Pockets in the East
Indian Communities East of the Mississippi,
per a Report by the Smithsonian Institute
We had just about dispelled the lies that the Melungeons had only claimed Portuguese ancestry for fear of the Jim Crow Laws. The y-chromosomal DNA testing had also said the major component was Caucasian with a little sub-Sahara African, but only the Sizemore’s had a y-chromosomeal DNA result saying they were American Indian. I was yelping for joy, as I knew this was the exact result you would expect if the original Melungeons were a small band of American Indian, who were dying out. This small remnant community married with Caucasians and Africans, to produce the present population of mixed blood people.
But these results have been twisted somehow. They had assumed the straight male line or straight female line would tell them about the Melungeons. However it tells them only of the ancestry of the LAST male and the last female of the genealogical line. Since ALL of those tested had Eurpoean surnames, it told of the original Caucasian branch of these families. Surnames tell us of our male line as well. My last name is Hawkins, so my ychromosomal DNA test, I'd expect, would show my family was English. Lo-and-behold, it did! My mitochondral DNA goes back to my mother's mother's, mother's . . . ad infinitum .. mother. Well my Melungeon blood goes through my father, so it doesn't matter that that goes back to, anyhow. Turns out it goes back to Scandinavia. And the Vikings left a big footprint in England, Ireland. Scotland, and Wales, so that's understandable. The two best known DNA tests won't help me one iota.
Some are saying that these "Portuguese" were really Angolan, and that there was NO Indian component. If this is your opinion, show me your evidence and I'll publish it here, unedited.
Let me remind you about what the Smithsonian Indtitute said several generations ago. years ago. Back then, they thought the Melungeons were JUST AS INDIAN as the state recognized tribes of today's Virginia and the Carolinas.But remember – the DNA evidence said the African component if Melungeon DNA came from West Africa, and Angola is in East Africa.
I will quote those passages about the Eastern Siouan and some other remnant tribes found in the East, especially in Virginia and the Carolinas. The entire report can be found here –
Annual Report, Smithsonian Institute, 1948; Surviving Indian Groups, Gilbert
This tribe is divided into two section, i.] The Upper Chickahominy who rpeside principally in Charles City, County. At White Oak Swamp on the Chickahominy River near Roxbury, Virginia and number about 357 . . . ii.] The Lower Chickahominy who live on the lower Chickahominy River on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad between Newport News and Richmond in the neighborhood of Boulevard, Virginia. The latter group is about 55 miles from Newport News and 40 miles from Richmond. They number about 100 persons and are situated in James City County. Both of these groups have intermarried with the Pamunkey Indians, their near neighbors to the North. The main Chickahominy family names are Adkins, Bradby, Colman, Holmes, Jefferson, Jones, Miles, Stewart, Swett, Thompson, Wynne.
This group resides on a state reservation of about 800 acres in King Williams County at a bend of the Pamunkey River. They are hardly 20 miles due east of Richmond, the state capital. There are about 150 Pamunkey on the reservation with about 150 more scattered elsewhere. . . . The Reservation has been in existence since 1677. . . . The main family names current among these people are Bradby, Collins, Cook, Dennis, Hawkes, Holmes, Langston, Miles, Page, Sampson, Swett.
The next tribe to the north of the Pamunkey is the Mattapony. Like the Chickahominy the Matapony are divided into two groups, both in King William County. i.] The Lower Mattapony group is located on a reservation of 50 acres is situated on a bend of the Mattapony River not over ten miles North of the Pamunkey. Ii.] The Upper Mattapony or Adamstown Indians live about twenty miles west of the first group and about 38 miles Northeast of Richmond (near Central Garage). The Lower Mattapony number about 150 persons, the upper group about 170. The chief family names of the lower group are Allmond, Collins, Costello, Langston, Major, Reid, and Turpin. In the upper group Adams and Holmes. The lower [ P. 418] group has been organized as a reservation since 1658, whereas the Upper Mattipony have only been organized since 1923.
To the north of the Mattapony are the Rappahannock who are rather widely scattered in the area of the Rappahannock River in Caroline, Essex, and Upper King and Queen Counties. They are centered especially around Indian Neck, Virginia, and are estimated to number from 400 to 500 persons. This group was incorporated under state law as the Rappahannock Indian Association in 1919. A band in Upper Essex County has Nelson as the most common family name.
Miscellaneous Tidewater Tribes
. . . There are a number of other Indian Remnants in the Tidewater of Virginia.
The Potomac Indians for example, are a small band of 150 to 200 persons situated in Stafford County about 8 miles due north of Fredericksburg, Virginia on a small branch of the Potomac River.
There are also Indian groups in Northumberland County at the mouth of the Potomac River estimated to number around 300 persons. These are thought to be the remnant of the Wicomico Tribe in Colonial times.
