White Buffalo Calf Birth Amid Wildfires

White Buffalo Royal Gorge 2013Amid the wildfires in Colorado this year, a sign of hope has emerged.  A white buffalo calf has been born near Colorado Springs in the Royal Gorge Park to a mother that had been very stressed by the fires and smoke.  Click on the link for the Fox News full story.


Here’s another article with 5 photos of the calf, Smoky and Mom, Brownie.  Turns out that Smoky’s Dad, Chief Silver Bullet, is white and about 25% of his offspring are white as well.


If you’d like to know more about the White Buffalo Prophecy and why it’s important to Native people, then click here.

Posted in White Buffalo | Leave a comment

The War of 1812’s Forgotten Warriors

In the heat of the battles of the War of 1812, Native warriors were sometimes critically important.  They were all but forgotten later.

battle of queenston heights

Battle of Queenston Heights drawing by eyewitness James Dennis depicts the unsuccessful American landing on 13 October 1812. The village of Queenston is in the right foreground, with Queenston Heights behind. Lewiston is in the left foreground.

An article today in the Toronto Star provides the information below and some additional detail.

At the Battle of Queenston Heights, in particular, John Norton, John Brant and about 80 Six Nations warriors distinguished themselves by holding back the overwhelming American advance until reinforcements could arrive. Their invaluable efforts offer one of the many lesser-known tales of the war. The traditional historical narrative of the battle heavily privileged the courage of Brock and the swift leadership of his replacement Roger Sheaffe, rendering the story of the Six Nations, who battled a force more than 10 times their size for several hours, a footnote.

Using their knowledge of the forest and their superior marksmanship, the overmatched Six Nations warriors scaled the heights under cover, avoiding the treacherous rise where a charging Brock had fallen. While Brock had faced the invaders head on, exposing himself to sharpshooters, Norton led his troops around the battlefield to come upon the Americans from the southwest.

Taking the Americans by surprise, the warriors used the cover of gunsmoke to obscure their numbers and their war cries to strike fear in the hearts of the Americans, preventing them from advancing to take the town of Queenston. Hundreds more troops waited to cross the river from the American side, but the sounds of battle made them fear the Six Nations forces had overrun their compatriots. Fearing for their lives, the American reinforcements refused to cross the river, and the remaining troops were defeated when additional British support arrived.

Like many who served, John Brant was emboldened and embittered by his experiences and became a community leader after the conflict. The 18-year-old son of Mohawk leader Joseph Brant who fought for the British in the Revolutionary War, he would later fight for the Six Nations as a politician in the legislative assembly, the first aboriginal person to do so. John Norton, of mixed Cherokee and Scots origins, was adopted into the Six Nations community as a chief before the war and left a written diary known for its objectivity and detail. Other warriors at the battle would go on to community service as well. John Smoke Johnson became a Mohawk chief who was tasked with keeping and interpreting the community’s wampum belts.

Posted in Military, Mohawk | 1 Comment

Las Castas – Spanish Racial Classifications


Las castas” – Painting containing complete set of 16 casta combinations. An 18th century socio-racial classification system used in the Spanish American colonies.

The European conquest of Latin America beginning in the late 15th century, was initially executed by male soldiers and sailors from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). The new soldier-settlers fathered children with Amerindian women and later with African slaves. These mixed-race children were generally identified by the Spanish colonist and Portuguese colonist as “Castas”.

The subsequent North American fur trade during the 16th century brought many more European men, from France and Great Britain, who took North Amerindian women as wives. Their children became known as “Métis” or “Bois-Brûlés” by the French colonist and “mixed-bloods”, “half-breeds” or “country-born” by the English colonist and Scottish colonist.

Casta is an Iberian word (existing in Spanish, Portuguese and other Iberian languages since the Middle Ages), meaning “lineage”, “breed” or “race.” It is derived from the older Latin word castus, “chaste,” implying that the lineage has been kept pure. Casta gave rise to the English word caste during the Early Modern Period.

The term Castas was a Spanish and Portuguese term used in 17th and 18th centuries mainly in Spanish America to describe as a whole the mixed-race people which appeared in the post-Conquest period. A parallel system of categorization based on the degree of acculturation to Hispanic culture, which distinguished between gente de razón (Hispanics) and gente sin razón (non-acculturated natives), concurrently existed and worked together with the idea of casta.

The system of castas, or genizaros was inspired by the assumption that the character and quality of people varied according to their birth, color, race and origin of ethnic types. The system of castas was more than socio-racial classification. It impacted every aspect of life, including economics and taxation. Both the Spanish colonial state and the Church expected more tax and tribute payments from those of lower socio-racial categories.  Even baptismal records includes your designation.

This complex caste system was used for social control and also determined a person’s importance in society. There were four main categories of race: (1) Peninsular, a Spaniard born in Spain; (2) Criollo (feminine, criolla), a person of Spanish descent born in the New World; (3) Indio (fem. india), a person who is descendent of the original inhabitants of the Americas; and (4) Negro (fem. negra) – a person of black African descent, usually a slave or their free descendants.

General racial groupings had their own set of privileges and restrictions, both legal and customary. So, for example, only Spaniards and Amerindians, who were deemed to be the original societies of the Spanish dominions, had recognized aristocracies. Also, in America and other overseas possessions, all Spaniards, regardless of their family’s class background in Europe, came to consider themselves equal to the Peninsular hidalgía and expected to be treated as such. Access to these privileges and even a person’s perceived and accepted racial classification, however, were also determined by that person’s socioeconomic standing in society.

Persons of mixed race were collectively referred to as “castas”. Long lists of different terms, used to identify types of people with specific racial or ethnic heritages, were developed by the late 17th century. By the end of the colonial period in 1821, over one hundred categories of possible variations of mixture existed.  I’m guessing that no one could keep up with them.

The terms for the more complex racial mixtures tended to vary in meaning and use and from region to region. (For example, different sets of casta paintings will give a different set of terms and interpretations of their meaning.) For the most part, only the first few terms in the lists were used in documents and everyday life, the general descending order of precedence being:

  • Españoles (Spanish)

These were persons of Spanish descent. People of other European descent who had settled in Spanish America and adapted to Hispanic culture would have also been considered Españoles. Also, as noted above, and below under “Mestizos” and “Castizos,” many persons with some Amerindian ancestry were considered Españoles. Españoles were one of the three original “races,” the other two being Amerindians and Blacks. Both immigrant and American-born Españoles generally shared the same rights and privileges, although there were a few cases in which the law differentiated between them. For example, it became customary in some municipal councils for the office of alcalde to alternate between a European and an American. Spaniards were therefore divided into 2 categories:

  1. Peninsulares (Spaniards)

Persons of Spanish descent born in Spain (i.e., from the Iberian Peninsula, hence their name). Generally, there were two groups of Peninsulares. The first group includes those that were appointed to important jobs in the government, the army and the Catholic Church by the Crown. This system was intended to perpetuate the ties of the governing elite to the Spanish crown. The theory was that an outsider should be appointed to rule over a certain society, therefore a New Spaniard would not be appointed Viceroy of New Spain. These officials usually had a long history of service to the Crown and moved around the Empire frequently. They usually did not live permanently in any one place in Latin America. The second group of Peninsulares did settle permanently in a specific region and came to associate with it. The first wave were the original settlers themselves, the Conquistadors, who essentially transformed themselves into lords of an area through their act of conquest. In the centuries after the Conquest, more Peninsulares continued to emigrate under different circumstances, usually for commercial reasons. Some even came as indentured servants to established Criollo families. Therefore, there were Peninsulares of all socioeconomic classes in America. Once they settled, they tended to form families, so Peninsulares and Criollos were united and divided by family ties and tensions.

