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

Mary Beth Williams (
29 Jul 1996 11:01:51 GMT

First of all, the term *Amerind* is highly offensive to most Indians,
myself included, so if I'm going to continue to participate in this
thread, a more appropriate term must be used.

In <DvALss.JK2@CritPath.Org> aawest@CritPath.Org (Anthony West) writes:

>In article <4te72d$> Beth Williams) writes:
>>In <Dv7yt3.FL0@CritPath.Org> aawest@CritPath.Org (Anthony West)
>>>I'd like to see some discussion and literature refs on the
>>>subject of social and genetic contacts between East Coast
>>>Amerinds and Old World emigrants.
>>Of course there was intermarriage, but in many, many cases the
>>descendants opted to live as Indian and not *disappear* into white or
>>black society.
>Agreed. Before one asks why an ancient people vanished, one
>should ask its living descendants if they really did vanish.
>More than 300 years after Contact, scores of contemporary Native
>North American communities perpetuate the heritage of Eastern

300 years? 500 years would be a closer approximation for initial
contact between more East Coast groups and Europeans and their

>>As most Eastern indigenous societies did not recognize
>>the construct of *race*, half-breed children, as well as white
>>adoptees, were viewed as *full-bloods* and accepted as full members
>>Indian society. I know that my own grandfather, purportedly a
>>*full-blood* according to state and tribal documents (going back many
>>years), obviously had *white* in him....
>My question addresses the opposite outcome. Who has explored
>the assimilation of some Amerinds into early (1500-1800)
>North American "white" and "black" ethnic groups? To what
>degree were these groups genetically and culturally modified
>by Amerinds?

Archaeologically or ethnohistorically? Your search for *genetic*
indicators is highly problematic, as whites are a little more sensitive
about digging up and studying their ancestors than they are about
studying mine. *Culturally* also runs into problems, as how does one
distinguish between cultural *diffusion* and *appropriation* by the
conquerers? And assimilation of ideas or technologies does not
indicate assimilation of the original bearers of those ideas -- maize
agriculture is a prime example. Euro's were growing corn the year
after they arrived in Plimouth, but the exchange of this technology did
not occur through *genetic assimilation*, but rather good will on
behalf of the local Indians, Squanto in particular (should have let
them starve.)

Europeans, particularly the English, had very strict constructs of
*racial identity*, and so most *racial mingling* was most likely to
occur among the *outlivers*, Europeans who lived on the fringes of
Euro-American society. Most Early Colonial archaeologists that I've
run across are more interested in *traditional* Euro-American culture,
and thus, until the lifeways of *outlivers* are more fully understood,
exploring how such lifeways were altered by contact with Indians cannot
be properly conducted.

>Hyperdiffusion is very bad, of course. But two-way diffusion
>at a real social frontier is to be expected.

Why? (And was the American East Coast a *social frontier*, or a point
of aggressive invasion?)

MB Williams
Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst