“The ancestors of Black Indians often created an American Sisterhood and Brotherhood we have tried to maintain under terrible circumstances and in the face of armed opposition.”
‘They Know We Have A History’
Gregory V. Boulware, Esq.
In the tradition of ‘Black History Month’ this article is derived from the latent works of Mr. William Loren Katz, author of ‘Black Indians, A Hidden Heritage.’ I have deemed his works and much valued research a treasure and inclusive if not at the forefront of the contributions submitted by this author.
As it is posted within the book, one of the longest unwritten chapters in the history of the United States is that treating of the relations of the Negroes and the Indians. “The Indians were already here when the white men came and the Negroes brought in soon after to serve as a subject race found among the Indians one of their means of escape”…stated Carter G. Woodson, Journal of Negro History, 1920 ~
“In the course of time the American People got into Florida and began to live. This of course, caused trouble. The ‘Colored People’ and the ‘Indians,’ being natives of the land, naturally went on the warpath. They fought until the American People called for peace. The Indians and the Negroes gave them peace.”…stated Joe Philips, Black Seminole, 1930 ~
“The European is to the other races of mankind what man himself is to the lower animals: he makes them subservient to his use and when he cannot subdue he destroys them.”…stated
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835 ~
Over and over again, I have come across data and written evidence to confirm the knowledge of Black Domination in many lands across the globe. European slavers have known this fact also. In fact, they knew it before many of us (generations of the 18th thru 21st century) did. The deeds of Moreish Traders have been recorded for all time for truth seekers to witness. With written and signed treaties of business and friendship, George Washington (and those during, before, and after him), has bargained and gained support from Moroccan Royalty. Photographs have been recorded and posted within many historical books and tapestries of these men collaborating at meetings and war-time locations. Some of these gatherings have been conducted within the walls of royal palaces with the European leaders as guests. The Black Elite have also traded women in these fruitful bargains. This is one of the reasons for the lightened complexions of its descendants. Many white women were bought and sold to be servants, slaves, and concubines of the Black Moroccan Men. White men probably didn’t like it much but went along to get along. They needed these warlords and their resources.
Oh yes, they knew and have always known that we have a history. That is also why it was illegal to teach a Black Man, Woman, and Child – or any person of Colour, how to read and write. If you gained knowledge of who you are, you’re likely to cause a great deal of trouble by stirring up the other darkies with the truth of their origin. They would simply lose control over the Blacks and Slaves, Negro, Spanish, Asian, or Indian. That could not, would not be allowed under any circumstance.
Brother Langston Hughes was photographed in 1938 espousing his affinity for tracing his Native American and African ancestry.
Mr. Katz wrote in his book:
Today most Black Indians do not live in the forests or on the broad plains of the United States. Most do not inhabit government reservations set aside for Native Americans any more than most Indians do. To be sure they crowd, for example, the ‘Shinnecock’ reservation on New York’s Long Island. But many more walk the crowded streets of nearby New York City. They are found in abundance in the cement caverns of Boston, Chicago, Denver, Cleveland, and Detroit.
They have made a march from farms, woods, and ranches to skyscrapers, subways, and ghettoes. Most have arrived with only a faint recollection of their adventurous rural heritage and gallant ancestors. The people they meet in school, at work, or play cannot appreciate their background because they know nothing about it.
“If you know I have a history, you will respect me,” a Black Indian Student told a conference of New York teachers in 1968. Her words still ring true. Those who assume that a people have no history worth mentioning are likely to believe they have no humanity worth defending. An historical legacy strengthens a country and its people. Denying a people’s heritage questions their legitimacy.
Citizens celebrate this country’s daring break from colonial rule, and rejoice in the plucky Minutemen who challenged the British at Lexington and Concord. But a month before those historic skirmishes on the path to freedom, other Americans were pursuing the same goal. Slaves in Ulster County, New York, planned a massive armed rising. Perhaps they had heard the exciting patriotic talk about liberty and independence. Their liberation plot involved slaves in Kingston, Hurley, Marbletown, and upwards or five hundred Native Americans. Unlike the Minutemen, their shot was not heard around the world, their bold conspiracy never found its way into our history books. These dark people in Ulster County, like thousands of others mentioned, have made their contribution to freedom and to their immediate relatives and friends. But other Black Indians made a contribution to the entire US society that deserves consideration.
On the snowy night of March 5, 1770, Crispus Attucks, a Black Natick Indian, stepped dramatically into US history in Boston. He was the first to fall in the Boston Massacre. Benson J. Lossing, a nineteenth-century historian, transformed Attucks into a Nantucket Indian. To Lossing it seemed wrong to place an African American with Native American blood at the daring first moment of American Independence.
Paul Cuffee, a Dartmouth Indian with African parentage, became a wealthy merchant and ship owner in early Massachusetts. He married Alice Pequit of his mother’s Wampanoag Nation. But his great interest was in protecting fellow African Americans from discrimination in the United States and he became the first Black Man to sponsor a migration of US Blacks to Africa. In 1815, he personally paid for and led thirty-eight settlers aboard his ship, Traveller, to Sierra Leone. Cuffee became the father of Black-Back-To-Africa movements in this country.
Frederick Douglas, a slave runaway, with mixed African Indian, and White ancestry, became the leading voice of Black America during the Civil War era and the decades that followed. His creed, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” has inspired reform and revolutionary movements ever since. Douglass’s name and accomplishments now adorn most history texts.
Langston Hughes, poet Laureate of African Americans, liked to trace his family tree back to ‘Pocahontas.’ In that tree also was a man who joined John Brown’s famous raid on Harper’s Ferry and another who became a Virginia congressman. Hughes, a prolific writer of poetry, plays, short stories, novels, autobiographies, and newspaper columns, became the proud voice of Harlem, New York’s Black Community.
In the early centuries of their life in the America’s, Black Indians often created a society that might have been a model for everyone. They demonstrated that there was another path through the wilderness that the one hacked out by a European lust for gold, land, and power. Their communities proved bigotry did not rise naturally from American soil, nor its plains and waters. Bigotry and the appetite for it was imported. They traveled the stormy Atlantic and were specifically and speedily transplanted and nourished by those who carried them over.
If they had been of a mind to, Europeans might have learned something from the dark people they selfishly used. Instead, they gathered these peoples’ precious gifts and offered promises in return. Africans and Indians followed a tradition that rarely wrote matters down, but held to verbal promises. Europeans wrote many, many things down but failed to keep to their promises of treaties.
What followed in the New World was a titanic European battle for the control of dark people and natural resources. Europe marched out its best soldiers to secure a continent and subdue its people. The result was unending conquest and agonizing slavery.
But beyond the pain were armed Black Indian Communities named “Hide Me” and “The Woods Lament For Me.” They were home for some of our earliest explorers and pioneers. Families brought up their young, constructed homes, planted and harvested crops, and took care of their elderly. They traded with neighbors, instituted religion, government, justice, and planned the common defense.
These settlements not only provided women with an equality and respect unheard of in European society, but elevated some to leadership. Two colonial Brazilian Black Indian communities were commanded by African women, and another African Maroon settlement in 1826 in Brazil was ruled by a Black Woman named Zeferina who successfully led her forces against towns and plantations in Bahia.
With few weapons these alliances in the woods challenged the footholds Europeans built in the Western Hemisphere. Using guerrilla tactics that would become famous in China and Viet Nam in our own century, Red and Black People defeated superior numbers and better equipped foreign armies. This they managed while moving their families out of harm’s way. These dark liberators often proved that European rule in the Americas amounted to a thin coat of white paint over a seething dark empire.
Before Patrick Henry shouted “Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death!” Black Indian Maroons acted on this notion. Before Thomas Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal,” Black Indians turned a stirring phrase into hard reality. Before the Declaration of Independence eloquently argued for a peoples’ revolution against unjust authority, thousands of Dark-Skinned Americans has been fighting tyrants and slave hunters on two continents.
For their audacity Black Indians faced a repression more ruthlessly cruel than any King George III imposed on the thirteen original colonies. They were forced to carry on the longest, bloodiest battle for freedom in the Western Hemisphere. Repeatedly they persuaded Europeans it was wiser to grant them independence, sovereignty, and liberty than to continue wars. European powers often learned this lesson too late, after they had wasted lives and fortunes on the idea that these free colonies could be easily destroyed.
Maroon wars outlasted the endless conflicts between rival European states. Neither side gave nor asked any quarter, and prisoners were few. For their part Maroons, even when captured and facing a terrible death, tried to protect their villagers. More than a century ago a British report from Belem, Brazil, described how a “captured Negro gave such an account of the difficulties and dangers of the journey to his settlement, that thirty-three out of the forty foreign soldiers refused to accompany their captain.”
To prevent Africans and Native Americans from uniting, Europeans played skillfully on racial differences and ethnic rivalries. They kept the pot of animosity boiling. Whites turned Indians in to slave hunters and slave owners, and Africans into “Indian Fighters.” Light-skinned Africans were pitted against Dark-skinned, Free against Enslaved, Black Indians against “Pure” Africans of “Pure” Indians.
Those who have put history into books have emphasized differences between Africans and Native Americans. For example, they have stressed that Europeans encountered Indians as distinct individuals and members of proud nations, and Africans as nameless slaves. Little mention is made of the enslavement of Native Americans and noting is said about the cultural similarities between the two dark peoples. In 1984, scholar Theda Perdue said: “By emphasizing the actual exaggerated and imagined differences between Africans and Indians, whites successfully masked the cultural similarities of the two races as well as their mutual exploitation by whites.”
In the United States, Africans became central in the exploration of the new nation, and the development of the crucial fur trade. Because they were more able to build trust among Native Americans, whites employed them as negotiators and they did not disappoint. Africans, like Native Americans cherished their own trustworthiness and saw promises and treaties as bonds never to be broken.
In the nineteenth century a Black-Indian friendship limped on despite onslaught from white racial policies destructive to both peoples. It survives still in the legends of Native American Nations, and in the stories and faces of many people of Colour.
Generations of young minds have been trained to think of life on the American frontier as a saga of white gallantry. Daring pioneers probed the wilderness. John Wayne cowboys whipped Indians to give us the USA. Children of every race rejoiced in this version of the frontier served up each Saturday afternoon at the movies.
In real wilderness two dark people met and often united. They were not driven together by any special affinity based on a similar skin color. Their meetings were unwittingly arranged by their enemies, the Europeans, who exploited them both.
But in the retelling of our western history, no one learned that Africans and Native Americans, separately and together fought bravely for an America they knew was also theirs. Perhaps their story was trampled underfoot by their hard-riding European foes.
In 1774 patriot James Madison wrote about a slave revolt:
“It is prudent such attempts should be concealed as well as suppressed.”
The Black Indian story has been treated as though it were a massive slave rebellion. Its final burial came at the hands of a later white generation who shaped a heritage for books and movies that ended all claims but European ones.
These frontier omissions lie at the heart of our cherished national myth. The tale of the wilderness stands as the greatest American story ever told. It is the way we wish to see ourselves. “A frontier people,” said President Woodrow Wilson. “Is, so far, the central and determining fact of our national history…? The West is the great word of our history. The Westerner has been the type and master of our American life.” Creators of this west did not want it sullied by an African presence of subject to Indian claims.
“The Frontier” went from gritty reality to uplifting truth and finally to national legend. In the process entire races disappeared from view. Its cast of heroic characters included only whites. If Europeans bravely conquered continents, it was not necessary or desirable to show Black and Red People defying white authority to build their own communities in the wilderness. Racial stereotypes long pictured people of color as cowardly or childlike. How could Red and Black People be shown creating a culture in the wilderness, bravely rescuing their families, and riding off into the sunset?
There is another problem in introducing a set of dark frontier heroes. Their love of liberty thrust them against some sainted US figures. Thomas Jefferson speaking of Indians said “We would never stop pursuing them with war while one remained on the face of the Earth.” Andrew Jackson, the first great democrat to reach the White House, was first in a long line of candidates to win the presidency boasting of his ‘Indian-Fighting Skill.’ He waged a cruel war against Indian Men, Women, and Children. He staunchly defended slavery and, like Jefferson, owned slaves. To save their families, Black Indians had to fight off posies’ and armies launched by these national heroes.
Distorted racial history, as teachers know, injures dark children. They live with a muted heritage. Despite Black Indian contributions to this land, neither Black nor Indian Children nor their parents have an awareness of this legacy. Like whites, Native Americans learned in school that Africans were contented slaves and had no fighting traditions, certainly none that allied them with Indians. For their part, African Americans are aware of Indians in their family trees. But they probably assume that, like the whites lurking there, they are mere intruders. Such inaccurate beliefs hide a heritage worth exploring. Further, they divide people today who could benefit from the unity forged by the ancestors.
West African Americans have pursued their genealogy, they have focused on their African roots and sought a meaningful Black Heritage. Children of the Black awareness of the 1960’s have rarely cared to mention an ‘Indian Ancestry’ because this might be seen as a denial of their African Origins and the value of Blackness. All this is part of the racial nightmare we have inherited.
With her usual perception, precision, and pride, Rosa Fey, a Black Seminole living in ‘Brackettville, Texas,’ in 1943, clarified her peoples’ background for pioneer researcher Kenneth W. Porter:
“We’s culled people. I don’t say we don’t has no Injun Blood, ‘cause we has. But we ain’t no Injuns. We’s culled people.”
Other Americans would benefit from a reexamination of their family trees and a new look at their biological inheritance. The process may yield wonder and gratification where once grief of skepticism ruled.
The ancestors of Black Indians often created – or died in the attempt. An American Sisterhood and Brotherhood we have tried to attain. They did this under terrible circumstances and in the face of armed opposition.
Had we paid proper attention to their unique model of friendship and loyalty, our common American History, from Hudson Bay to Cape Horn, might have been different, more peaceful Our racial problems might have been more easily solved. Even at this late date we owe ourselves a rereading of this fascinating legacy.
Perhaps we can still learn from and act on its lessons.
Subversive oppression have always utilized in keeping Blacks and People of Colour in check. “The Willie Lynch Letter” is a living example of what white America has always wanted for its Black citizens. The bigots have always preached divisiveness and “foot-on-the-neck tactics” in implementing that practice. Wiping out our history didn’t work because it isn’t mandated by God! ‘The Most High’ is the only one entity that truly controls the life of people and the world. They have attempted to take that away by making man-made-laws to enslave the mindset of young people and the weak minded.
Books, articles, blogs, and other forms of mass media have been contaminated to support the wishes and whims of the so-called controlling forces – “The Powers That Be.” However, to the contrary, many of us who have utilized the Internet and continued canvassing the neighborhoods, airways, schools, community meetings, barber shops and beauty parlors, college campuses, newspapers, Laundromats, restaurants, the corner store, and magazines catering to and patronized by Blacks and People of Colour will be in an excellent position to “Fight The Powers That Be!”
We will not return to the slavery or the slave mentality the oppressors have planned and wished for. We are awakened to the “Word of God, the Most High, Father of Us All.” It is ‘He’ and ‘He’ alone to whom we have to answer…
In the modest words of some of the mainstream entertainers who have brought to the table many of us who fight the good fight – “Fight The Power, Fight The Powers That Be!”
Til Next Time…
Thousands of Freedmen are still fighting for basic citizenship—from the Cherokee nation
The Black and (so-called) Red Man were in fact, kinsmen! Did you ever wonder about your buddy who told you about his or her Indian relatives…their Grandparents…their Great-Grandparents? Many of us have passed it off as believing they wanted to be identified, as other than Black – they did not want to be Black. Folks would say things like – “they ain’t Indian, they just don’t wanna be Black Folks cause they head is nappy and they wants to be like the white folks.” We’ve heard many claims to be children of the Cherokee, Seminole, or Black Feet. Many of us didn’t believe it…guess what? I’ve got news for you…we were wrong – dead wrong!
“Black Americans are not African Americans. Black Americans are a new breed or race of people that has emerged out of the ashes of slavery. Black Americans are the people that came from the breeding process between White men and the first wave of African slave women. This breeding process ended after the Civil War. By then Black Americans numbered well over 20 million people. We are neither African nor Caucasians since we numbered over 20 million by the end of the Civil War, which made us a new breed or race of people that emerged from the ashes of slavery.”
The wise men concurred, “We must face any challenges and overcome them that nature hurls at every sovereign people and country to be an independent people. Sovereignty is a tremendous responsibility but it also reaps tremendous rewards. Black Americans have never been a real people and we could never become a real people by staying invisible and behind White American people. God has begun almost 3 years ago the process of doing for us what was done for the children of Israel in Egypt that brought them out of bondage.”
Concurring with Katz, I too believe in the real wilderness where two Dark Complected People met and often united. They were not driven together by any special affinity based on Skin Colour – European enemies unwittingly arranged the meetings…exploited both. Mr. Katz and I also agree that the retelling of our (American) Western History, Africans and Native Americans, separately and together, fought bravely for an America they knew was also theirs…ours. Perhaps the story of African Americans and Native Americans was trampled underfoot by their hard-riding European foes. Sidney Poitier, Mario Van Peebles, and other great Black and Native American Actors, Producers, TV and Movie people got it right – The American and European History Books can get it right too.
These medicine men or spiritual leaders were in a different class than the other men of their tribe. This special status was not dependent on their hunting and fishing. Contact with other tribes enabled thinkers to build and expand their belief frameworks, so medicine men or spiritual leaders were more prevalent in tribes that were accessible to outsiders.
White folks in the Pocono area should be reveling in pride and joy of their diverse community and not the green of the dollar bill. All people should be reminded of who did what for the betterment of all – not the meager few who would promote superiority and separation. The forty-fourth president of these United States is, after all, the product of diversity or a racially blended culture. A golfing legend is another fine example of the common good – diversity. Barack Obama and Tiger Woods are simply two current bi-racial figures of US prominence. But, oh yes, they too face discrimination, separation, and hated by evil, envious, and villainous white folk. No one in these United States misunderstands the definition of the “One Drop Rule!”
Native Americans, New Agers, and charlatans alike have radically augmented and revised the tenets of traditional Native American religions. “Crystal skull caretakers” sit beside Native American medicine men and medicine women, shamans and priests, and “Star Beings,” rather than buffalo, are pondered. Outraged Native Americans have entered this fray, castigating those they see exploiting traditional Native American spirituality.
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