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Excerpt: Black Indians: Their Mixing Is To Be Prevented - The Southern Frontier


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To an extent not revealed in Hollywood frontier movies, slave labor built the earliest European communities in the south. From 1690 to 1720, Africans cleared land, introduced African rice culture, navigated river vessels, and delivered mail in the Carolinas. Only the most trustworthy slaves were brought to the frontier, and most stood by their masters. But some fled to the woods and Indians at the first opportunity, giving their owners something more to worry about.

For British subjects the question of bringing slaves so close t he frontier and Native Americans stirred a lively debate. A South Carolina law of 1725 imposed a £200 fine on those who brought their slaves to the frontier. A British colonel urged enforcement “because the Slaves… talk good English as well as the Cherokee language and … too often tell falsities to the Indians which they are apt believe.” In 1751, another new law warned “The carrying of Negroes among the Indians has all along been thought detrimental, as an intimacy ought to be avoided.”

But sound racial policies on the frontier clashed with the desire to reap the profits produced by slave labor. Virginia surveyor George Washington, twenty-three, urged the use of “mulattoes and Negroes… as pioneers and hatchet men” in the wilderness. An early print shows a young Washington with a black and white surveying team.

British colonists tried to play one dark race against the other on the southern frontier. The Maryland Assembly in 1676 offered Indians  rewards for recapturing slave runaways. In South Carolina, in 1708, 5,280 European settlers tried to watch over 2,900 African and 1,400 Indian slaves. Europeans sent slave “cattle hunters” to protect Charleston from Indian raids. In 1740 South Carolina offered Indians £100 for each slave runaway captured alive, £50 for “every scalp of a grown negro slave.”

The conflict among the three races on the frontier had each side seeking allies wherever they could be found. During the Yemassee War of 1715, Natchez Indians murdered whites and seized their slaves. When the British ordered one thousand two hundred soldiers against the Natchez, they sent black troops along. And when Governor Charles Craven of South Carolina confronted the Natchez’s army he found it also included armed black prisoners.

By 1729 the frontier racial cauldron was boiling over in South Carolina and Louisiana. Slaves rose in rebellion at Stono, South Carolina. Terrified whites turned Catawbas Indians, noted for heir slavehunting skills, to recapture or slay all rebel. In Louisiana, the governor was shocked to learn Chickasaws had contacted a daring band of Banbara  Africans enslaved at New Orleans. His spies told him the two peoples had plotted and insurrection that would kill whites and create a red-black maroon confederacy.

Hardly had he solved this threat when he heard New Orleans was menaced by Chouchas Indians a few miles north. He governor sent off armed black slaves to carry out a massacre. 

The sporadic conflicts hardly matched the unending racial disturbances along the border between British Georgia and Spanish Florida. Spain relied largely on the blacks and Indians of Florida to resist any invasion by slavehunting British. When Georgia Governor Oglethorpe invaded Florida to 1740, Spain’s red and black troops repelled him. Oglethorpe learned that two hundred Africans, including many ex-slaves from Georgia, guarded St. Augustine.

When Spain ordered a counterattack on Georgia in 1742, their armed forces included a black regiment and “negro commanders clothed in lace” bearing the same rank as white officers. The British concluded they had more to worry about from this force starting a slave revolt in Georgia than anything Spanish troops might do.

At this time the British colonists in the southern colonies began introducing the practice of African slavery among neighboring Native Americans. They concentrated on the Five Civilized Nations- Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles- as the largest body of Indians present on their borders. Their aim was to make their slave property more secure by making Indians partners in the system. Indians who accepted slavery would not take in runaways fleeting European masters.

Except for he Seminoles, the Five Civilized Nations began to accept the foreign idea of slavery. Even so, their idea of how it should work differed from British practices. Quaker slaveholder John Bartram, botanist to the king of England, visited some Indian owners in 1770. He found their slaves dressed better than the chief, married into the nation easily, and their children were “free and considered in every respect equal” to other members. After a visit to the Creeks, Bartram wrote:

“I saw in every town in the Nation I visited captives, some extremely aged, who were free and in as good circumstances as their masters; and all slaves have their freedom when they marry, which is permitted and encouraged [and] they and their offspring are in every way upon equality with their conquerors.”

But how did Native Americans view the way Europeans treated their African prisoners? Two European missionaries, trying to convert the Delaware Nation, returned rejected but with their report on the Delaware response to their plea:

“They rejoiced exceedingly at our happiness in thus being favored by the Great Spirit, and felt very grateful hat we had condescended to remember our brethren in the wilderness. But they could not help recollecting that we had a people among us, whom, because they differed from us in color, we had made slaves of, and made them suffer great hardships, and lead miserable lives. Now they could not see any reason, if a people being black entitled us then to deal with them, why a red color should not equally qualify the same treatment.

