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

Mary Beth Williams (
30 Jul 1996 01:28:15 GMT

In <DvBsFE.K9w@CritPath.Org> aawest@CritPath.Org (Anthony West) writes:

>In article <4ti5mv$> Beth Williams) writes:
>>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.
>I don't wish to offend with terminology. I've found Native
>Americans not always in agreement as to what they wish to be
>called so I tend to toss many different terms out there at
>once, hoping everyone will find the word they prefer
>included. I'll skip Amerind for your sake.

For most indigenous peoples of North America, Indian and/or Native
American is acceptable, although our tribal affiliations are
preferrable, if possible.

>>In <DvALss.JK2@CritPath.Org> aawest@CritPath.Org (Anthony West)
>>>In article <4te72d$>
>> Beth Williams) writes:

>>Your search for *genetic*
>>indicators is highly problematic, as whites are a little more
>>about digging up and studying their ancestors than they are about
>>studying mine.
>True. But there are still a lot of old white bones
>knocking around various curators' collections. The
>work is not undoable, I think. Has anyone done it?

I did notice in another post that you listed your AB in anthro. from
Chicago... I can only assume that you never took a course with Jane
Buikstra while there?

How exactly do you think we bioarchaeologists work? Dump a couple of
boxes of unprovenienced bones (white or otherwise) from *various
curators collections* and *Name that Characteristic*? The work may not
be *undoable*, but whoever undertook it would be laughed out of every
major peer meeting.

One of the reasons skeletal analysis is so difficult and problematic is
that you need a statistically significant sample with which to work.
The questions asked determine the scope of the data required, thus, if
you're inquiring into genetic indicators of Indian contributions into
European and African gene pools, then you'd better have a pretty
clearly provenienced and statistically significant, i.e., HUGE, sample

>>*Culturally* also runs into problems, as how does one
>>distinguish between cultural *diffusion* and *appropriation* by the
>I'm not sure one does. Did Native Mexicans "diffuse"
>tacos to Chi-Chi's, or did Chi-Chi's just
>"appropriate" them? At some point, somebody who knew
>how to make tacos offered one to somebody who didn't
>know how to make tacos.

The example is simplistic and juvenile... In your *social frontier*
(see below), diffusion and appropriation manifest themselves very
different acts, the former, the Indian maiden willingly getting into
bed with the invading Europeans, the latter, cultural rape.

>>And assimilation of ideas or technologies does not
>>indicate assimilation of the original bearers of those ideas -- maize
>>agriculture is a prime example.

So why assume then, as you have, that there are very clear and concise
ways in which Indians *genetically* effected European/African
societies, if you can't prove that an *integration*, i.e., Indians
marrying and living, with society's blessing, with their non-Indian
mates, occurred on any significant level?

>>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
>>and thus, until the lifeways of *outlivers* are more fully
>>exploring how such lifeways were altered by contact with Indians
>>be properly conducted.
>That's too bad, then, because I think outlivers can play
>a major role in the development of societies and deserve
>to be understood.

Well, then, there's a dissertation topic for you...I'd be happy to
assist on the analysis of some good old European bones, if you come up
with any. Until, however, you or someone else tackles the problem,
Indian *assimilation* into white society will remain for the most part

>>>Two-way diffusion
>>>at a real social frontier is to be expected.
>Because human beings in contact interact unless
>there are reasons not to.
>>(And was the American East Coast a *social frontier*, or a point
>>of aggressive invasion?)
>Both, surely? Whenever whites and Indians occupied
>the same neighborhood as neighbors rather than as
>foes (a state that has arisen continuously on this
>continent in various places, and still occurs today),
>that's what I'd call a social frontier. Things
>happen when you sell a mule to a neighbor or borrow
>a bucket of cornmeal.

Do you think perhaps that you've been brainwashed by years of
Thanksgiving Day mythology? The whole construct of a *frontier*
indicates unequal power, as one group pushes into the territory of
another, and hence, *diffusion* versus *appropriate* become paramount
in the understanding of Contact dynamics.

MB Williams
Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst