African American Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes
most of the two million claiming Native American ancestry in the United States
are of racially mixed backgrounds, many are still amazed to find that
many African Americans are of Indian heritage.
Indian people mixed with European or Asian blood usually have very little
problem being accepted by the Native community.
African Americans, however, find it much more difficult to find that same
acceptance, even though many of there descendants fought the white man alongside
the Natives.History tells us that many of these African American
ancestors walked the "Trail of Tears" alongside our own
ancestors.Still they are often unaccepted.
This is greatly due to the general American prejudice against dark skin
people that even seeps down into the very people such racism historically
oppressed and disenfranchised.
It hasn't helped that the Buffalo Soldiers, black horse troopers, were used
against Native people as a continuing divide and conquer device that
began centuries before.Another thing to consider is that many people
do not realize that for generations whites, blacks and native people not
only lived together as slaves and slave owners, they had intermarried, especially
in the mid 1800's.
In the Southeast many of the run away slaves were taken in by the
Seminoles.They were tribal people fighting oppression and they were treated as
After being brought to America as slaves, thousands of Africans fled to the
swamps and marshes of Florida.There they formed an alliance with another group
of settlers, refugees from the Creek and other nations who called
themselves Seminoles, meaning runaway, and a new race emerged:The Black
As early as the 1700's, there were over 100,000 black Indians.The Black
Seminole Indian Scouts proved to be some of the most skilled fighters and
trackers of the post -- Civil War era.
No amount of gallantry, however, won them the land promised under the
treaties signed by both General Zachary Taylor and President James
Polk.In addition, an ungrateful army later cut their rations.Bitterly
disillusioned, many of the scouts left for Mexico, never to return.Today the
remaining members of the Black Seminole nation live primarily along the Rio
The history of the Southeast is where most inter-mixing of the blacks and
natives took place, but it also took place in other places such as with the
Wampoanog in the Northeast and the West.Here a Mountain Man named James
Beckwourth, a mulatto who became know as "Bloody Arm", was a well
respected warrior who, as legend has it, married into the Crow Nation.
Slavery did not consist of only white people owning black people.Actually
there were many blacks who were free and many natives that were slaves and many
Indians who owned black slaves.During the Revolutionary War many native
prisoners were taken for the use of being sold as slaves.
There have been thousands and thousands of intermarriages between blacks and
Indians -- with whole Indian tribes disappearing into the black community, often
enslaved in the process.Blacks have similarly been absorbed by Indian
tribes.This was largely do to the fact that until 1909 it was against the law to
live in the Southeast and be Native American.It was better to be passed
off as black and in slavery than to be removed to Indian Territory.
As a result, there are many people of African descent, who, despite their
outward appearances, identify as strongly with their Native heritage as any
In 1879, black Cherokees petitioned for full citizenship in the Cherokee
Nation, declaring, "It is our country.There we were born and reared.There
are our homes.There are our wives and children, whom we love as dearly as though
we were born with red, instead of black skins."Citizenship was granted.
and thank you.I am a Black Indian and have always, always identified
with my Native American heritage.I am not an enrolled Indian but my
heart is Indian.Thank you for remembering us in your site.
is rare and very precious to the many of us who are scattered across the
country unclaimed because we don't have documentation.My ancestors were
Choctaw and Cherokee from Oklahoma.
site has warmed my heart and I thank The Great Mystery for your
truthfulness posted for all the world to see.If you have any further
information that you would be so kind as to send me, please e-mail me.
you and bless you.
For more information about the Afro-Indigenous Metisgo to
you have stories you would care to share with usE-mail usat
Or meet our Brothers and sisters atwww.rosecity.net/cherokee/blackindians.html
you were told you were Black Dutch or Black Irish"
I got a call last week from my cousin Mike Ladd. We are both researching the
name Ladd. He asked me if I had ever heard that the Ladds were of Black Dutch
ancestry. I told him no but that I had heard they were Black Irish. I got to
thinking about it and thought it might be of interest as to how the terms were
borrowed, by Native Americans, to avoid persecution.
following is a quotation displayed on the Museum wall of "The Oakville
Mounds Park & Museum" in Moulton, Alabama. Before the Indian Removal
Act in 1830, many of Lawrence County's Cherokee people were already mixed with
white settlers and stayed in the country of the Warrior Mountains. They denied
their ancestry and basically lived much of their lives in fear of being sent
West. Full bloods claimed to be Black Irish or Black Dutch, thus denying their
rightful Indian blood. After being fully assimilated into the general population
years later, these Irish Cherokee mixed blood descendants, began reclaiming
their Indian heritage in the land of the Warrior Mountains, Lawrence County,
Alabama. During the 1900 U.S. Census only 78 people claimed their Indian
heritage. In 1990, more than 2000 individuals claimed Indian descent. Today more
than 4000 citizens are proud to claim their Indian heritage and are members of
the Echota Cherokee's tribe.
