Sunday, May 12, 2013

Carlson VI -- They weren't Portuguese

Carlson 6 -- Origin of the word 'Malungeon'.
There is a lot of noise and confusion out there about the origins of the “Melungeon” families. As Carlson so skillfully demonstrated, they can be DIECTLY taken back to Fort Christanna, and a settlement of the Saponi Indians, who were made up of the remnants of many bands of the Eastern Siouan peoples.
Carlson has a great deal to say on these topics (p-7-8), starting with; Looking for remnant groups of historical tribal populations, the few early ethnogrophers and other professional researchers aware of the Greasy Rock (Hancock County, Tennessee), Stone Mountain (Scott County, Virginia), and Salyerrsville (Magoffin County, Kentucky) Indian populations concurred, in part, with the people’s own explanations by defining them originally as ‘wasted tribes’ and refugee Indian families. But true to the thinking of the times, these observers held assumptions about the nature of social and cultural assimilation that led them to conclude the people’s still distinct and asserted ‘Indianness’ would soon disappear.
Of the term Melungeon, Carlson says; “No confirmed etymplogy of this regionally specific label has been developed., but most contend the word stems from the French ‘melange, meaning ‘mixing’.
To be exact, the French verb ‘melanger’ means ‘to mix’. First person plural of this French verb meaning “we mix” and is still in use today in the French language, is ‘malungeon’. If you have read these little reports I have made by transcribing bits hither and yon of Carlson, you will know that we have shown a French Huguenot minister visited the Fort Christanna Saponi and associated bands early in the second decade of the 18th century on at least one occasion, and he also visited some of the Indians, it could have been the same Christanna Indians, later in that century. In fact there were thousands of French Huguenot refugees from European persecution during that time frame, in the Carolinas and Virginia. This region of the country is also the origin of the Melungeon families.
A scientific principle known as ‘Occam’s Razor’ (paraphrasing it) states that if there are two or more explanations for a single event, choose the simplest. There are other theories. Some say if is Arabic or Turkish in origin, others it is from the Congo or Mozambique. These are all tantalizing and intriguing – but the simplest explanation is the French origin, which is an EXACT MATCH, letter for letter.
Now that we have the origin of the name, what is the origin of the people? What does Carlson say (p. 8)? “. . . by 1840 the Indians considered this label pejorative, and did not use it to identify themselves. Primarily as a result of a few particularly influential publications that emerged from 1889 to 1891, the imposed Melungeon label is used in attempts to explain ‘Melungeon origins.’ These explanations are based on various conjectural histories supported by popular myths and legends regarding, in part, shipwrecked Phoenician sailors, the lost colony of Roanoke, Turkish mercenaries, the Welsh Chief Modoc, Pardo’s lost soldiers, and/or the lost tribe of Israel, all of whom were said to have ‘took up’ with Indian women to form the contemporary Melungeon population. These theories segregate ‘Melungeon’ Identity from Indian identity, and instead hold the Stone Mountain, Greasy Rock, and Salyersville Indian populations to be representative of many mislabeled ‘marginal groups’, or ‘racial isolates’, or ‘racial enclaves’ scattered throughout the American Southeast. . . . Categories such as these are used to help explain away the persistence of people’s Indian identity claims.”
Carlson says all these ideas are flawed and he provides three reasons, the most important of which, in my opinion – my opinion and a buck and a half will buy you a cup of coffee – is the third; ‘lack of historic and ethnographic data needed to support their suppositions regarding the very nature of identity itself; that is, identities are socially constructed and culturally reinforced.’ In other words, there are no documented historical records that can cite a progression of events that show a distinct, continuous, group of related people migrating from Europe or elsewhere, to the Southern Appalachians, for which the label “Melungeon” has been given them.
On page 21 Carlson starts to address the ‘Portuguese’ question. He says; Most modern professional writers still accept the premise, generated in the 1800s, that Melungeon history and heritage – biological and social – is forever lost to contemporary researchers. Such outsiders have thus downplayed the peoples own assertion of being Indians in favor of emphasizing the possibilities of White, Black, Portuguese, Phoenician, Jewish, Moorish, Turkish, and/or Lost Colony ancestry among them . . . in a 1947 Saturday Evening Post article focusing on the Greasy Rock population . . .the author wrote “were his ancestors Welsh warriors, Phoenicians, or survivors of Roanoke?” . . .[he] says he’s 75 years old, and an Indian. [39]
Carlson doesn’t mention the Portuguese connection again for some time. On page 60 he states; One month later [note, he had been speaking of the early Spring of 1716], the Governor [Spotswood] paid another visit to Fort Christanna] with a clergyman named Rev. John Fontaine. I only mention this because of something Fontaine later says. Fontaine was a French Huguenot, showing an early connection between the future “Melungeon” peoples and the French language. More on Fontaine later.
