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

Anthony West (aawest@CritPath.Org)
Fri, 2 Aug 1996 09:56:13 GMT

In article <4tr1hh$> Beth Williams) writes:
>In <DvG3oo.3I3@CritPath.Org> aawest@CritPath.Org (Anthony West) writes:
>>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
>1) Would you consider a *plantation* to incorporate *outlivers*?
In this period, every Old-World person in Maryland was an
outliver - radically outside his home society.

>2) Nine burials does not constitute a *statistically significant
Go dazzle freshmen with this insight, Mary Beth. I
trust you are decently paid for this task.

>3) What percentage of these whites were even born in Maryland, and so
>what is the chance that they would show *genetic* indicators of
>interracial parents?
None, I would think - in this, or any one, instance.
But if you could database colonial community individuals
by race, you could begin to explore whether multiracial
burial grounds existed in early colonial communities.
Until then, I'm in ignorance and so are you.

>3) The institution (St. Mary's?) may have *touted the find* but are the
>bones still on their shelves, waiting for further research, or were
>they summarily reinterred, as most white remains are?
Beats me. Please explain to me why we should care.

>>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.
>I have colleagues in my department who have worked on this site from
>the beginning (and continue to do so) and,
>1) It was a nineteenth-century, urban population.
Interesting. I don't think this is well-known in Phila.
Get your facts in order and I'll write you up.

>2) There was no *social frontier* between these urban blacks and local
>American Indians (who, by this point, had been removed to *Indian
If 19th-c., surely not. If 18th-c., probably yes.
Even if 19th-c., an analysis of this population with
respect to Indian features would address (positively
or negatively) the degree of penetrance of Indian
genes into this important early Afro-Am community at
this time.

>>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.
>Although there has been some outcry from the African-American community
>for reinterment of the Philadelphia cemetary remains, I will concede
>that it is far less than one sees when white cemetaries are disturbed.
>Unfortunately, although this cemetary has provided a wealth of
>information on African-American lifeways, it is of no use in answering
>your questions.
No. But it illustrates that one should check with
other anthropologists before buying every claim you
make about this period. I don't mean to denigrate
or misuse your actual knowledge, which is obvious
and valuable to me.

>>Indians have, by now, genetically affected white and
>>black American societies.
>Do you have some evidence to back up this hypothesis? As Jeff Baker
>stated, many Euro-Americans argue that they have *Indian blood* in
>them, usually a Cherokee princess or two, and for many reasons, such
>claims, without proof, should be taken with a grain of salt.
Get out of Amherst, MB, and come to Philadelphia. Not
typically thought of as an Indian center. My best friend
is part-Maumee, my plumber is part-Cherokee, an artist
at my paper is part-Lenape. Interestingly, the last
fellow (along with his dad) is living in the original
Lenape village area of Shackamaxon (now known as Fishtown),
which is a part of old Philadelphia. YOU tell THEM who
they're not; I won't. You can sleep in our guest room
while you prepare to take them on.

This point is not debatable, unless you are arguing that
NO Euro/Afro-Americans carry Indian blood today. May I
quote you?

>native ancestry *legitimizes* the immigrant's *right* to live in an
>occupied territory and thus is often pulled out to assuage own's guilt,
>or enhance own's position. (My current response when someone comes up
>to me and states *You know, I'm part Indian too!* is *Oh really? What
>part? Leg? Spleen? Fingertip?*)
That might be one consequence of such a claim.
The fact is that most Americans today are not
"immigrants" - they are the descendants of
immigrants, some mixed with the descendants of
natives. Can you change this fact? Can I?

>Before you use this as your starting assumption, you really should have
>some data to back it up. What percentage of people identifying as
>*white* in the US also claim a N.A. ancestor? How many can prove it?
Those are some of the questions I'd like to
explore. But you've got your heuristics backward.
Data-collection comes *after* your starting
assumption, not before.

>I don't fully accept your starting hypothesis because of the issues
>outlined about. Prove your starting point, and then these other
>questions can be addressed.
I'm not about "proving," MB. I'm about asking.

>>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.
>*Must*? Are you not drawing conclusions before producing evidence? It
>seems you, like Stella, automatically assume that Indians married into
>white/African culture, and then viewed themselves and their offspring
>as *white*. Why do you assume this happened? Can you produce data to
>support this claim?
Try thinking, Mary Beth. Indian-Euro/Afro interaction did
occur, prior to this thread. The Indians in question
interacted either with rich and powerful Euro/Afros, or with
poor and powerless Euro/Afros, broadly speaking. I think
they hung out more on the bottom end. Do you disagree? If
you don't, then surely we must look to the colonial working
class as the chief port of entry for any Indians who might
have joined this society.

NOW it is time to go looking for data, because now we
have an idea what we want data for.

>Other than utilizing oral histories, I know of no other way to
>reconstruct the history of *undocumented masses* than through material
>culture analysis, so I would say that archaeologists do more than
>*contribute* (*often* or not), wouldn't you?
Yes. It's too essential for words. The evidence it
yields is lousy but it beats anything else around
because it is solid. But history can be cleverly
massaged by rereading as well. Literate people often
talk about illiterate people in early documents.
Allow for biases, etc. etc.

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