2.  Criollos (Spanish Americans)

A Spanish term meaning “native born and raised,” criollo historically was applied to both white and black non-indigenous persons born in the Americas. In the contemporary historical literature, the term usually means only people who in theory were of full direct Spanish ancestry, born in the Americas. In reality white Criollos could also have some native ancestry, but this would be disregarded for families who had maintained a certain status. As the second- or third-generation of Spanish families, some Criollos owned mines, ranches, or haciendas. Many of these were extremely wealthy and belonged to the high nobility of the Spanish Empire. Still, most were simply part of what could be termed the petite bourgeoisie or even outright poor. As life-long residents of America, they, like all other residents of these areas, often participated in contraband, since the traditional monopolies of Seville, and later Cádiz, could not supply all their trade needs. (They were more than occasionally aided by royal officials turning a blind eye to this activity). Criollos tended to be appointed to the lower-level government jobs—they had sizable representation in the municipal councils—and with the sale of offices that began in the late 16th century, they gained access to the high-level posts, such as judges on the regional audiencias. The 19th-century wars of independence are often cast, then and now, as a struggle between Peninsulares and Criollos, but both groups can be found on both sides of the wars.

  • Indios (Amerindians)

The original inhabitants of the Americas and considered to be one of the three “pure races” in Spanish America, the law treated them as minors, and as such were to be protected by royal officials, but in reality were often abused by the local elites. After the initial conquest, the elites of the Inca, Aztec and other Amerindian states were assimilated into the Spanish nobility through intermarriage. The regional Native nobility, where it existed, was recognized and redefined along European standards by the Spanish and had to deal with the difficulty of existing in a colonial society, but it remained in place until independence. Amerindians could belong to any economic class depending on their personal wealth.

  • Mestizos (Amerindian and Spanish mix)

Persons with one Spanish parent and one Amerindian parent. The term was originally associated with illegitimacy because in the generations after the Conquest, mixed-race children born in wedlock were assigned either a simple Amerindian or Spanish identity, depending with which culture they were raised. The number of official Mestizos rises in censuses only after the second half of the 17th century, when a sizable and stable community of mixed-race people with no claims on being either Amerindian or Spanish appeared.

  • Castizos (Spanish with some Amerindian mix)

One of the many terms, like the ones below, used to describe people with varying degrees of racial mixture. In this case Castizos were people with one Mestizo parent and one Spanish parent. The children of a Castizo and a Spaniard, or a Castizo himself or herself, were often classified and accepted as a Criollo Spaniard.

  • Cholos (Amerindian with some Spanish mix)

Persons with one Amerindian parent and one Mestizo parent.

  • Pardos (Spanish, African, and Amerindian Mix)

Persons who is the product of the mixing over the generations of the white Spanish, Black African, and Amerindians. This mix may come about from a white Spaniard mating with a Zambo, a Mulatto mating with Mestizo, or a Black African mating with a Mestizo.

  • Mulattos (African and Spanish mix)

Persons of the first generation of a Spanish and Black/African ancestry. If they were born into slavery (that is their mother was a slave), they would be slaves, unless freed by their master or were manumitted. In popular parlance, mulatto could also denote an individual of mixed African and Native American ancestry. Further terms to describe other degrees of mixture included, among many others, Morisco, (not to be confused with the peninsular Morisco, from which the term was obviously borrowed) a person of Mulatto and Spanish parents, i.e., a quadroon, and Albino (derived from albino), a person of Morisco and Spanish parents, i.e., an octoroon.

  • Zambos (Amerindian and African mix)

Persons who were of mixed Amerindian and Black ancestry. As with Mulattos, many other terms existed to describe the degree of mixture. These included Chino and Lobo. Chino usually described someone as having Mulatto and Amerindian parents. The word chino derives from the Spanish word cochino, meaning “pig”, and the phrase pelo chino, meaning “curly hair”, is a reference to the casta known as chino that possessed curly hair. (Since there was some immigration from the Spanish East Indies during the colonial period, chino is often confused, even by contemporary historians, as a word for Asian peoples, which is the primary meaning of the word, but not usually in the context of the castas. Chino or china is still used in many Latin American countries as a term of endearment for a light-skinned person of African ancestry. Lobo could describe a person of Black and Amerindian parents (and therefore, a synonym for Zambo), as in the image gallery below, or someone of Amerindian and Torna atrás parents.

