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

Eric Brunner (
2 Aug 1996 14:31:32 GMT

Anthony West (aawest@CritPath.Org) wrote:
: 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
: >>it.
: >
: >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.

What a hoot! So much for this being a useful thread to follow.

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

Well, now that you've demolished the only known forensic anthropologist
who is a regular subscriber to sci.anth/sci.arch, what ever can we look
forward to next? You will let us know when you take on the luminaries of
sci.stat.math, won't you?

: >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.

What dishonesty. A foreign adult population is first a candidate for
forensic racing to determin if racing indicators support a hypothesis
of measureable interbreeding with the indigenous population, then it
suddenly entirely composed of (abuse of a well-known anthropological
and archaeological term) purpose-built "outlivers", then this same
sample group is not a candidate for testing the measurability or the
validity of the racing indicator hypothesis. I wouldn't be surprised
if all nine of these circa 1640 persons started posting next, from a
"CritPath.Org" address.

The intellectual bail-out: because the poster's first foray is not even
relevent tot he poster's thesis, that ignorance is equally held. Not a
passing paper.

: >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.

Why we (and jrandom journalists with attitudinal complexes are not part
of the "we") do care in real life is due to our awareness of repatriation
issues. NAGPRA is a codification of that concern. Reinternment practices
historically, like disinternments, reflect cultural power. Disempowered
groups have their remains treated by the empowered groups differently than
empowered groups threat their own remains. The liklihood that 9 "Founders
of Maryland" remain in cardboard boxes at any institution is rather low,
unless one inhabits an alternative universe. The liklihood that several
tens of thousands of human remains -- the original inhabitants of the New
World currently and for most of the 19th and 20th centuries is slightly in
excess of dead certainty, as NAGPRA-consequent inventories make a matter
of public record in the US.

This absence of dominant group remains for scientific study does rather
preclude scientific study of any forensic issues, including the one which
is the focus of this thread, even if one overlooks the pseudo-scientific
nature of the metric possed, or the evidence standards (sampling size and
provenence) suggested, or the racial rather than material cultural focus
of the thesis at test.

: >>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.

Umm, I suspect that this is less of an honor than a burden, being the
subject of some even competent journalist's "write up", not getting one's
facts "in order". In any event, the data is available from the archaeologist
conducting the CRM work.

: >2) There was no *social frontier* between these urban blacks and local
: >American Indians (who, by this point, had been removed to *Indian
: >Territory*.)
: >
: 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.

Again, conclusion of utility is offered prior to a defense of the utility
of the metric. What is to be measured, and how is it to be measured, and
if the data is statistical (and it is), what are the statistical rules of
evidence to be followed (the "freshman bedazzlement insight" issue). These
are methodological questions which must be resolved before being applied
to data, let alone before reaching conclusions as to their utility, let
alone before reaching conclusions based upon their presumed utilty.

: >>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.

Huh? What in heaven's name has been illustrated?

: >>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?

It would be an improvement over the re-write that appears here. Ms. Williams
referred to Jeff Baker's observation on the suspect character of many of
the claims made without supporting records by contemporary moderns. This is
not an unknown phenomena and several years ago the FAQ for soc.culture.native
had the following contribution added to address just this issue. I quote it
for its modern sociological relevance. The author is Vine Deloria.

10. My great-grandmother is an Indian princess.

Then you should consider the following statement by Big
Vine: "It doesn't take much insight into racial attitudes to
understand the real meaning of the Indian-grandmother
complex that plagues certain whites. A male ancestor has
too much of the aura of the savage warrior, the unknown
primitive, the instinctive animal, to make him a respectable
member of the family tree. But a young Indian princess?
Ah, there was royalty for the taking. Somehow the white was
linked with a noble house of gentility and culture if his
grandmother was an Indian princess who ran away with an
intrepid pioneer. And royalty has always been an
unconscious but all-consuming goal of the European
immigrant" (_Custer Died for Your Sins_ 3).

The issue of this thread however is not racing moderns, it is the forensic
racing of human remains, presumably from the Contact Period, and even if a
guest room is available, the dead make remarkably poor conversationalists,
hence our reliance upon other means. I doubt that this is any different in
Philadelphia than anywere else on earth.

: >Claiming
: >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?

Feel free to partake of the everyone-is-a-native thread, cross-posted to
both sci.arch and sci.anthro. You should be right at home with the sort
of Native Treaty Claims rejectionism rampant in that thread. However, as
you did ask, here is something for you to think about:

: >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.

No. Examination of what the thesis to be tested _always_ in modern,
scientific archaeology, comes _before_ irreversible, distructive test,
which is what excavation and many other technical means require. Before
"data" is "collected", the purpose, method, storage, and analysis of
the data and the means of data acquisition must be thought through.

: >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.

Sigh. Questions which have no means of answering, or for which the "answer"
is the "question" are not what we do.

: >>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.

See above, and feel free to continue to urge others to share in your
monopoly of "thinking". It is so condusive to the discourse. NOT.

: >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.

Sigh. As if we hadn't already thought of deconstruction issues in both
ethnography and history.

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

Enough of this. Write what ever pleases you Mr. West.

Eric Brunner