James Taylor Carson frames his article, “The Obituary of Nations’: Ethnic Cleansing, Memory, and the Origins of the Old South,” around the 1830 Indian Removal Bill. He begins by quoting Richard H. Wilde of Georgia who believed that progress requires the disappearance of peoples. Carson argues that Indians have not disappeared necessarily, but have been forgotten in southern history. He goes on to say, however, that “what has been forgotten has shaped history as much as what has been remembered.”
Carson calls American Indian policy “ethnic cleansing,” a term he uses to note that Indians have not been given a place in contemporary Indian society. Like many of the other articles we have read, he describes American society as biracial. In fact, he cites the 1840 Census that did not give Indians a category, only white and black. In this biracial society, he argues, Indians would be fixed in a middle status and would ultimately sink to the status given to black men of the time.
Carson describes Andrew Jackson’s Indian policy in his article. Jackson, and many others, was a proponent of state control over Indian nations because if the federal government was given control over Indian policy then they could easily say that black people were no longer slaves. In his article, Carson gives an estimate that 1/3 Choctaws and ¼ Cherokee died on the Trail of Tears during the Jackson administration. As a result of the removal, American society began to view the Indian in terms of a dying race. Writers characterized Indians as archetypes—doomed and “out of time and place.” This perception of the “inevitable fate of the Indian” persisted even until the late 1980’s (and still does today) when people still saw removal as a final victory over Indians.
Carson combats this idea by saying that colonists did not conquer a savage land, but instead destroyed a community of people that they perceived to be savage. He concludes his article by saying that Indians are neighbors. In the end, his article is an act to humanize Indians—to make them people instead of merely parts of the wildlife. Regardless of their otherness, he says, it would have been hard to differentiate Indian life from the life of others on the frontier. Carson wants Indians to be considered a part of Southern history because Indians were the first southerners. He argues that this fact is forgotten and overshadowed by a commitment in American culture to racial identity.
In Malinda Maynor’s “People and Place,” she explains how Indians used place and manipulated racism to maintain a distinct Indian identity. She uses the example of the Croatan Indians (now Lumbee) who moved from Robeson County in the 1890’s to Georgia to follow the terpentine trade to show the value of place for the Lumbee. Much like in Carson’s article, Georgia wanted to force Indians into a black or white identity. When their vote was taken away in 1835, whites began viewing Indians as inferior, not as Indian but as “nonwhite.” Scholars believed that Lumbees claimed to be Indian to not be recognized as black. Maynor, however, argues that “racial ancestry is not intrinsic to identity.” She recognizes that the Lumbee are a conglomerate of Indian tribes who associate identity with kinship rather than blood. In fact, according to Maynor, Indian identity was not an issue until the removal era when whites needed a means to feel justified in expansion.
In her article, Maynor claims that Indians, too, used racism for their own agenda. She believes that segregation was a way for Indians to maintain identity through Indian-only schooling and churches. Marriage was primarily between two Indians, arguably to retain ties to Indian identity. Although Indians in Georgia were not in Robeson County, place remained an important part of Lumbee identity, which can be seen by their eventual return in 1920.
Maynor disagrees that Lumbees are not a distinct racial classification. Employment trends and gender roles were different for Indians than white and black people of the same time in the same area. Maynor argues that racial classification fluctuated with economic and social status, such that when the terpentine trade migrated (taking many black workers with it and leaving Indians to the marketing industry), Indians were viewed as distinctly “Indian,” whereas before they had been “nonwhites.”
This week’s articles raised questions for me about the desegregation of Indian-only schools and the impact it had on Indian identity.
Christopher Arris Oakley. “”When Carolina Indians Went on the Warpath”: The Media, the Klan, and the Lumbees of North Carolina.” Southern Cultures 14.4 (2008): 55-84. Project MUSE. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 18 Nov. 2009 <http://muse.jhu.edu.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/>.
Jones, James Arthur. and Maynor, Malinda M. “What is Progress?: Desegregating an Indian School in Robeson County, North Carolina.” Southern Cultures 10.2 (2004): 87-93. Project MUSE. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 18 Nov. 2009 <http://muse.jhu.edu.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/>.
Malinda Maynor Lowery. “Indians, Southerners, and Americans: Race, Tribe, and Nation during “Jim Crow”.” Native South 2 (2009): 1-22. Project MUSE. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 5 Feb. 2010 <http://muse.jhu.edu.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/>.
Maynor’s article also shows women as the backbone of maintaining an Indian identity. Given that Walker and I are considering exploring the impact of the eugenics movement, I found an article: Ralstin-Lewis, D. Marie. “The Continuing Struggle against Genocide: Indigenous Women’s Reproductive Rights.” Wicazo Sa Review 20.1 (2005): 71-95. Project MUSE. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 18 Nov. 2009 <http://muse.jhu.edu.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/>. The article does not explicitly mention Lumbees but does mention other indigenous tribes.