  • Negros (Africans)

With Spaniards and Amerindians, this was the third original “race” in this paradigm, but low on the social scale because of their association with slavery. These were people of full Sub-Saharan African descent. Many, especially among the first generation, were slaves, but there were sizable free-Black communities. Distinction was made between Blacks born in Africa (negros bozales) and therefore possibly less acculturated, Blacks born in the Iberian Peninsula (Black Ladinos), and Blacks born in the Indies, these sometimes referred to as negros criollos. Their low social status was enforced legally. They were prohibited by law from many positions, such as entering the priesthood, and their testimony in court was valued less than others. But they could join militias created especially for them. In contrast with the binary “one-drop rule”, which evolved in the late-19th-century United States, people of mixed-Black ancestry were recognized as multiple separate groups, as noted above.

Other fanciful terms existed, such as a torna atrás (literally, “turns back”) and tente en el aire (“hold-yourself-in-midair”) in New Spain or a requinterón in Peru, which implied that a child of only one-sixteenth Black ancestry is born looking Black to seemingly white parents. These terms were rarely used in legal documents and existed mostly in the New Spanish phenomenon of Casta paintings (pinturas de castas), which showed possible mixtures down to several generations.

The overall themes that emerge in these categories and paintings are the “supremacy of the Spaniards,” the possibility that Indians could become Spaniards through miscegenation with Spaniards and the “regression to an earlier moment of racial development” that mixing with Blacks would cause to Spaniards. These series generally depict the descendants of Indians becoming Spanish after three generations of intermarriage with Spaniards (usually the, “De español y castiza, español” painting). In contrast, mixtures with Blacks, both by Indians and Spaniards, led to a bewildering number of combinations, with “fanciful terms” to describe them. Instead of leading to a new racial type or equilibrium, they led to apparent disorder. Terms such as the above-mentioned tente en el aire and no te entiendo (“I don’t understand you”)—and others based on terms used for animals: mulato (mule) and lobo (wolf), chino (derived from cochino meaning “pig”)—reflect the fear and mistrust that Spanish officials, society and those who commissioned these paintings saw these new racial types.

Different paintings depicted different combinations.  In general, the Spanish-Indian combinations were in agreement between them, but the categories for black admixture are quite different.

Posted in Mexico, Spanish, West Indies | 4 Comments

Kissiah Petitions to Become a Slave

Why would anyone want to be a slave?  When I first saw a court proceeding where a free person of color was petitioning to become a slave, I figured it must be:

  1. An anomaly and/or
  2. Because maybe their spouse was a slave at that plantation

But then, I saw more, and more, and more of these petitions….and I had to ask myself why.

Lisa Y. Henderson on her blog, Fourth Generation Inclusive, has posted several of these.  I’ve also seen several others, in Virginia, North Carolina and even in Hawkins County, Tennessee, an area where slavery was not prevalent.  Why?  Why would anyone want to be a slave?  Most people of color struggled to become and longed to be free, manumitted, emancipated, something….anything….to own your own body and the product of your work.  It seemed to be the Holy Grail, so often unattainable, so why would someone who has that willingly seek to give it up?

The answer lies in a recent posting that Lisa retrieved from the North Carolina archives and is echoed in other similar records.

From Pasquotank County, in 1861, Kessiah Trueblood petitioned the North Carolina General Assembly to become a slave.

