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“The Transformation of the Southeastern Indians, 1540-1760”Robbie Ethridge and Charles Hudson, ed.

The essays in “The Transformation” focus on the question of what historical forces, trends, and events caused the formation of the Indians of the colonial Southeast.  In addition, these essays consider the historical processes that shaped the destinies of the Southeastern natives as historical actors. (xii)

In Marvin T. Smith’s essay, “Aboriginal Movement in the Postcontact Southeast,” he correctly claims that there were many factors that impacted population movement in the early Southeast. These factors, such as disease, power imbalances, and warfare, could have occurred simultaneously adding to the population movement.  He gave the Coosa drainage as an example that led to well documented population movement.  A fine point Smith makes was the impact of the Indian slave trade in the Southeast.  Towards the end of the trade in 1716, many Indian groups migrated out of the Carolinas shifting the protection they afforded the colony to different regions.  But in what other way did these push/pull native population movements affect other colonies or territories?

In Paul Kelton’s “The Great Southeast Smallpox Epidemic, 1696-1700,” he argues that the first smallpox epidemic occurred between 1696 and 1700 in Spanish Florida and Virginia, but not spreading beyond those borders until the acceleration of the slave trade in the seventeenth century.  He questions that smallpox as an epidemic arrived at a date earlier than 1696.  Kelton gives a lengthy epidemiological history of the smallpox virus, argues that even though the disease was the most likely to accompany Europeans and spread as a virgin soil epidemic, the documentation is inconclusive and improbable.  He emphasizes that the Spanish documents reveal that none of the Spaniards who arrived in Spanish Florida were suffering from smallpox, but likely other transmittable diseases.  With the Great Southeastern Smallpox Epidemic that began in 1696, a series of epidemics began to erupt in the region about every 3-5 years.  Kelton argues that 1700 should be considered a defining moment in native history with significant population decline followed by one hundred years of continued epidemics that brought demographic disaster to the Native American.

In “Trouble Coming Southward” by Helen C. Rountree, the focus is on the movement into the south by both Europeans and natives through Virginia from 1607 to 1675.  Rountree establishes that trade routes were already in existence when Europeans arrived in 1607 and the natives continued to use these trade routes for another century.  As trade became a major economic venture for Virginia, traders traveled further southward to deal with the Indians.  After the 1650 Bland expedition, the English sent more explorers into the southern frontier for trading opportunities.  Increasingly, more English moved south surrounding the Indians, which resulted in conflict with the Tuscaroras in 1663.  Here was an interesting fact.  Because the English feared the Tuscarora “the grand assembly felt impelled in the year to forbid the ‘entertaining’ of any Indians who did not bring an identifiable badge with them into the English settlements.” (77)  Are there any other occurrences where native groups are required to wear IDs before they enter an European settlement?  Rountree argues that Indians were long-distance travelers, but not until of the 1670s was this actually documented in detail.

In Steven C. Hahn’s “The Mother of Necessity,” he argues that the Yamasee War of 1715 was a result of the Creek’s dependency on English trade goods, not as a result of the inevitable spread of trade, but as a result of their own affinity to essential “needs” versus European “luxuries.”  (82)  Hahn gives a brief history of the founding of the Carolina colony to establish a foundation for the transformation in the colonists’ economic behavior.  Indian trade was the first prominent economic venture for the proprietors who desired the colony to give them an economic return.  His argument on dependency theory is thorough as he points out that the Indians were interested in the trade goods more for their aesthetic value.  Hahn states, “southeastern Indians were loath to return to the ‘primitive’ technologies of their forefathers.”(109)  This appears a somewhat broad statement to make including all southeastern Indians.  While pottery may not be considered a technology, many Indians in the southeast never left this craft behind.  It would be interesting to consider other scholars viewpoints of the dependency theory.

In “The Cultural Landscape of the North Carolina Piedmont at Contact,” R.P. Stephen Davis, Jr. argues that geographically there was culturally diversity among the native groups that lived in the Piedmont region.  He considers the cultural landscape by reviewing the ethnohistory of the region beginning with the exploration of Hernando de Soto in 1540 and ending with John Lawson in 1701.  Lawson witnessed changes in the cultural landscape due to depopulation, the Iroquois raids, the fur trade, and the Tuscarora, Yamasee, and Cheraw Wars.  Davis provides mapping to illustrate the change in the cultural landscape through approximated population data from 1540 to 1600.  He emphasizes that the factors listed above contributed to an “ever changing cultural landscape” in the southeast, which affected all tribes in the region.

