Wednesday, September 19, 2007


By Gary J. Gabehart

If you think that Louisiana was without a doubt Black and White, you're missing everything in between and may be taking a racist attitude without realizing it. What I mean is this, if Black and White is all you see, then you are likely jumping to a final conclusion of African and White without accounting for the many other nationalities in Louisiana or anywhere else.

It's just as bad to skip off down the Turkish hallway as it would be to focus on an African relation when it comes to genealogy. So you can't jump to conclusions.

If you are basing your African conclusion on the fact that your relative was a slave, guess again, slaves came in all nationalities and the fact was, many Indian slaves were used in place of Africans -- so much so, that at one point, Indian slaves out numbered Africans.

Now we haven't even scratched the surface if you are including indentured servants in your Black assumptions, as -- indentured servants came from all over. It was only a media presentation that these folks were all Black. Anyone could sign on for something in return -- it was a contract. Some signed on for the trip to the Americas and a place to live and new cloths, some even received a parcel of land or maybe a horse and freeman papers when their service expired.

Perhaps this quote from Steven Pony Hill's "Patriot Chiefs and Loyal Braves" will add to what I am saying.

"As has been discussed by many scholars, the ‘Indian’ stereotype was already prevalent among eastern whites as early as the 1850’s. The typical understanding among southern whites was that all Indians had long hair, did not speak English, and, most importantly, all lived out west. Eastern Indian descendants were known to have varying hair colors and textures, varying eye colors, and a wide range of skin complexions, even as early as the 1700’s, most probably due to intermarriage with early Spanish, French, and English traders. Most officials were at a loss when trying to categorize these people into a social structure that allowed for only two races, black and white."

So how do we account for Eastern Indians? What about the so called Five Civilized Tribes?" What about the hundreds of lesser known "Civilized Tribes?" What about the Saponi, Nasamond, Powhatan Confederacy Tribes, and the list goes on.

When it comes to the word Mulatto, bear in mind that the Spanish influence in this country considered it a mix of anything including French and Indian. The French felt the same way and the Virginia Government defined, in 1705, that the definition of Mulatto would include the offspring of an Indian and included the offspring of a Negro as Mulatto.

Down through the years, after the 1900's, the word mulatto began to socially mean the offspring of a White and a Black, a Black and an Indian or any other color combination. Still, it was never a legal thing in that sense, it was more how you were perceived in the local society and what culture you practiced.

If you were a person of color and hung out with Africans, you likely picked up those cultural traits, but -- if you hung out with other groups, you likely picked up those cultural traits as well. So Mulatto, as well as, Free People of Color, Melungeon and Redbone could also be an association thing by hanging out together or by marriage.

So being called a Mulatto depended on the place, time and language. Even then, Mulatto might not have meant what you thought it was. After all, the word did not mean you were automatically colored Green with a wart on the end of your nose.

DNA testing can give up some answers, but if the question is in your mothers family line, you won't answer the question by following your Father's line.

More later.

Gary J. Gabehart, Mishiho (Mish-eh-ho)

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