What kind of insult is “Aborigine”?

Unless in the minds of Whites like Scott Beason, and Black American politicians, Native Americans are inferior to both, in the USA’s “racial hierarchy.” Or perhaps Australian Aborigines are? But late Native American scholar Jack Forbes (an extremely distant cousin of mine) theorized that most historic USA Blacks have Indian ancestry, and proposed research into the ‘Red Roots’ of much of Black culture. Even before I read him, I’d heard that 40 percent of Black Americans know of Indian ancestors … which suggested to me that a majority at least had them.

It’s also curious to me that Beason seems to allow that people who aren’t identified as “Indians” here can still be “Aborigines.” That’s almost a Canadian (Horrors!) usage of the word: They use “Aboriginal” as an umbrella term for Indians, Inuit (aka Eskimos), and Metis. What a concept!

Younger generations re-embracing their Indigenous backgrounds

These people aren’t all Wannabe’s; some of them ARE Indians or Metis in Canada and the U.S.!

New Nanticoke Indian chief, powwow plug, Recognition?

This is the tribe I’m related to – though it seems I don’t qualify for formal membership because my particular ancestors weren’t in the right place at the right time.  But if you’re in or near Delaware next Saturday or Sunday, do check out the powwow, one of the biggest east of the Mississippi (and every year, the weekend after Labor Day).  It’s along State Route 24 between Millsboro and Lewes, Delaware, on the north side of the road … you can’t miss it.  Sunday morning even includes an on-site outdoor Christian Indian worship service – they’re big Methodists (hence Chief Jackson’s comments against casinos, I presume).

I was surprised to read he’s ‘visualizing’ Federal Recognition … but the late Ned Heite (pronounced like Hyatt) believed he’d scientifically confirmed what we’ve always known, our continuous communal history and Native identity, considered difficult for many Eastern communities at one time categorized as “tri-racial isolates.”  The following I’ve gleaned from Mitsawokett.com:

…From 1994 to the end of 1998, a group of archaeologists excavated and researched a small house site (called Bloomsbury) in Duck Creek Hundred, Kent County, Delaware, that was occupied at the end of the eighteenth century. In the course of this research, it became necessary to understand the community context in which the site existed. The community study led to some conclusions, some of which are detailed in a report posted at Heite Consulting’s Web Page. (See Related Web Sites)

Essentially, the group headed by Ned Heite, a historian and archaeologist working on the project for the Delaware Department Of Transportation, documented the continuous existence of a Native American remnant community throughout the past 300 years. The group believes that it has conclusively shown that the community defended its existence as a distinct lineage group, even when there were no “Indians” on the official record. Moreover, Heite and his co-workers show it is obvious that the families recognized their Indian origins, and that their non-Indian associates accepted this.

…Ned Heite says, “There is, clearly, a need for in-depth revisionist histories of the Native American remnants. A few steps have been taken along this path by genealogists, by tribal organizations and by a few academic historians whose points of view are neither afro-centric nor eurocentric.
“There is a large and growing body of literature on the isolate communities, written from both inside and outside.

“Virginia Easley DeMarce published two articles on the “isolate” communities, both of which are extremely useful. Dr. DeMarce brings the professional historian’s techniques to a genealogical problem. Essentially, she showed that the Melungeons and other groups with exotic origin legends were actually Indian remnants. The articles were published in 1992 and 1993 in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly:

  • “‘Very Slitly Mixt:” tri-racial isolate families of the Upper South – a genealogical study.’ Vol, 80, No. 1 (March 1992), pp. 36-56.
  • “‘Looking at legends – Lumbee and Melungeon: Applied genealogy and the origins of tri-racial isolate settlements.’ Vol. 81, No. 1 (March 1993), pp. 24-45.

“There has been a burst of scholarship concerning isolate communities, but much of it must be taken with several very large pinches of salt. Brent Kennedy’s book on his own people, the Melungeons, is an example. While Kennedy’s research and activism are massive and admirable, the book contains some leaps of faith that are, in my opinion, unacceptable. Dr. DeMarce has pointed out that the most logical explanation for Melungeon origins is that they are an Indian remnant group who migrated from Central Virginia.

…”Communities went under a variety of names, of which Melungeon is one of the more common. In {northern and maybe central Kent County,} Delaware, the Indian community were called moors. I have heard that this kind of evasive nomenclature was adopted to avoid being called black, mulatto, Negro, or Indian, during the ante-bellum period. If they were identified as Negro or mulatto, they would be subject to discriminatory laws. People identified as “Indians not taxed” lost their civil rights and got shipped west.

“There is good evidence that large numbers of Indians stayed behind during each “removal” episode. To this day, there are remnant communities in each of the steps along the westward migration from which Indian tribes were ‘removed.'”

…”What are you?”

A correspondent wrote, “…I am one of these Delaware ‘Moors.’ …as a growing adolescent, life posed many questions to my siblings and myself. Removed from Cheswold and living in south Jersey many of our friends would often ask “what are you?” and although often we would ask our parents and grandparents (living in Cheswold) we never got much more than “our people.” Within the last four years I have lost my mother …and my maternal grandparents, all of whom were dearer than life to me. I would very much appreciate anything you could forward me so that I may let my children know whom and what a wonderful lineage they came from.”