Books related to trade:

Fiske, Jo Anne, ed.  New Faces of the Fur Trade: Selected Papers of the Seventh North American Fur Trade Conference, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1995.  East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1998.

Waselkov, Gregory.  “Seventeenth-Century Trade in the Colonial Southeast.”  Southeastern Archaeology 8 (1989): 117-133.

Dependency theory:

White, Richard.  The Roots of Dependency: Subsistence, Environment, and Social Change Among the Choctaw, Pawnees, and Navajos.  Lincoln:  University of Nebraska Press, 1983.

____.  Middle Ground:  Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815.  New York:  Cambridge University Press, 1991.

3 Responses to “Bauer #1”

  1. stan

    This Lumbee debate is interesting but the Lumbees have no new evidence to offer ,,The lumbee self-identify as Indians, the key is self-identify and that is what they took to the congress, I agree with mr.elroy in that you cannot take a group of tri-racial isolates and have them identify as federal recognized Indian tribe because in-fact they are not and can never be Indian again,culture loss,language loss,Dna loss,= Not indigenous any more!! pretty simple this logic regardless of emotion its like a chihuahua is no longer a wolf ever if its ancestor was you can never identify that dog as wolf again,,get it right LUMBEE group, for get it!!

  2. Walker Elliott

    Of course, you’re taking for granted the idea that Indianness is solely defined by genetic makeup, sterotypically native culture, and the preservation of an Amerindian language. Those are actually pretty Euro-American ideas–race is not an indigenous American concept. There is plenty of evidence to suggest, for example, that eastern tribes of the 18th and early 19th centuries incorporated Euro- and Afro-Americans on a fairly regular basis.

    I would therefore argue that your assertion is anything but logical or self-evident. If we uniformly apply your standards of Indiannes, then any fair-minded person would have to conclude that neither Cherokees nor Seminoles are genuinely Indian. Members of both groups have significant white and/or black ancestry, and both groups have made many cultural adaptations since European contact–as all groups constantly do. Would you also argue that I’m not white since I don’t speak Elizabethan English or hunt with a flintlock musket?

    Hopefully, that demonstrates the absurdity of your argument. I am most certainly white, and Seminoles, Cherokees, and Lumbees all most certainly Indian. All three groups maintain philosophcial, cultural, and political ideas that are particularly Indian. Cherokees, for example, generally adhere to philosophical ideas about balance that their white neighbors do not share. Lumbees likewise have ideas about kinship and group cohesion that are clearly indigenous.

    The argument, then, is not an emotional one. It simply rests on other, less Anglo-American ideas of what it means to be an Indian. Under this view, Indianness is not a racially/genetically inherited trait, nor is it linked to slavish adherence to a rigid “traditional” culture. It is instead tied to group identity and marked by shared, indigenous values/ideas. And as a corollary, since these groups are inherently sovereign, Lumbees, as a properly indigenous group in this way, deserve federal recognition of that sovereignty.

    I encourage you to read Theda Perdue, Daniel Mandell, and Gary Nash on this subject. The latter two are summarized in each students #2 posting. They will quite thoroughly smash your conception of race and Indian identity.

    Finally, thank you for your post. Whether or not I agree with you, you’ve added something to the discourse on Lumbee identity and sovereignty.

  3. Stan

    A group of individuals such as lumbee are cannot without a language base or original rirgin to start claim to be indigenous,the lumbees by modern genealogist demarc and heinegg have traced the core lumbee families to unions solely between black free males and white females in the tidewater virginia area following normal migration patterns of europeans into robeson county.This is the definition of a mulatto which the lumbees have always identified as even in all civil records not once had a lumbee ancestor identified once as Indian in any historical civil or court record.Dna has mirrored this result with lumbees having no significant indigenous indian Dna contribution to individual or families identified as Lumbee or croatan.Lumbee have R1 and L haplogroups which are southern european and Black african dna groups.also historical records and colonial surveys by govt.rowan list no indians in the robeson county area save one thomas britt not a lumbee ancestor.and all other records list lumbee ancestors solely as negros and mulattos.The test done by the anthropologist in the early 20th century hired by the lumbee ancestors have been invalidated such as the hair pencil methods. so the historical and genealogical records match the dna results. conclusion the Lumbee have no indian language ,no indian cultural practices no indian dna no indian historical records and no indian genealogy. so how can self identifying be the deciding factor here soley for federal recognition and wanting to be indian or being told you are indian is a mistaken identity to hide the real african american roots here.

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