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Shifting Boundaries of Race and Ethnicity: Indian-Black Intermarriage in Southern New England, 1760-1880 by Daniel R. Mandell is an elaborate look into the lives of Indians in southern New England during the 18th century. As Mandell cultivates this insight he also relies on the “supposed” first hand accounts of people who had observed or played a part in the lives of these Indians. As he explains particular issues Mandell also incorporates tribes as specific examples. The Mashpee and Narragansett tribes serve as tribal examples throughout the article. The central focus of the article is the struggle of Indians in southern New England to maintain their families and communal ties in the face of prejudice and as the regions social and economic landscape began to shift. This struggle revolved around the intermarriage that occurred between the Indians and foreigners and strangers, which were mostly African American men. In order to keep their families and communities from dying out many Indian tribes began incorporating foreigners. As with land placed in “trust”, which is controlled by the federal government in today’s society during the 18th century Indian lands could be managed and even sold by the legislatures and guardians that the colonial governments appointed and could not be sold by the tribes without legislative permission. Either way the two issues are approached, Natives have no control over “their land” which ultimately does not make it theirs. Legal and economic discrimination separated whites from everyone else who were considered “people of color”. These people of color were then driven into the same neighborhoods, cities and jobs and this is where they often met and married.

Indians and African Americans were often brought together by their demographic, economic, legal, and social conditions. After 1730, as the number of Indian men began to decline large numbers of African men were imported as slaves. Anglo-Americans can also be considered a factor that brought blacks and Indians together because both were forced into servitude were they met. Mandell does not seem to focus on the romance and love that may have existed between blacks and Indians. Instead he concentrates on the mutual advantages. Marrying into an Indian community for blacks provided social, economic, psychological gains. Many Africans were purchased by their wives then set free so that their children would be born free. Natives generally accepted newcomers and new relations regardless of skin color. (Add something here about kinship and how it plays a part in native lifestyle). Men also gained access to his wife’s land and other resources. With time this idea would pose a problem for native communities because some African men would want to possess their own lands and resources. Some would become major contributors to detribalization as it would give them a chance to officially own these resources they have worked toward. The many conflicts throughout the article over land disputes would not ultimately be categorized as a racial issue. Many times the issue would surround the protection of tribal lands and resources against those who were considered at one time to be outsiders.  With the intermarriage of blacks and Indians occurring more and more over time, the generations to follow were of lesser Indian blood than their ancestors. This production of a mixed child did not always promote the child to follow the father’s cultures and traditions over the mothers. Although some offspring based their future on the history of one parent, the other parent’s community was not always ignored. Many children claimed ties to both sides of the family. The pressures of allotment, racial identity, white perceptions, and laws were forced upon blacks and especially Indians. Laws outside of the tribes varied greatly from those that reinforced tribal lifestyle. For instance, women were not allowed to vote or own land in European society where as African men were considered to be placed on the lowest social ladder as they could not vote in tribal issues or own tribal land. The article highlights the relationships that developed Indians and other people in New England. It emphasizes important ideas involving ethnic identity, group affiliation, sense of self, political and economic power, and how sex and procreation have influenced society and culture.