Another, living in the deep South, says, “Folks ask me all the time, ‘just what are you?'”

And a third wrote, “I also remember being told as a child that the direct family…were mostly a mixture of Anglo/Indian and Spanish blood which didn’t make it easier for my sister and I to answer the question “what are you?” that was so frequently asked by classmates in the 60’s and 70’s. It wasn’t until the early 70’s that the term “other” was provided on the national test papers we were given in elementary school. Before that you had to list yourself as white, black or asian, those were the only choices. In short, I’ve learned much about our roots through this group and would like to offer my assistance in anyway that I can to help uncover and document the truth of our family history for ourselves and for future generations.”

 

“I Never Knew”

My people never told me about my real ancestral home
Those that came before me sought to protect their own.
I never knew the old ones and who my ancestors were
I never knew what they sacrificed or what they had to endure.
I never knew about the family secret and why my mother cried
I never knew until all of the old folks had died.
I never knew until I found out for myself, without any shame
That what I am inside is to be loved and that no one is to blame.
I never knew who I truly was; hidden way down deep inside
I do know now that I must tell it to all with great pride.
I never knew that I, son of my mother, was of mixed race
Delaware Moor; the Yellow People; this is my true human face.
I never knew that I was white, black, and Indian
I never knew because others considered it to be an ultimate sin.
I never knew what my grandmother taught me came from Indian ways
But loving memories of the touch of grandma’s hands stays and stays.
I doesn’t matter that I never knew.
It only matters that now I do.

–{Mr.} Loren Kelly
August 27, 2006

Our forebears have left us many orally transmitted records telling us we are descended from one or the other or both of the Lenni-Lenape and Nanticoke peoples of the Delmarva area; as we have learned more of the connections between our contemporaries across North America we have broadened the scope of this web site from being initially a record of Lenni-Lenape descendants to one which is inclusive of the Nanticokes.

…Native American research in southern New Jersey and Delaware presents often unsoluble problems to their living descendants and to historians. The greatest problem: the Indians living in these areas in the 1600’s and 1700’s were either forcibly removed or fled or avoided brutalities by dissolving into the European-descended community–and by so doing lost their identity and, to genealogists, research is all about individual identity.

It is easy to imagine that the removals of those of the original inhabitants who insisted on retaining their native identity was a powerful influence on the many who remained in Delaware to blend in and not attract attention. Proclaiming their Indian roots would attract unwanted attention.

Many Native Americans accepted baptism, the act of which, in the view of Christian society, converted the participants from ‘heathens’ or ‘savages’ to Christians. The simple act of baptism kept them from being swept up in Jacksonian purges, permitting them to live on the margins of transplanted European-derived society. The implications for the historical record were ominous. In effect, baptism brought about a change of status, from persons with Native American heritage to an officially recorded racial class of ‘colored’ or ‘mulatto’ or ‘black’. The resultant of this process of virtual “pleckerization” was a population of Native-descended people in Delaware whose recorded history became inseparable from colored persons of other ethnic derivations.

Institutionalized poverty and segregated, inferior schools, as well as indifference on the part of officials and citizens reporting to the recordkeepers, affected the sources available to us. Illiteracy compounded this problem, severely hindering family recordkeeping in Bibles and journals. Poor folks then, and today, did not and could not create records reflective of wealth and learning, i.e., land transactions, wills and probatable estates. Ministers of their churches, many minimally literate, kept few records. Where a circuit rider visited both white and colored churches, the recording of births and marriages of members of colored congregations were, by comparison, not nearly as complete. Readers may judge for themselves by viewing surviving records at the Delaware Archives. As would be expected based on economic and educational factors, more is found in jailhouse, almshouse and illegitimacy records than in church birth, marriage and death records and records dependant on family wealth.

A teacher, Anne Pemberton, has written, “Oral history must be preserved – otherwise history falls to the wayside as the province of the privileged – ignoring the history and stories of those who were not gifted with the opportunity to read and write.”

The archaeologist, Lyle Browning, adds, “Oral history definitely has a place and rightfully so. But there are oral histories that are not valid. What it does is provide a challenge to go to work on and push the interpretation of evidence as far as the evidence allows. The trick is to extract the nugget of truth from the whole.”

Library of Congress research specialist, Jurretta Jordan Heckscher, states, “Oral history is not inherently more or less truthful or accurate than written history: accounts of both types must be carefully evaluated for their sources, circumstances of production, biases, probable effects of knowledge or ignorance, degree of correlation with established fact, and other human filters before their veracity can be assessed for its factual utility in any given instance.”

The Mitsawokett web site takes from governmental, church, family and other records and, where these are not available, oral tradition and history to enable our cousins around North America to learn of each other’s existence, to share family lore and genealogical data, to give them a handle on “what they are and where they came from” and to give them a base from which to begin personal research.

These pages signal the respect we have for the original inhabitants of these lands and are a link to the past for their descendants.

Mixed-Blood Indigenous

Poignant reflections about being “half-caste” as they call it Down Under (British influence), from a Suite 101 columnist and a big Aussie historian who discovered himself part-Aboriginal.