Life in Possum Holler

Saline County, Arkansas, United States
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29 October 2007

Racial mixtures of the Upper South

"Our Legacy:Racial mixtures of the Upper South," Columnists -, By Janice Hayes-Williams, For The Capital. Published October 25, 2007. Follow link for full article.

The ethnicity of many blacks in the United States and in particular Maryland can be tied to the Indian population that was removed from this area hundreds of years ago. Relations between blacks and Indians can be traced back to the 1600's with the emergence of slavery.

The relationship between the colonists and the Native Americans began somewhat agreeable but diminished in less than 200 years. Because of the intermarriages of Native Americans with whites and blacks, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th century racial categories evolved.

In Maryland counties such as St. Mary's, Charles, Prince George's, and Calvert there were large numbers of individuals that were not of two races but three. The Catholics kept very good records and called these people Indians, partly because of were they lived. Anthropologists called them "Wesort's;" census enumerators called them mulattoes and today sociologists call them "Tri-Racial Isolates." During the 18th and 19th centuries these individuals in Maryland were also called "Free People of Color," "Free Negro" or mulatto.

Throughout the South there are numerous tri-racial isolate groups formerly enumerated as mulattoes; they are: "Brass Ankles" of South Carolina, "Guineas" of West Virginia, "Haliwas" and "Lumbees" of North Carolina, "Melungeons" of Tennessee and Kentucky, "Red Bones" of South Carolina and Louisiana and "Turks" also of South Carolina.

A few summers ago on a trip to Point Lookout here in Maryland, I had the opportunity to see one of the original muster rolls of soldiers who came from Blackistone Island in St Mary's County, now called Clements's Island. Most interesting was the fact that the men who came from Blackistone Island to fight during the Civil War listed their race not as White, Negro or mulatto, but "Griffe." Because many of these men had the last name Blackistone, I called Mr. Blackstone here in Annapolis and asked him "What in the world is a Griffe?"

He explained without hesitation that these were the people that inhabited Blackistone Island for 200 years and were of three races - European, African and Indian, a tri-racial isolate. Mr. Blackstone is a descendant of these people.

27 October 2007

Indian tribes expel members

See link for full article, focusing on Narragansett Indians in Rhode Island, but also discussing other Indian tribes who have recently been purging members from tribal lists.

Quotes from article:

Champlain and his extended family are among thousands of people removed from American Indian tribes in recent years, often amid tribal squabbles or when a casino comes to town. In Rhode Island, the Narragansetts' removal of about 140 of roughly 2,400 members has become an issue in Saturday's election for the tribe's chief sachem, or leader. . . .

There are 562 federally recognized tribes, and tribal governments are not required to report citizenship decisions. But the number is in the thousands.

18 October 2007

Can DNA Determine Indian Ancestry?

Manataka American Indian Council
by By Kim TallBear, Phd., Associate, Red Nation Consulting

Kim TallBear is an associate with Red Nation Consulting and a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in South Dakota. She specializes in tribal program development and strategic planning and has worked with many U.S. tribes, tribal organizations, and federal agencies. She is a Ph.D. student in the History of Consciousness Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research focuses on racial formation among American Indians, specifically how DNA and blood influence identity and community belonging. She is a 2003 recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.


Excerpts (first and last paragraphs):

There is talk in Indian country about how DNA can decide tribal enrollment and prove American Indian ancestry. Some of this is coming from DNA testing companies anxious to sell costly services to tribes. . . .

Self-determined tribes struggling to control identities and resources must make decisions about the risks and benefits of DNA testing. Some tribal decision-makers display healthy skepticism as they talk about the complicated nature of identity, family, and community. Biological connection is not the sole important factor in determining who belongs. Cultural knowledge and connection to a land base are also valued. Many Indian people are also concerned about loss of privacy and control if outsiders hold biological samples. Other tribal decision-makers have expressed interest in DNA testing and still others need more information.

Unfortunately, there is no single source for information on DNA technologies and tribes. Nonprofit organizations and academic resources used in conjunction are a good start. The Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG) located in Cambridge, Mass. can provide general information about genetics ( The Genetics and Identity Project at the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics has on-line information on genetics and American Indian Identity available at Gentics and Identity. IPCB’s paper on DNA and Native American identity and other documents on genetics are available at Identity. IPCB is well-networked on genetics issues affecting indigenous peoples and can help tribes find technical assistance.