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

Mary Beth Williams (
6 Aug 1996 11:09:39 GMT

In <4u6mn7$> (HaSpam) writes:
>Mary Beth Williams ( wrote:
>: Whether or not mixed-race children were accepting as *white*
>: in *outliver* populations is currently not *knowable*,
>Bunk. It's known in my father's mixed-race family, where some were
>recorded as "white," some as "black, some as "Indian," and some as
>"_______" (i.e. space left blank). The difference was often due to
>a) who's doing the recording and b) who is being recorded: if who-
>ever was keeping track liked and/or respected our family they were
>given "higher" status. My evidence is anecdotal as I don't have my
>late father's geneological records, but I think I remember he said
>there was a case where a "black" mother and an "Indian" father had
>a "white" baby -- whatever that proves about the criteria applied.

I think that you've just proven my point...that relying on oral or
written history _without_ correlating physical analysis is highly
problematic. The point was also whether or not mixed-race children
were *accepted as white* -- once again, your anecodotal information
sheds a great deal of light on just how subjective and random this the
evidence can be.

>: as we don't have a significant understanding of white *outliver*
>: society.
>Perhaps you're not asking the right people the right way.

Please be more specific? We're talking about past populations... Who
should we be *asking*? This is still *sci.archaeology*, and so one
assume that we would be talking about archaeological (including
documentary in historic populations) analysis. If you know of
substantial archaeological/historical work carried out on *outliver*
populations, I'm sure Mr. West would like to hear about it.

>: Perhaps more information is available in African-American
>: as I recall a very good article on the influence of local Indian
>: pottery style and technique among slave populations in South
>: in McGuire and Paynter's _Archaeology of Inequality_. But I also
>: recall that the author concluded that the integration of technique
>: _did not_ automatically indicated interracial unions.
>Not automatically, no. Of course not. But if you ask around in black
>neighborhoods in the southeast US -- or look around the Lumber River
>area in North Carolina, for example -- you'll learn that "horizontal
>integration" did happen frequently, and is still going on. Sometimes
>this is because "a pretty girl is a pretty girl," and sometimes (I'd
>say 'usually') it depends on one's socioeconomic status -- pale gals
>can be expensive to woo and keep.

The problem here is that integration is *assumed* rather than *proven*.
I'm not saying that it did not happen, but without details such as
when, why, how, how much, etc., etc., etc., we cannot answer the
questions to which Mr. West poses. One of the interesting hypotheses
in the aforementioned article on South Caroline slave pottery is that
forced *assilimation*, in this case slavery, _did not_ lead to material
cultural assimilation -- Rather than use the European-style dishware
provided by the white owners, African slaves continued to produce their
own pottery, based upon African styles (the author hypothesized this
was a form of *resistance*.)

This type of *resistance* to assimilation can be seen in the material
culture of white populations during the 19th-early 20th populations as
well. For example, my own people began *mass* producing ash-splint
baskets, primarily for white consumption, to be sold at road-stands
during a time when their own social and economic existance was being
severely challenged. Our marketing strategy even played to white
stereotypes and perceptions, e.g., many of these roadside stands were
Plains-style teepees, and Eastern Woodland Indians would dress like
western Lakota, in order to make the money necessary to survive in
backwoods Maine. These baskets were highly prized by whites, and thus
integrated a part of white material culture, but the producers (still
termed *wood niggers* by many locals) were never accepted into white

MB Williams
Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst