Re: Early Amerind assimilation (Was: Re: Romans in the New World?)

Anthony West (aawest@CritPath.Org)
Thu, 1 Aug 1996 06:07:36 GMT

In article <4tnfpe$> Beth Williams) writes:
>In <DvEECJ.sG@CritPath.Org> aawest@CritPath.Org (Anthony West) writes:
>>In article <4tjoff$>
> Beth Williams) writes:
>As you stated
>your concentration was South Asia, I take it that you're unfamiliar
>with even the most famous Americanists.
Correct, in the sense that I don't follow the
ongoing pecking order of that discipline altho I
read in it and utilize its material.

As a journalist, I'm topic-oriented rather than
discipline-oriented. I spend most of my time talking
with people who know more than I do about any
subject I'm working on. I repeatedly find that
if I check with different experts in the same field,
I receive contradictory authoritative answers.

It is not possible to claim that an inquiry into
the influence of Indians upon other Americans is
beyond the pale of reputable anthropology. Charles
Hudson, in _The Southeastern Indians_, touches on
this question. Where he stands vis-a-vis Buikstra
or Williams in professional esteem, beats me, but
his credits are sound.

>>>How do you think we bioanthropologists work? Dump a couple of
>>>boxes of unprovenienced bones (white or otherwise) from *various
>>>curators collections* and *Name that Characteristic*?
It is you, not I, who inserted the notion of non-
provenienced material into my question. Of course
provenience is important.

a _statistically_significant_population, the kind of analysis you
>desire is useless for determining anything other than *skeleton A =
>white*, *skeleton B = black*, etc.
Please don't artificially inflate the scope of my
question, thereby inflating the scholarship needed to
address it, thereby enabling you to pronounce the
question unscholarly.

Archeologists are well accustomed to working with
statistically insignificant populations and deriving
what they can from them. There are imaginative ways
of grouping and manipulating scattered small site

>I currently know of no complete white cemetary from a
>*frontier* community that is sitting on some institution's shelves, but
>I'm rather certain that is not something any institution would
>publically tout.
Odd. When I was in Southern Maryland, 1989-92, a well-
publicized dig at a ~1640 plantation produced, among
other things, remains of ~9 individuals, presumed
white settlers. Plantation's a community. You bet the
institution touted this find! And the community loved

In Philadelphia, ~1989, highway work uncovered an
unsuspected black cemetery from the colonial period
(~100 individuals). Man, was this touted! Yes, the
bones were studied. If anything, Philadelphia's
influential black community was even more thrilled
than we white boys.

So I think you may be understating the volume of
bioarcheological remains from this period and
overstating the resistance of non-Indian communities
to this kind of research.

>>I'm asking about cross-cultural
>>influences. You're saying I can't ask until I sort
>>"diffusion" from "appropriation" first. This
>>distinction may be sharp iu some cases, pointless in
>*Diffusion* would indicate a *sharing* of
>information, presumably between equals, whereas *appropriation* carries
>with it an assumption of unequal power. Hence, unless you consider
>forced physical integration, i.e., rape, to hold the same social and
>cultural meaning as voluntary *fraternization*, you search for
>*genetic* and cultural indicators is compromised. This is certainly
>the case in European/African relations in North America.
Yes, it's useful to consider power relations in some
contexts of this issue and here these terms become useful.

>>>Why assume then that there are
>>>ways in which Indians *genetically* effected European/African
>>>societies, if you can't prove that an *integration*, i.e., Indians
>>>marrying and living, with society's blessing, with their non-Indian
>>>mates, occurred on any significant level?
Indians have, by now, genetically affected white and
black American societies. At some point this started.
The question of when it becomes significant is legit.
The most methodical approach is to begin at the
beginning and work forward. When do YOU think it
approached significance, whatever that may be?

>I'm aware that of the reasons why,
>at this point, the type of analysis you want cannot be done, and hence
>do not look for such pie-in-the-sky-answers, but focus instead on what,
>physically and materially, we can *know*.
The analysis you think I want is not, perhaps,
the analysis I think I want. There are many degrees
of approaching a large question short of *knowing*
and one must be comfortable with them if one is
ever to wind up knowing anything.

I'd appreciate posts or email from anybody else
who might have insights into early multicultural or
multiracial communities in North America.

>We *know*, historically at
>least, that the offspring of European and American Indians were not
>accepted into *traditional* Euro-American society, at least not as
>*white*. Whether or not mixed-race children were accepting as *white*
>in *outliver* populations is currently not *knowable*, as we don't have
>a significant understanding of white *outliver* society.
Put another way, the lives of poor, powerless early white
and black Americans is poorly recorded and poorly understood.
Yet it is with them in particular that many Indian-Euro/Afro
contacts must have occurred. Attempts to reconstruct the
history of the undocumented masses is difficult, but it is
gaining in importance in historiography in our times. Often
archeologists can contribute to this process.

>MB Williams
>Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst
Tony West