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

Joe Bernstein (
Fri, 02 Aug 1996 22:31:59 -0600

In article <4tr1hh$>, Beth Williams) wrote:

>In <DvG3oo.3I3@CritPath.Org> aawest@CritPath.Org (Anthony West) writes:
>>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
>1) Would you consider a *plantation* to incorporate *outlivers*?

Just for the ignorant among us, would you have a precise definition of
"outliver" handy? I'd be inclined to agree with Mr. West that any white
in the East in 1640 was something of an outcast, superficially, but
practically it runs into all kinds of difficulties. The whites of New
England, for example, were "radically outside their home society" (to
quote Mr. West's reply) and were to some extent cultural outcasts, but
they formed tight communities for the most part which wouldn't strike me
as likely to be called "outlivers" for any practical purpose. So what's
the real definition?

Similarly, white settlement of Maryland, if I remember correctly, was
largely by English Catholics, and while not all of them were gentry, I'd
have to agree with Ms. Williams here that the inhabitants of a Marlyand
plantation, even in 1640, would be unlikely to (again quoting Mr. West)
live on the "low end" of the social scale. Well, at least not all of

Would the community love it just as much if the nine people in question
had all been living in rickety shacks? can't help wondering... it's
taken quite long enough for Chicago to get used to thinking of du Sable as
its founder.

>>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. 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?*)
>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?

>Oral history is one thing, urban mythology another. I would be careful
>not to fall into the trap of viewing them both equally.

Here's some oral history. Actually, it's got me wondering what proof
there really is; since my grandfather did decades of genealogical
research, and the records are still in my uncle's possession, it should be
possible to check.

As it happens, the alleged Native American blood in my family is
(predictably) not in my grandfather's ancestry, but my grandmother's.
(This is relevant because he researched that side of the family rather
less assiduously.) I believe it's my great-great-grandmother or -father
who's in question, might be one generation further back; we're talking
early 19th century, west of the Appalachians. The story goes that my
great-great-great-grandfather seduced a Cherokee girl (*not* a princess)
but then turned around and married a white one, only to find one day a
half-Cherokee baby on the doorstep.

My confidence in this story is shaken somewhat by a firm childhood memory
of being told that Pocahontas was in my ancestry. Eventually I noticed
that similar claims were made by a significant number of my schoolmates,
and made sceptical noises to my mother. She said (probably correctly)
that I'd gotten the Pocahontas story mixed up with the betrayed Cherokee

On the other hand, my mother also asserts that she was much in demand as a
blood donor while living in England, precisely because she had some blood
traits rare for Europeans, ones apparently deriving from Native American
ancestry. (Yes, I'm aware that other explanations could be conceived, and
that it would be difficult to prove Mr. West's assertion by mass blood
typing in any event.)

Another story my mother tells is of my grandfather's confusion on finding
a *really* distant ancestor in Georgia, sometime around 1700, who had no
land. Supposedly this was a self-contradiction as *all* whites in Georgia
then held land (??). Mom prides herself in having pointed out that the
obvious conclusion was that the ancestor in question wasn't white; there
were free blacks in Georgia at that time after all...

Taken together, these stories leave me with fairly little confidence even
in "oral history". I've had a bit of trouble distinguishing it from,
well, pre-"urban mythology". And I think my family (on my mother's side,
the pogroms having cut most links on my father's) is unusually well-placed
to verify its history.

Joe Bernstein

Joe Bernstein, free-lance writer, bank clerk, and bookstore worker
speaking for myself and nobody else
but... co-proponent for soc.history.ancient, now under
discussion in news.groups