Across the Chessapeake Bay on Virginia’s eastern shore there are still to be found the remnants of the Accohannock Tribe among the Colored population of Accomack and Northampton Counties. The numbr of these mixed folks is unknown, but they are said to be located in Accomack County Court House (Drummondtown) and near Fishers Inlet in southern Northampton County. In the latter place they bear the family name of Miles.
A band in York County, on the south shore of the river to the northwest of Hampton, have the family name of Wise.
On the opposite shore of the York River are certain small groups centering in Allmondsville and Gloucester Point in Gloucester Point. The Gloucester groups are said to number about 100 persons. AT Allmondsville the family names are Allmond, Norris and Langston, while those at Gloucester Point are Sampson's. The Gloucester County groups are thought to me remnants of the Werowocomoco Tribe of colonial times.
Crossing the James River to the southern shore one finds remnants of the Nondsemond Tribe in Norfolk and Nondsemond Counties. Their chief center is at Deep Creek in in Norfolk County not far to the Southwest of Norfolk, Virginia. Located on the Northern and Eastern edges of the Great Dismal Swamp they number about 200 souls . . . The principle names were originally Boss and Weaver. . . . The Nansemond Tribe have been reorganized as a tribe since 1923.
The Nansemond, along with the [P. 419] Chickahominy, Pamunkey, Mattapony, Rappahannock, and Nottaway of Delaware, have for some years been organized as the revived Powhattan Confederacy of Indians.
West of the Nansemond in Southampton County between Sebrell and Courtland there are asserted to be still remaining remnants of the Nottaway Tribe.
Eastern Siouans of Virginia
The next tribes are the Siouan Tribes of Virginia. They are the ones we are more interested in as relations of the Melungeons.
Amherst County Issues
This group of about 500 or 600 mixed blood is located in the central part of Amherst County about 4 or 5 miles west of the county seat. The principle settlements are on Bear Mountain and Tobacco Row Mountain in the Blue Ridge. At the extreme western end of the county is another mixed group of similar origin derived from Indian, White, and in some localities, Negro blood.
Rockbridge County Brown People
To the northwest of Amherst County is Rockbridge County is a small group located on Irish Creek, not more than twelve miles east of Lexington, Virginia, and called Brown People. Their number is estimated at 300, and they show a mixture of White, Indian, and occasionally Negro blood. Like the Issues of Amherst County, they are a group apart from both Whites and Negroes.
Melungeons or Ramps . . .
The Virginia Melungeons are found on the mountain ridges such as Copper Ridge, Clinch Ridge and Powell Valley in Lee and Scott Counties, in the vicinity of Coeburn and Norton in Wise County, near Damascas in Washington County, and in the western Dismal area of Giles County. No estimate of their numbers is available but they probably amount to several thousand. They show dark skin with straight or curly black hair and high cheek bones. The chief family names of Melungeons in the area are Bolen, Collins, Gibson or Gipson, Freeman, Goins, and Sexton.
Thus in 1948 the Melungeons were considered one of the “Surviving Indian Groups” of Virginia! The town of Coeburn, mentioned above as a place the Melungeons settled, was originally named “Gist's Station” – it was named after one of my direct ancestors, Nathaniel Gist. This is NOT the famous Nathaniel Gist, but it is his first cousin of the same name.
But instead of being proud of our American Indian heritage, too many researchers have added mud to stream, muddying the waters until you can not see what lies beneath, claiming our heritage is everything BUT American Indian.
. . . [P. 420] . . .
. . . There is apparently very little Negro blood in this group. Most of the Cherokees are in Swain County where they have five towns, Big Cove, Yellow Hill, Bird Town, Wolf Town, and Paint Town. Other groups are found in Graham and Cherokee Counties nearby and in Jackson County.
The Eastern Cherokee Band was incorporated under state law in 1889. . . They still employ the native tongue . . .
Siouans or Croatans
This group is said to number upwards of 16,000 persons . . . Physical measurements indicate the presence of Indian, White, and Negro types. There is said to be a tendency for the lighter individuals and families to hold aloof from the darker ones just as in the case of the Nanticokes or Narangassettes. They are found in greatest concentration in Robison County, but occur in considerable numbers in the nearby counties of Bladen, Columbus, Cumberland, Harnet, Sampson, and Scotland. Across the border in South Carolina they occur in Marlboro, Dillon, Marion, and Horry Counties.
The family names of these people are Allen, Bennet, Berry, Bridger, Brooks, Brown, Bulter, Chapman, Chaves, Coleman, Cooper, Cumbo, Dare, Graham, Harris, Harvie, Howe, Johnson, Jones, Lassie, Little, Locklear, Lowrie, Lucas, Martin, Oxendine, Paine, Patterson, Powell, Sampson, Scott, Smith, Stevens, Taylor, Vickers, White, Willes, Wilkenson, Wood, and Wright. . . .