The term Mestizo denotes a racial intermixture of all kinds and this article by Gary B. Nash reflects on the idea of racial mixing in America during the early centuries. The first recorded interracial marriage in American history was that of John Rolfe and Pocahontas (Rebecca). Throughout the article Nash uses a series of examples such as that of Rolfe and Pocahontas to emphasize the idea of intermixing and how it played a part in the American lifestyle. Thomas Jefferson, president of the United States pleaded for the intermixing of whites and Indian settlements. He wanted to unite as one and become Americans through marriage and the mixing of blood. Sam Houston who took up with the Cherokees for many years and married a Cherokee wife aimed to produce an alliance between Cherokees and whites that would unite Texas and northern Mexico. Prejudice and violence denied the existence of a possible mixed-race republic in Virginia and Texas, which is seen by the policy of Cherokee extinction employed by Houston’s successor. This article also seemed to promote the idea of having an Indian wife as partaking in an exotic lifestyle. With this men seemed to in some sense exploit their wives for various reasons. Such as the case with Irish trader John Johnson who could not have done his trading business without the help of his Ojibway wife. The same goes for Michael Laframboise whose Okanogay wife established a path of trade with the Indians in Oregon Territory. Laframboise boasted about having a high-ranking wife. This made me think that the status or capabilities of his wife were more important than the connection he had with her, although the strength of the relationship was not mentioned. These fur traders and trappers were common on the frontier which was a place of cultural merging and marrying on the part of whites and Indians. Two other examples of mestizaje are given. The mixing of American Indians and African Americans as discussed in the previous article is the first example. The second example is in the history of agriculture in California’s San Joaquin and Imperial valleys. As the article continues Nash does not focus entirely on the mixing of Indians and others. The Punjabis and Mexicans constitute an outside example of interracial marriage. Nash uses the marriage of Lucy and Albert Parsons as a prime example of interracial marriages that shaped American history. Indian women became enmeshed in Spanish life and produced mixed-race children. Spanish women often married African men. In the early twentieth century, racial intermingling dropped as mixed-race people were seen as degenerate. Later, with the introduction of the melting pot the voice of mestizo America came in the form a young Anglo-saxon Randolph Bourne. Bourne argued that the melting pot was a failure as a program for Anglo-saxon cultural conversion.

While reading Personality in a White-Indian-Negro Community I couldn’t help notice the amount of negativity that Guy B. Johnson relates to the titracial issue surrounding Robeson County. Johnson opens the article with some historical information about the Indians of Robeson County (currently Lumbee) and the name changes as well as culture alterations they have undertaken. A classification of groups is given in the article in which the Lumbee people would relate to the third which consists of those which have established some degree of accommodation to the larger white and Negro worlds and are, for the present, at least, functioning as intermediate groups. Johnson comments on the theories of origin of the Lumbee people. He also goes through the history of names changes and how these names impacted the Indians of Robeson County. As the article continues Johnson talks about how the Indians of Robeson Country are classified according to their physical features. Some were light skinned and could go for white. Others were darker and these were considered to be black. Physical features such as hair color, texture, eye color varied by person.

Kinship is the ties that bond a family together. This concept is prevalent throughout the articles we have read. To think of these kinship ties reminds me of the strong kinship ties of the Lumbee people. I feel the Lumbee people have some of the strongest kinship ties in the world. Their relation of person to place (who is your people? Where you from?) is a very important aspect of the Lumbees because it is our form of communicating people’s origins, lifestyles, and places of birth?

  1. The kinship ties of the Lumbee people to me are one of the strongest ties of family bonding that I have witnessed. Kinship ties are present throughout these articles but race did not seem to play a significant part in the Mandell article. Although it may be referenced the main argument was about resources. The kinship ties of the Lumbees are strong but how did it come to the point where racism became as prominent between Lumbees and blacks as it was with blacks and whites.
    1. This question could possibly be analyzed by researching the racial ties between Lumbees, blacks, and whites, in the Lumbee historical records
  2. Marriage between Indians and other races still occurs to this day. Interracial marriage and dating is very prominent in Native society. Mandell and Nash’s articles focus on how interracial marriage played a part in altering Native lifestyle. Interracial marriage was not frowned upon by the Indians but the Lumbees in today’s society seem to frown on it a great deal. If we are considered to be a mixed race or descendants of the lost colony why does it matter if we intermarry? What are we actually preserving that we haven’t already lost?
    1. Dr. Maynor Lowerys thoughts on this topic would be a great resource to reference.
    2. Historical records of Interracial dating involving the Lumbee people would also help.

Barton, Garry Lewis. “I’m not a bad apple, folk.” Carolina Indian Voice 29 October 1998:2.

Biank, Tanya S. “Race an open issue in Robeson County.” Fayetteville Observer-Times 26 October 1996.

McKenna, Chris. “Early movie-going in a tri-racial community: Lumberton, North Carolina (1896-1940). In: Going to the movies: Hollywood and the social experience of cinema. Ed. Melvyn Stokes, Robert Allen, and Richard Maltby. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, forthcoming November 2007.

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