They therefore had determined to wait, to see whether all the black people amongst us were made thus happy and joyful before they would put confidence in our promises; for they thought a people who had suffered so much and so long by our means, should be entitled to our first attention; and therefore they had sent back the two missionaries, with many thanks, promising that when they saw the black people among us restored to freedom and happiness they would gladly receive our missionaries.”

Despite every European effort to keep dark people from assisting the other, the two races began to blend on a vast scale. Black Indians were apparent everywhere if one bothered to look. Thomas Jefferson, for example, found among the Mattaponies of his Virginia, “more negro than Indian blood ran in them.” Another eyewitness reported Virginia’s Gingaskin reservation had become “largely African.” Peter Kalm, whose famous diary described a visit to the British colonies in 1750, took note of many Africans living with Indians, with marriage and children the normal result.

That same year a Moravian missionary, J.C. Pyrlaeus, visited the Nanticoke Nation on Maryland’s eastern shore to compile a vocabulary of their language. Years later, all their words were discovered to form a language that was pure African Mandigo.

British authorities repeatedly tried to convince Native Americans to return the slave fugitives they harbored in their villages. But here they collided with an Indian adoption system that welcomed new members and offered them full protection. When whites argued about the right of private property in owning people and insisted Africans were inferior beings, the Indians usually shrugged “no.”

In treaty after treaty southern colonists made native nations promise to return fugitive slaves. In 1721, the Five Civilized Nations solemnly promised a governor of Virginia to deliver slaves, but nothing happened. The British complained bitterly on behalf of their slave owners, the chiefs apologized, and the ex-slaved became a part of Native American life.

When angry slavehunters decided to take matters into their own hands, they met fierce opposition. In 1750 Captain Tobias Fitch sent off a posse of five to retrieve a slave living in the Creek Nation. A Creek chief stood between then and the black man, cut their rope and threw it in a fire. Then he warned them his villagers had as many guns as they did. The posse returned empty-handed but happy to be alive.

African members of Indian Nations often played a vital part of armed resistance to whites. In 1727 Africans and Indians besieged Virginia frontier settlements. During the French and Indian War a British officer, warning about the two races, said “Their mixing is to be prevented as much as possible.”

(via rematiration-deactivated2013111)




Flat-Iron, Oglala Sioux Chief

“From Wakan-Tanka, the Great Mystery, comes all power. It is from Wakan-Tanka that the holy man has wisdom and the power to heal and make holy charms. Man knows that all healing plants are given by Wakan-Tanka, therefore they are holy. So too is the buffalo holy, because it is the gift of Wakan-Tanka.”

Why is this picture making the rounds with some bogus quote that makes it seem like this was done by natives for some medicinal or holy purpose? Here’s what it is supposed to say:

Photograph from the mid-1870s of a pile of American bison skulls.

Bison were hunted almost to extinction in the late 19th century primarily by market hunters and were reduced to a few hundred by the mid-1880s. They were hunted for their skins, with the rest of the animal left behind to decay on the ground. After the animals rotted, their bones were collected and shipped back east in large quantities. 

The US Army sanctioned and actively endorsed the wholesale slaughter of bison herds. The US federal government promoted bison hunting for various reasons, to allow ranchers to range their cattle without competition from other bovines, and primarily to weaken the North American Indian population by removing their main food source and to pressure them onto the reservations. Without the bison, native people of the plains were forced either to leave the land or starve to death.

As the great herds began to wane, proposals to protect the bison were discussed. Buffalo Bill Cody, a famous professional bison hunter, among others, spoke in favor of protecting the bison because he saw that the pressure on the species was too great. Yet these proposals were discouraged since it was recognized that the Plains Indians, often at war with the United States, depended on bison for their way of life. In 1874, President Ulysses S. Grant “pocket vetoed” a Federal bill to protect the dwindling bison herds, and in 1875, General Philip Sheridan pleaded to a joint session of Congress to slaughter the herds, to deprive the Indians of their source of food.

By 1884, the American bison was close to extinction.

(via moniquill)

Well, there were the Pekin Chinks, the Fighting Coons (I can’t find a web reference for them, but I remember a school having some variation of wetback as a mascot briefly), and all were retired eventually, but for some reason despite the NCAA & other organizations penalizing members for retaining racist mascots, the MLB, NHL, & other major leagues refuse to force their membership to rebrand. Oh wait, I know the reason. Racism.

Well, there were the Pekin Chinks, the Fighting Coons (I can’t find a web reference for them, but I remember a school having some variation of wetback as a mascot briefly), and all were retired eventually, but for some reason despite the NCAA & other organizations penalizing members for retaining racist mascots, the MLB, NHL, & other major leagues refuse to force their membership to rebrand. Oh wait, I know the reason. Racism.

(via polerin)




A documentary adressing the issue of ”shadeism” within communities comprised of people of color. Shadism refers to the cultural phenomenon where members of the same ethnicity, nationality, or religion discriminate against one another based on the varying shades of their skins. This documentary looks at shadeism within the South Asian, African-American, and Carribean community.

a must see!

(via strugglingtobeheard)