On page 80 we have Byrd From the Spring to the Fall of 1728 he journeyed through some Indian settlements, to survey the land on the North Carolina/Virginia border. He wrote a journal of his travels. One entry was about the possibility of mixed-blood (Caucasian/American Indian/Moorish) marriages, saying; “If a Moor may be washed White in three generations, surely an Indian might have been bleached White in two.” Remember the Moors lived in Portugal and Spain for 800 years. [189]
On page 81 Carlson talks of both Byrd and Fontaine, saying; “Byrd also brought Rev. Fontaine on the survey. [195]
On page 124 we finally have the reason I have mentioned Rev. Fontaine. Carlson says; “. . . Reverend Fontaine, who had visited Fort Christanna and travelled with Byrd and Ned Bearskin decades before . . . In a letter dated March 30, 1757, remarked that the colonists ‘ought to have intermarried with the Indians more frequently . . .he also noted his concern with physical appearance by claiming that by promoting such marriages the offspring would result in Indian children as white at birth as a Portuguese or a Spaniard. [322] As far as I can tell, this is the earliest documentation mentioning a Portuguese looking offspring of and Indian and a White man. And this record was mentioned by man born in France, who knew the French language as it was his first language. He would have known the meaning of “Malungeon” very well.
Carlson doesn’t discuss the stories of Portuguese Melungeons again until much later.
Carlson's Chapter Ten
In chapter 10 Carlson finally gets back to story of the origin of the mane “Melungeon”. Carlson starts the chapter (p. 371-376); “For nearly twenty years prior to the U. S. Court of Claims event described in the previous chapter, regional and national presses . . . had taken an interest in the Salyersville Indians relatives down in northeast Tennessee, the greasy Rock Indians. Recall the Greasy Rock Indians particularly had been occasionally labeled “Malungins”. Since at least the early 1800s. Up until the end of the 19th century, such references were few and far between. However all that would change in the late 1880s when a few professional academics , journalists, and other curious onlookers began loosely throwing the label around . . . Because this early printed dialogue would also directly and indirectly implicate the Salyersville Indian population, and because these dialogues remain so influential to outsiders’ perceptions . . . it is necessary to elaborate mor on this early popular and professional literature.” [983]
He speaks of the writings of a man named Dr. Swan Burnett. He spoke at the American Anthropological Society in February of 1889. His paper was entitled “A Note on the Malungeons”. Note the spelling back the was EXACTLY the spelling of the French verb meaning “we mix”. In fact he states the word Malungeon came from the French.
Carlson says of Burnett; “Burnett said to the Society that some whites gave credence to the claim of them being a distinct race, a few inclining to the Portuguese theory, some thinking they entered the United States as Portuguese or Gypsies and afterward some have intermingled with Negroes, Indians, or both. [991]
“. . . Burnett admitted he had never been among the greasy Rock Indian Community . . . [994]
“. . . without any firsthand information and witout giving any sources for his assertion, Burnett claimed that those he called Malungeons “did not clam to belong to any tribe of Indians in that part of the country, but they proudly call themselves Portuguese. . . [997]
“Burnett’s writings stand in stark contrast to the picture of the greasy Rock Indians presented here in previous chapters. . . .” [999]
“Soon after his presentation at the society’s conference . . . Burnett informed the society that he had obtained some ‘new facts’ . . . from North Carolina State Senator Hamilton McMillan.” [1000] Apparently some mixed-Indian group in Eastern North Carolina, along the Pee Dee and Lumber Rivers, were said to be called Malungeons, as well. [1004]
Carlson adds (p. 376) Interestingly,despite the gross errors and assumptions Burnett and McMillan forwarded . . . documents cited by Gerald Sider in Lumbee Indian Histories in 1993 lends some credence to the possibiltyof some sort of connection between the two Indian populations.
The year after Burnett’s presentation, Carlson says (p. 377); an urban socialite from Nashville would take it upon herself to make a ‘field trip’to the Greasy Rock Indian community to learn more about ‘malungeons’.The result would be a series of articles that a Ms. Will Allen Drmgoole would write and publish in the Nashville Daily American and the literary journal The Arena. . . .  [1007] The contents of the articles were a mixture of fact and fantacy, but became, arguably, the most influential publications impacting outsider’s perception not only of the Greasy Rock Indians, but also of the Salyorsville and Stone Mountain Indian populations throughout the following century. [1008] Many for instance, take for granted her claim that‘… so much, or so little, can we glean from the records. From history we get nothing; not so much as the name ‘melungeon’.
Carlson continues (p. 378) of Dromgoole; “The first of Dromgoole’s articles asserted and accepted the people’s claim of Indian identity. Her impression was then that ‘. . . in appearance they bear a striking resemblance to the Cherokees., and they are believed by the people (around them) to be a kind of half-breed Indian. . . . but by the last of her series of articles she had shifted her opinion in favor of the claim that they were of ‘ a mixed origin of Cherokee and Portuguese.’
“. . . Not accustomed to rural, et alone mountain life, Dromgroole’s descriptions were of course filtered through the lens of her particular elite urban life. . . . Their homes were, to her, miserable hovels . . .”
Oh this is interesting. On P. 380 Carlson says of Dromgoole; “Dromgoole even claimed to enter the cabin of one charmer. . . . this woman claimed to be able to remove warts . . .” I recall Dad’s story of his grandma removing his warts. But this is a story for another day.
Back to Carlson and Dromgoole. He says Dromgoole emphacized the exotic elements. She claimed the men were slow and lazy. He says Dromgoole falied to mention that some of the local Indians were economically better off than some of their White neighbors. He continues “It is little wonder that both Indians and non-Indian of Hancock County came to resent such unfounded commentaries.”
P. 381, Carlson says; “Together, Dromgoole and Burnett . . . would do more damage to the reputations of the . . . Indian populations than anything before or since.” On p. 382 Carlson speaks of ‘resentment among the Greasy Rock Indians regarding Dromgoole’s work. He continues, “Considering all the errors and biases evident in Dromgoole’s writing, and the fact that she was just in the community for only a few days at most, one must question Dromgroole . . .”Carlson says the locals started referring to her as “Mrs. Damn-fool’. [1026]
Carlson mentions there were many ‘letters to the editor’ about the Melungeons in the Nashville newspaper, and says “Dromgoole would borrow liberally from these responses when writing her arena aticles.”
It was all he ridiculous stories by Dromgoole, Burnett and others, people who had never lived near nor knew anything about the the Melungeons, that prompted Lewis Jarvis to write his article about the origin of the Melungeons in 1903. Unlike the others, Jarvis was raised then the Melungeons, and had known them all his life.
Jarvis agrees with everything Dr. Carlson says, except he said it in 1903. He says they came from new River, and later locations Carlson also mentions. He calls them the friendly Indians who came with the early settlers. He doesn’t mention Portuguese settlers.
Carlson says of Jarvis’ account (p. 403 of his dissertation); Not much commentary needs to be made of Jarvis rendition of the history of the Geasy Rock Indians, except that it closely correlates with the data independently gathered to inform the previous chapters of this ethnohistory. In other words, Melungeon history is not as mysterious as some writers now claim it to be. Yet among the hundreds of articles that would be written about the Tennessee Melungeons, Jarvis’ article would not be cited by another until 1989. . . . Subsequent writers would mostly continue to assert that the Greasy Rock Indians, and their relations living at Stone Mountain and Salyersville, in Eastern Kentucky, were actually the descendants of ancient Phoenicians, the lost colony of Roanoke, Juan Pardo’s lost soldiers, Portuguese pirates, and/or even the lost tribe of Israel.
Carlson continues to discuss all the misleading articles as harmful. On p. 406; “In 1965, Bar noted that the Indians around Greasy Rock resented being called ‘Melungeons’,, as well as some of the articles being published concerning their society because they feel they are misleading and harmful.” . . . he continues, same page; “Writers throughout the century would come to the conclusion of what one visitor to the Grasy Rock community wrote in 1963, that ‘both the Melungeons and non-Melungeons of the Hancock County region resent much of what has been published concerning them’.”
I suspect that’s true to this day. It s interesting to note that the Portuguese argument existed only in the region of the country that had strong Jim Crow laws – and the Melungeon families later found in Ohio or Oklahoma don’t have this tradition of a “Portuguese” ancestor. Only families that lived in the Southeastern states that until recently denied the Civil Rights of African Americans, had to undergo the humiliating ordeal of being forced to prove they were NOT part African in courts of law, claimed Portuguese ancestry. This lends support to the notion that they sid they were Portuguese NOT because they were Portuguese, but rather so that their status as people who could vote and have all the rights available to Whites, would continue.

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