James Taylor Carson. “’The Obituary of Nations’: Ethnic Cleansing, Memory, and the Origins of the Old South.” Southern Culture Winter 2008, 6-29.
Malinda Maynor. “People and Place: Croatan Indians in Jim Crow Georgia, 1890-1920.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, nd, pp. 37-63.
Although these articles are centered on different historical time periods and have different arguments, there are a couple of common threads that run through each essay. Primarily was the theme of Indian identity. Carson aptly argues that the Indian Removal Act segregated Southern Indians from whites as the federal government removed them West into Indian Territory. I believe Carson established the Southern Indians had an identity to place prior to the removal; thus, an established Indian identity that was solidified upon their removal West. In emphasizing this Indian identity prior to removal, he cites Donna Akers who showed that Indians who were forced to leave their homes in the East, suffered a separation from their homeland that “meant death” as the West was a place “where spirits unable to reach the afterworld roamed forever.” (16) While it is true that in the Southeast native societies interacted with both white and black communities, can we establish how fluid the interaction was? As for whites, there were traders, missionaries, and squatters. Blacks were involved in the trade system, and of course there were the slaves, owned and runaways. Indians left their communities / “reservations” to do business at trading posts. Still, as Akers establishes, Southern Indians identified with a place, particularly the homeland of their ancestors. This is what is significant in Malinda Maynor’s article – identity to place for the Croatans. She asks how the Croatans maintained their Indian identity when a group of them moved to Bullock County, Georgia in 1920 to follow the turpentine industry. Like Carson, she emphasizes Indian identity through a homeplace and kinship, which could be related to ancestors. Maynor establishes that the Croatans, once in Bulloch County, embraced racial segregation to maintain their Indian identity away from their homeland. They established their own church, cemetery, and school. In addition, they relied on their Robeson County connections to reinforce their Indian identity by maintaining strong bonds with their family and home. How many of us, whether Indian or non-Indian, continue this tradition? Not to self-segregate. But when we move away from our family community, we stay in touch to reinforce those ties. Even as a twenty-first century native who lives away from my homeland, I find myself calling home often to reconnect saying, “What’s going on on the rez?” Meaning, tell me what everyone is doing. Tell me all the politics. As Native Americans have moved from their homeland over the years, voluntarily or involuntarily, they have learned to adapt and maintain their Indian identity, which as Carson emphasized speaks of their endurance and survival.