“The petition of Kissiah Trueblood most respectfully showeth unto your Honorable body, That she is a free woman of color now a resident of State and County aforesaid, and has been during her life, being at this time about 23 years of age; that during minority she was Apprentised to the late William Charles and served her time faithfully with him, since his death she has exercised the privilege of a free woman of color, being borned of free parents. For the space of two years just passed, she has lived with one Dr. W.P. Ritter in the capacity of a servant, receiving wages for services rendered.  Your Petitioner further showeth unto your Honorable body, that after mature deliberation, upon her part, uninfluenced by any person, it being her own free will and accord, she desires to become the slave of the said Dr. Ritter, believing as she truly does after past experienced, that her condition in this life, will be for better, then, than at the present time. That in her present condition she is destitute and without protection, and in the condition of a slave, she would be cared for and have the protection of her Master, and to that end she prays your Honorable body, to enact such laws so as to enable said Dr. Ritter, to hold and possess your petitioner, in fee simple as his slave for all time to come, bothe your petitioner and children should she have any; governed only by such laws as have been enacted to regulate and govern the relations between Master and Slave. And your petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray.  Kissiah X Youngbood”

Perhaps fortunately for Kissiah, her slavery would only last for 4 years, until the end of the Civil War, when she once again would have to provide for herself, along with thousands of other newly freed slaves.  One has to wonder if she really thought things through.  Why was she willing to trade her freedom for an uncertain future outside of her control?  Did she realize what might well be in store for her, or was she simply hungry, tired and lonely – wanting to be part of a community with regular food and clothing, even if it was in slavery?

This next posting, also on Lisa’s blog tells the other side of the story, about why one would not want to be a slave. It doesn’t tell it directly, but the story and the “normalcy” it suggests is enough to make anyone cringe at the thought of the relinquishment of personal freedom, your children taken from you, bought and sold as commodities and then, when you are aged, being freed simply so you didn’t have to be fed, left to starve at the mercy of whom???

“To the Worshipfull Court of Pleas & Quarter sessions to be Held in Hertford on the Second Monday in Febry 1777. I Thomas Newby of the County of Perquimans and State of North Carolina Humbly prayeth that Your Worships Will take this my petition into Consideration & Grant the Said petition. — (to wit.) The Liberateing of A Certain Negro Woman belonging to me Your Humble petitioner by the name of Hannah, for this my Reasons. In the first place, She being grown ould, And Can be Very little Service to me as to any Hard Work or Drudgery. She being an Excellent Midwife Called on Every Land turn to Both White Women & Black and from account has performed her Duty With as much Scill as any of that profession Moreover She being A peaceable Negro Woman haveing Lived in this place for the Space of forty Years with one Certain Husband & Raised a Number of Children Which are at present Divided amongst the Heirs to whom they fell. And I your Humble petitioner from being Satisfyed and Contented With the Services Which I have rec’d from her the sd. Hannah, Humbly I prayeth that your Worships may take in Consideration & Set the Sd. Negro free by your order & further your Petitioner prayeth not.   /s/ Thomas Newby”

Fortunately, the commissioners rejected Newby’s request, but it certainly begs the question about what kind of life Hannah had from that point forward.  Her children were parted out, living among “the heirs,” her family gone except perhaps her husband.  The only saving grace of this is the implication that the family had not been split by sale during that 40 years where they could never find each other or have contact again.

If you’re asking yourself what this has to do with Native Americans, remember that the Native people were enslaved before Africans were even introduced in Jamestown.  Indians were captured by other Native people and sold into slavery, a commodity that the Europeans coveted.  Many Native people entered the slave population throughout the 1600s and 1700s, where they were no longer Native, only people of color, mulattoes, and after a generation or so, simply slaves like the rest.  Some retained the history of their Native ancestry, but many did not.  A slave was a slave and it made no difference whether you were African, Native American or even part white.  You inherited the status of your mother, and once a slave, always a slave, unless you were freed, manumitted or emancipated, or bought your own freedom – that is – unless someone captured you and resold you into slavery.  And then there were the pathetic souls who asked to be rebound into slavery so that they simply could eat.  Slaves were often better cared for by their owners, being an investment, than free people of color could care for themselves.   Maybe the devil they knew was better than the devil they didn’t.