According to Jane Week, Executive
Director of the Alabama Indian Affairs, for hundreds of years the Indian
community has interacted with the European
communities, who had come to this new and wonderful country. Through intermarriage many of our people are not likely to look Indian. Their blood quantum has diminished, but it does not diminish their ethnic pride or rights.
It was reported in The Chronological History of the Lumbee, 1865-1885,
that times were hard for the Lumbee whose main source of income was in the
turpentine industry. Cut out of work and with families to feed, many found it
necessary to leave the area within the next ten years to seek work in the
turpentine industry in other states. Some families found success. Their stories
were reported back to members of their Robeson County relatives. Others learn
that their absent relatives have been subjected to horrible mistreatment in
other states, even some murdered. Many return, but those who remain in other
states have had to pass for white to protect their families. They came home only
for infrequent visits with parents and siblings. As the years went by, some did
not allow their descendants to have any information about their American Indian
bloodlines. They passed the family off as Black Dutch, Black Irish, Portuguese,
French, Spanish, Italian or anything that the family elders felt could not and
would not be checked out by the white people in their new community."
In my research of trying to find out just what a Black Dutch or Black Irish
was, I found that some have associated them with the Melungeon. The Melungeons
live mostly in the Appalachian Mountains. They are people whose ancestry has
been shrouded in mystery. They are most likely the descendants of the late 16th
century Turks and Portuguese stranded on the Carolina shores. Sir Francis Drake
liberated some 200 young Turks on the North Carolina coast. They later
intermarried with Powhatan, Pamunkey, Chickahominy, and Catawba Indians. These
two groups combined later, settled in the Appalachians, and with further
intermarriages with the Cherokees. The word Melungeon is both Portuguese and
Turkish, and meaning "cursed soul." Today, Melungeon descendants can
be found among all racial and ethnic groups. Like the Cherokee, these people
were not out to advertise the fact that they were Melungeon, rather they were
trying their best to hide it. There are also many Melungeon roots in
southeastern Kentucky families.
Melungeon families had to hide their heritage. "Free Persons of
Color" laws, were used to take their land and bar them from courts and
schools. There are family stories of being Black Dutch, and being Cherokee. Many
of these families just seem to show up with no past.
The Cherokee was type cast early in the white history of this country. We
were light skinned, and they just assumed we were mixed with the whites. The
Cherokee actually had complexions that ranged in a variety of skin colors. These
ranged from very light to very dark. They assumed that the darker ones were part
black. They drove many of our people off their lands because of the darker skin.
Many would not leave. They hid out in the woods and in the mountains. Many were
forced to live as "white" citizens just for survival. Most lost their
Cherokee heritage. Very few were able to hang onto them. Until 1909 they could
not vote or hold office. They drove away or forced many onto Indian territory.
This forced our people into hiding, and making it better to be "Black
Dutch, Black Irish" or anything that was dark, than to be an American
am researching Black Irish as that is what I have been told I am all my
life. In fact it has been stressed as very important to my heritage, but I
never really knew what it was. I assumed it was a form of Irish and simply
became curious enough to look into it. Boy was I surprised, especially
since I have heard nothing but Cherokee heritage from my husbands family.
We have pictures of great, great grandmother that looks very Indian but no
one would ever mention this, or explain it. The site is very interesting
Joan - Red Dawn
I just wanted to give
you & Wolf a little background on the relationship between African
Americans and the Native American community from my experience.
I have Native American ancestry on both my mother & father's side, and when I experienced my first Pow Wow 20 years ago with my Youraba House (we rented a bus and went out to the Shinacoc Reservation), I felt that I had come home. After that my children & I attended at least 3 a year in NY, NJ & PA. My daughter, Ayo & I learned the dances and I even made outfits.
At a gathering in
Queens, NY, Ayo entered the Fancy Dance contest. She did real
well. One girl lost a piece of her outfit and was disqualified. Later on
they handed out the prizes. The girl that was disqualified changed
her clothes & hair and received 3rd place. Ayo was devastated.
She didn't mind losing so much, but they cheated. A month
later we were at one in Philly, and we were dancing (she wasn't a
contestant) in the circle when the same girl told the officials that she
didn't have papers, and they stopped her from dancing. She became very shy
of Pow Wow's after that.
We have been told of
other stories where dark skinned dancers were not given recognition after
dancing for many years. When we attend and dance we are not spoken
too. They try to ignore us but, the ones that look white are
embraced and excepted. So, if it seems like we don't want to be involved,
it's not our fault. We don't feel accepted.
The majority of Black Americans of slavery ancestry have some Native in them and it's hard when you have to dance alone or hesitate when you are among , what we feel, are our people. I listen to Native music all of the time. Ayo's main spiritual guide is a young Native boy, (we both have a few with us) She passes him every time she attends a Pow Wow and dances. I sometimes have to bring her back when she gets out of the circle. She has been given gifts from merchants after watching her dance. They say that she holds the spirit. Don't get me wrong, we have had some positive experiences that's why we continue to be involved.
Well, I hope this gives
you an idea of what we have to deal with. We (Black Americans) have
been put down for generations by everyone and have learned to keep to
ourselves and not push ourselves on anyone.