Re: Amerind an offensive term (was: Early Amerind assimilation

Mary Beth Williams (
2 Aug 1996 19:45:29 GMT

In <4tti00$> (Matt
Silberstein) writes:

>I came into this thread when there was a question, I thought,
>regarding cultural diffusion to outliver "White" 18th century groups.
>Since I have an amateur€s interest in some groups it seemed like a
>good idea. I did not see the land mines in the question. If an expert
>in the field, Mary Beth for instance, says we can't get that
>information I am inclined to believe it.

I just want to clarify, in case it was lost in all this, why I think
that information regarding diffusion of Indian culture (either
intermarriage or appropriation) is currently not accessible. In order
to see the manifestion of *diffusion*, it is first necessary to
establish a *baseline* of what characterised *outliver* society. Mr.
West argued in an earlier post that mid-17th century white plantation
families would constitute an *outliver* population, a concept with
which I, and a number of historians (see Bushman's _From Puritan to
Yankee_) would take issue. These were not merely people living on the
*frontier*. Established congregations would oftentimes split off from
the original group, and form new, well *regulated* (and documented)
congregations on the frontier. However, outliver groups and
individuals strove to live away from European rules and restrictions,
for reasons of religion, class, legal statis, or personal preference.
They were not part of *proper society*, and hence we have very little
written information about these populations. Only about half of the
travellers on the Mayflower were *Pilgrims*... The rest were people
trying to get away from England or searching for wealth in the *New
World*... They had no interest in living under the strict religious law
and order the Pilgrims, and later Puritans, demanded, and quickly
disappeared from colonial records, except when placed in the stocks or
branded for drunkness.

_If_ there were liaisons between Indians and Europeans, and I don't
doubt that there were quite a few (although far fewer than the millions
of modern whites who claim Indian g-g-grandmothers), it most likely
occurred among these groups. However, the question was, *how did
Indian assimilation effect these groups during the frontier period?*,
and one of the reasons I think its impossible to presently address this
question is that we have very little clue as to what characterizes
*outliver* culture _prior_ to intermarriage/appropriation. Mr. West
wonders if this could be cleared up by bioarchaeological (skeletal)
analysis, and I am especially pessimistic as to this possibility, in
light of white society's reluctance to dig up their own ancestors (or
keep them on the shelves for very long.)

We need to look at the beliefs/biases of those who came before us to
help us sort out these issues. It wasn't always fashionable to have an
Indian ancestor, and although many today believe this would lead to
*hiding* the indiscretion, few actually consider the effect this would
have on actual *fraternization*. Indians, according to most Europeans,
were considered *savages*, and thus many Euros would no sooner consider
marrying one than marry a gorilla. It wasn't until the 19th century
that, Eastern Indians at least, were considered remotely human,
particularly if Christanized and educated in white schools, and one
might expect to see more intermarriage, although, again, on the lower
ends of the social strata. African/Indian relations most likely
occurred during the 18th century as well as the 19th, as many African
slaves escaped into Indian territory, and were accepted, at least until
recapture, into local groups. The question, if I recall correctly,
however, was what impact did Indians have on Euro/African culture, not
the other way around, particularly during the Contact Period, i.e,
prior to 1800. There, I still don't see how, at this stage of the
game, we can begin to examine properly that question.

Just wanted to clarify,

MB Williams
Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst