time, and the media gained a foothold to talk about Melungeons in a tangible way” (p. 69).

In chapters 4 and 5, Schrift shifts her focus “from media representations of Melungeons to social constructions of Melungeon identity vis-à-vis…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Interesting description of a group of people called Cajans around Mobile Alabama written before 1940

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2015-11-06 16:39Z by Steven

Interesting description of a group of people called Cajans around Mobile Alabama written before 1940

Alabama Pioneers
2015-11-06

Donna R. Causey

THE CAJANS OF SOUTH ALABAMA

Occupying the pine and oak woods of Mobile County in southern Alabama are a group of people of mixed racial blood known in that section as Indian Cajans.

Living in a little world of their own, set apart from the rest of the world by the color line and ideas of social inequality, this group of people lives near Mobile County, known for its thriving seaport, and is the home of a big percent of this Cajan population. These people have been so overlooked that no one really knows where they came from, nor how long they have been here.

It is evident that the Alabama Cajans are a mixture of a number of races and nationalities: English, American Indian, German, French, Italian, Mexican, Negro, and Russian. The name “Cajan” is probably a misnomer as the group is connected only remotely with the Acadians of historical fame; however, it has been brought over probably from Louisiana and Mississippi and is now in general use in south Alabama.

In the absence of a more accurate term “Cajan” is used in this account to designate the people of mixed blood in Mobile County who are classed as neither white, red, nor black, but constitute a unique race.

Numerous stories regarding the origin of the group are told; however, none is known to be authentic. A typical tale is told by some of the old settlers in the southern part of the County. During the War of 1812 numbers of English pirates were forced to flee for their lives, and they came to Mobile. From the town they moved out into this section to escape punishment. Here they married and intermarried with Spanish, French, Germans, American Indians, and Mexicans, and started the new mixed race of Cajans…

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