Posted in Slaves | 2 Comments

Thomas Asylum for Orphan and Destitute Indian Children

Thomas Orphan Asylum

When I was transcribing the New York Indian Census records from the 1880s, I noticed that at the end of several tribal lists was a short, separate list called “Thomas Asylum” or “Thomas Orphans” with children listed.

Indeed, the Thomas School was just that, an orphanage.  The word “asylum” in this context does not mean mental illness although I did see one reference to the word insane, but I have found no records to indicate that the Thomas School was anything other than an orphanage.

The Thomas Asylum for Orphan and Destitute Indian Children was incorporated in 1855 as a private institution receiving State aid. The asylum was located within the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in Erie County, NY and was charged to receive destitute and orphaned children from all Indian reservations in the State. It was named for Philip E. Thomas, a benefactor of New York’s Native Americans and early financial backer of the asylum.

In 1875 ownership of the asylum was transferred to the State and it was made subject to the supervision and control of the State Board of Charities. As a State institution, its purpose was to furnish resident Native American children with “care, moral training and education, and instruction in husbandry and the arts of civilization.”  Boys were trained for industrial work, and girls for domestic tasks.

To reflect its emphasis on education the asylum’s name was changed in 1905 to Thomas Indian School.

Ownership of the asylum later transferred to the state of New York , and its State Board of Charities provided oversight.   The State closed the Thomas Indian School in 1957.

Thomas Orphan Asylum photo from Access Genealogy from their topic, Education, Schools, Language and Education on the Reservations.



Posted in Education, New York, Schools | 2 Comments

Cherokee Indian Guards at the Battle of Tazewell

cumberland gap old map

During the Civil War, the battle of Tazewell, TN, took place beginning on August 2nd, 1863.  It happened outside of Tazewell, TN at the current location of the intersection of US 25E and Lone Mountain Road where it becomes Little Sycamore Road at Springdale.  This location is about 15 miles south of Cumberland Gap.  On the map above from the Civil War, Tazewell is shown at the bottom right.  On the contemporary map below, the town of Cumberland Gap (A), Tazewell (B) and Springdale (C) are shown.


A soldier in Company E, the 16th Ohio, which was taken captive had some interesting observations of his 9 days spent as a hostage.  He recorded his experiences.  Unfortunately, they are anonymous, as he never signed his name.

One of his comments gives us some perspective on the Cherokees at that time and the stereotypical outlook about Indians.

“August 8th, a large number of rebel soldiers, under arrest for various offences, were brought up from Bear Station and placed in the “bull pen” with us. They were guarded by a company of Cherokee Indians that had been enlisted from the old reservation in North Carolina. Very few of these indians were full blooded; some of them had wavy hair and the full lip of the African. Among their numbers might have been found all the grades of complexion from the bronzed face of the common soldier to the deep copper tint of the aboriginal, but all wore the listless, lazy look of the true indian.”

Posted in Cherokee, Military | Leave a comment

Betty, An Indian, A Free Woman By the Laws of Nature

Lisa Y. Henderson, on her blog, Fourth Generation Inclusive, posts this information about Negroe Dick found in Pasquotank County, NC in 1788.

The Petition of Negroe Dick at present confined in the Common Gaol of the County: — by the next friend John Smith.

Most Humbly Sheweth That your Petr. has been taken up by Sundrey Persons supposing him to have been a Slave the property of John Smith one of the people called Quakers and illegally liberated by him.

That your Petr. Is at present confined in Gaol under the acts of Assembly 1777 and 1779.

Sheweth that your Petr. Grandmother, Betty was an Indian, a free woman by the Laws of Nature.

What can we tell from this information?

First, I wanted to see if I could find any hint of Negroe Dick in the 1790 census.  I browsed the entire Perquimans County 1790 census, and there are only five free families of color, four by the surname Overton and one by the surname Ashburn, and none of them having a first name of Dick or Richard.

