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AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum

Re: Indian?
In Response To: Re: Indian? ()

Rodney Sam wrote, "especially Virginia that sometimes labeled people with native american blood as "mulatto" "free people of color" and even "negro". Sometimes an individual with no african ancestry was listed as being "mulatto". This might explain the changes in the racial designations of the same person changing over time. A "mulatto" in say 1708 did not necessarly have the same meaning in say 1865. You have to remember that the dominant society defined the non-white population in a way that beneficting them and maintained the social structure. A lot of times native american ancestry is made invisible when people define them as being "mulatto", "negro" or "free person of color."

There were no Indian-only communities in Virginia. And the number of people with African ancestry far outnumbered those with Indian ancestry. So people with Indian ancestry--those who were enslaved, those who were living on reservations and those who were indentured servants--blended into the African American community.

It is apparent that Virginia Indians did not subscribe to white racist attitudes. White Virginians occasionally complained that African slaves had Pamunkey wives. When the Indian reservation in Northampton County was divided among the surviving members of the tribe in the 1820s, they all had African American names. It is rare to come across the marriage of an Indian to another Indian! The only one I found in Northampton resulted in a divorce.

There is also the simple fact that there were not enough people with Indian ancestry to have formed their own communities even if they had chosen to do so. The counties with very large mixed-race populations (Surry, Charles City, York, Mecklenburg, Northampton, etc.) had about 200-300 mixed-race people (men, women and chidren) in the entire county. Indian families did not have the luxury of marrying only Indians.

The BBC did a study of Indian families that tried to live in the white communities in the mid-West. They found the men did no farming, carried no firewood, in fact did virtually nothing because there was nothing for them to do in this white culture if they followed their traditional culture. Anthropologists found that all the women's bones were distorted from overwork.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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