Black/Indian relations: an overview of the scholarship

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Jones, Rhett S. “Black/Indian relations: an overview of the scholarship.” Transforming Anthropology 10.1 (2001): 2-16.


Brief mention. For readers interested primarily in the Lumbee, the pertinent sections are “One People: Tri-racial Communities” (pp. 8-10) and a short discussion in “Three Peoples: Red, White, and Black Relations” (pp. 10-11). The Lumbee are discussed as one of many peoples “. . . of mixed Native American/European/African ancestry who managed to carve out a separate status for themselves despite the two-tier system of race in the southern United States. This system had neither legal nor cultural room for persons who were neither Black nor White” (p. 8). The article mentions several scholars (William S. Pollitzer, Guy B. Johnson, William H. Gilbert, Edward T. Price, B. Eugene Griessman, and Brewton Berry) who studied tri-racial isolates (for more information, see The Lumbee Indians: an annotated bibliography (1994), pages 90-94). The article provides a quotation from a Lumbee interviewed by Brewton Berry. The article also classifies Gerald Sider's Lumbee Indian histories (1993) as an indirect attack on African American culture. Jones feels that Sider “. . . does not so much denigrate Blacks as he silences them” (p. 11). Jones also asserts that although Sider “does not avoid the issue of miscegenation,” he “clearly identifies with and supports the Lumbee in their claims that they are Indian and have no African ancestry” (p. 11). I disagree with this analysis and offer, as evidence, the following excerpt from the Preface to Sider's book: “. . . --twenty or more years ago, some anthropologists and some local Whites in Robeson County said that the Lumbee had a contestable identity because they were either partly Black or something that was called in professional jargon a 'triracial isolate.' But the Seminole, for example, were substantially mixed with African-Americans, yet few if any contested their Indian identity; moreover, a great many Indian peoples have intermarried with Blacks as well as Whites, many far more than have the Lumbee, without calling their identity as Indian people into question. How then did Lumbee history differ from the history of other Native Americans so as to make their Indian identity more of an issue?” (Lumbee Indian histories, “Preface,” page xxii). For the general reader, this research overview analyzes the literature on Black/Indian relations from a variety of disciplines, grouping the analysis according to six themes or trends the literature has taken. These include comparing Blacks and Indians; triracial communities; chauvinistic studies (which maintain that one race was either treated worse than or was superior to the other); and “the romanticists who see a mystical link between Amerindians and Blacks” (p. 11).

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Black/Indian relations | Triracial isolates | Gerald M. Sider