There are several families that are white that include some free people of color.  Of course, there is no way to know who those people are.  Many of these families also include slaves, so they could be “free” wives or husbands.

An interesting aspect of this record is John Smith, the “next friend” of Negroe Dick.  John Smith is further identified as being a Quaker.  The Quakers were known to oppose slavery.  They often purchased slaves.  They freed them until that became illegal, and after that, the Quakers still “owned” their slaves, but treated them as free.  That indeed maybe what was going on with Negroe Dick and why he was “taken up” and presumed to be a runaway.  He was simply acting “too free.”  John Smith in Pasquotank County does in fact own slaves, but a John Smith, Jr. does not.

The Quakers first arrived in Perquimans County in 1672.  Of course, we don’t know if John Smith was a Quaker before arriving n Perquimans, became a Quaker after the Meeting House was established there, or if John brought Negroe Dick with him from elsewhere, probably Virginia where most of the people who settled in this part of North Carolina were from.  Research on the family of John Smith might reveal more.  Some of the Quaker families from Perquimans County moved from Nansemond and Isle of Wight  Counties in Virginia.

What else can we tell about Negroe Dick?  We know that his grandmother was an Indian, and a free woman.  We also know that this had to be his grandmother on his mother’s side, because that was how legal status, that of free or slave, was determined.  The children’s status followed that of the mother, so if Negroe Dick has the right to be free, it was because his mother did as well and someone in his maternal line had to have been free.

We don’t know how old Negroe Dick was in 1788, but let’s say he was age 30, so born about 1758.  If his mother was age 25 when she had him, and his grandmother the same age when she had his mother, his Indian grandmother would have been born about 1708.  Of course, there is a lot of room for error here.

In Perquimans County, the Yeopim Indians were the original Native tribe.  In 1661, the Indian Chief, Kilcocanen, who took the English name George Durant after his white “brother” George Durant, sold “Durant’s Neck” to European settlers.  The Yeopim didn’t just leave, they lived in Indian town and then they assimilated.  Indian Town was still mentioned and on maps as late as 1778 and 1784 and still on a map in 1808.

It’s also obvious that something inappropriate happened to the children of either Negroe Dick’s grandmother Betty, a free Indian woman, or Dick’s mother.  If Betty was free, then Dick’s mother should have been free, and Dick should have been as well.  Someplace, something went wrong.  It was very common during that time, especially if Betty or Dick’s mother had children by a black man, for those children to be either stolen and enslaved or simply enslaved, without anyone asking any questions.  The only recourse was in court of course.  This was legally available to slaves, but not necessarily practically available.  One can only imagine the bravery it would have taken for a slave to file a suit against their master and the repercussions that might well follow.  This did happen, although rarely, and we know from depositions that often slave owners would then move, or move the slave in question, to a distant location so the slave could not pursue the suit.  Sometimes you were better simply to suffer through.

We also know that Negroe Dick either knew or knew of his grandmother, so he was not entirely disconnected from his family.  This means likely that Dick’s grandmother was a ‘local Indian” and he was not the product of an Indian slave captured and sold.  Of course, the question is, “where was local?”

But sadly, that is all we know about Negroe Dick and his Indian grandmother, Betty.

I wonder if Betty has any descendants today that descend from her through all females.  If so, I wonder if they were from enslaved people, so today, would likely be found among the African American population.  Sometimes people test their DNA and find a surprise, like a Native American haplogroup.  In this case, DNA testing might be the only way that Betty’s descendants might ever know they had a Native American ancestor.  Of course, they would never know her name was Betty, nor her history.  But finding her DNA would afford them a little glimpse into the past, allowing them to connect with an unknown heritage, and making Betty just a little more real, resurrecting the only memory they can ever have of her.

Posted in North Carolina, Quakers, Slaves, Yeopim | 8 Comments