From Ned Heite, Feb 19, 1998"

"Here are some reactions from the Historical Archaeology list, after I posted a notice of the Mitsawoket web page posting."


Date: 18 Feb 1998
From: Nancy O'Malley <omalley@UKY.CAMPUS.MCI.NET>
Subject: Re: Mitsawoket

I have been intrigued by Ned Heite's research in Native American remnant communities since I read his article "Searching for Invisible Indians". I think this would be an interesting thread to explore if others are int erested. Otherwise, Ned, I would like to get your opinion privately.

Here in Kentucky, there are several traditions of thought (for lack of a better term) floating around that have not been much studied by professionals and, in some cases, generally discounted. These include the Melungeons of eastern Kentucky, the tradition of Native American connections among many African-American families, and the assimilation of Cherokees within the south central Kentucky area during the Trail of Tears.

Kentucky underwent considerable Native American population shifts in the 100 years prior to historic settlement (resulting in tribes such as the Shawnee moving north of the Ohio River, the Cherokee being only on the fringe s of southeastern Kentucky and Chickasaw using far western Kentucky primarily as a hunting ground), and the relationship between Native Americans and settlers was consistently advesarial from the get-go. The settlers also perceived an "empty" central Kentucky when they got here; not exactly an entirely accurate perception since Indians still hunted here and carried out raids against the settlers, but their permanent villages were certainly outside of Kentucky's boundaries or on the fringes by the 1770s.

So one of my questions is, how would one determine or assess the degree to which Native Americans contributed to the settler gene pool through intermarrying, etc. in a place like Kentucky? I am particularly interested in this question with regard to the tradition that many African-American families have concerning "Indian blood" in their families. But the Melungeon question has also raised some controversy in the past (many academics tending to discount it generally while its validity remains popular among the general population), and, according to a recent newspaper article which I unfortunately did not save, is being reexamined. Any reactions or suggestions would be appreciated.

Nancy O'Malley
Department of Anthropology
211 Lafferty Hall
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Ky. 40506


Date: 18 Feb 1998
From: "John P. Staeck" <staeckjp@MARTIN.LUTHER.EDU>
Subject: Re: Mitsawoket

As Nancy and many of you are probably aware, the situation she describes in Kentucky is tied to the old term "Tri-Racial Isolate." There has been some classic work done (though I don't recall the citations now) on the so-called Ramapo Mountain People of New Jersey and the Lumbee of the Carolinas. There is also a tradition I picked up in the Faces of Culture Series (OK, source noted and concerns expected) on the use of Indian identities by African American parade groups/social clubs. There seems to be a deep history on this that may also be useful in exploring this connection. Anybody have specifics?

John P. Staeck
Anthropology Program
Luther College
Decorah, IA 52101


Date: 18 Feb 1998
From: "J.M. Schohn" <JMSchohn@AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: Mitsawoket

Dr. Virginia DeMarce, a historian with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, has done a great deal of research on the topic of melungeons and tri-racial isolates. She has written a fifteen page review of Kennedy's book on the topic and an article called "Verry Slitly Mixt" based on an original source document with that same title (and spelling) regarding the tri-racial nature of some of those communities.

Michelle Schohn
USC Dept. of Anthropology
Columbia, SC


Date: 18 Feb 1998
From: Mark Groover <mdgroove@GROUPZ.NET>
Subject: Polyethnic Communities

A reply to Ned and Nancy re multiethnic communities:

The topic of polyethnic-multiracial households and communities that you mentioned is controversial yet fascinating. Much of North America, due to the inherent character of colonization and globalization, nurtured multiethnic communities throughout its history and historical archaeology offers a good way of potentially generating new information on the subject.

Concerning the Melungeons, I recently wrote a graduate seminar paper and SHA conference paper that discussed the topic within the broader theme of multiethnic communities and triracial households. Among contemporary Melungeon descendants researching their heritage, some writers adhere to the "Lost Tribes-Lost Explorers" origin myths and legends (e.g. Brent Kennedy 1994, The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People, An Untold Story of Ethnic Cleansing in America, Mercer University Press) while other descendant writers recognize (as is commonly accepted by anthropologists)that they are the progeny of multiracial parents (e.g., Mike McGlothlen 1994, Melungeons and Other Mestee Groups, distributed by
the author, Gainesville, Florida).

Contemporary scholars that quickly dismiss the research validity of the Melungeons as uninformed nonsense do not consider that because of the origin myths, people of racially mixed heritage in Southern Appalachia were able to circumvent the racial order prevalent in the Antebellum South. In many instances they owned land and voted. During the era that witnessed slavery and the removal of Native Americans by the government these rights were often denied to free persons of color in many places.

Concerning eastern North America, a good source on the topic of multiethnic communities is the UC-Berkeley dissertation (1950) and article (1953 in Annals of the Association of American Geographers 43) by cultural geographer Edward Price. For New England, Ken Feder's 1994 book, entitled A Village of Outcasts: Historical Archaeology and Documentary Research at the Lighthouse Site, focuses on the material record associated with a small, peripheralized village inhabited by Native Americans, freed African-American slaves, and marginalized European Americans. All said, the topic of polyethnic communities and households is interesting and a relevant context for potentially locating archaeological assemblages containing several contrasting material traditions.

Mark Groover
1028-B Carriage Drive
Aiken, South Carolina 29803
Tel: (803)648-5257







"The History and Genealogy of the
Native American Isolate Communities
of Kent County, Delaware, and
Surrounding Areas on the Delmarva Peninsula
and Southern New Jersey"



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