The state [North Carolina] has recognized their special status and they are endowed with a special school system from both Whites and Negroes.
. . . There are two factions today, one calling itself Lumbee Indians . . . the other . . . is located east and North [p. 421] of the Lumbee River . . .
Miscellaneous Indians of North Carolina
In northeastern Person County on the Virginia border in locaed a group . . . who number about 400 persons. They also occur just across the state line in Halifax County, Virginia, around Christie and Virginiliana. The chief family names are Coleman, Epps, Martin, Shephard, Steewart and Talley. The state of North Carolina maintains an Indian School for these people . . . The Person County Indians may be descendants of a small band of Saponi who, according to early census reports, inhabited Granville County, North Carolina (from which Person County was later set off.).
In northeastern North Carolina, in Dare and Hyde Counties, and in Roanoke Island are to be found a few Indian remnants of the Machapunga Tribe mixed with White and Negro blood. Their family nmaes are Pugh, Daniels, Berry and Prescott.
Somewhat west of Person County in Rockingham County, the census record of 1930 reports a considerable number of Indians. The identity of this group is not known.
[p. 422] Four major geographical groups may be distinguished, namely i.] Catawba, on the northern border; ii.] Croatans, also on the northern border; iii.] Red Bones and other groups on the capital; and iv.] Brass ankles in coastal areas. Altogether these groups may total over 10,000 persons. . . . They have lost almost everything that would distinguish them as Indian except their physical appearance. The latter is of course greatly modified by mixture with White and Negro blood, yet these people are recognized locally as being distinct from both White’s and Negroes. They have their own mixed blood schools . . .
The chief family names among these mixed-bloods are Boone, Braveboy, Bunch, Chavis, Creek, Driggers, Goins, Harmon, Russell, Scott, Swett and Williams.
The remnants of this tribe are located at a small settlement on the banks of the Catawba River in York County, about 9 miles southeast of Rockhill, the county seat. . . . The 1930 census returns 159 Indians in York County. Their blood seems to be mostly a mixture of White and Indian.
In most of the counties along the northern border of this state are to be found many hundreds of people of part Cherokee descent . . .
. . . It is reliably reported that a small group of 100 or more Cherokees and Creeks are at present in a settlement near Shellbluff Landing in Burke County, about 10 miles south of Augusta, and almost on the Savannah River. The family names are Clark, Woods, Shafer and Deal. Their settlement is sometimes known as “Shafertown” or “Shafersville”. . . . In earlier days Yuchi, Shawnee, Appalachee and Chickasaw Indians clustered in the vicinity of Augusta where the Savannah River crossed the fall line.
Conclusion About Melungeon Indians
Everyone of the groups of families on the list above in Virginia and the Carolinas, is state recognized . . . except the Melungeons. We are no different than they are, and we show family ties back to both the Lumbee and various Siouan groups along the Virginia/North Carolina border. While all the other descendents of the outlying bands of the Catawba were contacting state governments trying to get state recognition as Indian, the Melungeons were arguing over whther they were Portuguese, Turkins or Jewish! Whereas these people who were saying they were “Portuguese”, and were SHOCKED to see Africa in theie genes, others KNEW that might come up. But we have just as much of a right to seek and obtain state recognition as those already state recognized.
Map 26. Some Indian Groups in the Southeast
Those Rejected from Miller-Guion Cherokee Rolls In 1904, the Eastern Band of Cherokee won a settlement with the U.S. Government based on violations of earlier treaties. This meant that thousands of persons of Eastern Cherokee ancestry were eligible for part of the settlement, and many of these people applied to the U.S. Court of Claims for a share (Jordan 1987-1990). It is interesting to read these applications, since a significant percentage of applicants were not Eastern Cherokee, but members of other tribes. These persons would now be identified as Lumbee, Alabama Creek, Meherrin, Haliwa, and Occaneechi (Saponi), along with a number of individuals who probably were of unmixed white or black ancestry.
At least 20 Occaneechi descendants also applied; all were rejected by the commission as not being of Eastern Cherokee ancestry. Among these were Aaron Thomas Guy, born in Caswell County, North Carolina, the son of Henry Guy and grandson of Henry Guy. Henry Guy, Sr., was the brother of Richard Guy, Buckner Guy, and others who moved to Macon County, North Carolina, from the Texas community in the 1820s. Aaron Guy stated that his mother was a free woman of color, born free and raised by the Quakers in Guilford County, North Carolina. There is also testimony from a former slave who knew Henry Guy, Jr., to the effect that he was an Indian, married to a colored woman. Aaron Guy was living in Indiana at the time of his application.
William C. Wilson, from Wichita, Kansas, also applied. He stated that he was born near Hendersonville, North Carolina, and was the son of Sam Wilson, a "half Cherokee," and Julian Guy. Julian Guy was the daughter of Richard Guy and Martha Whitmore, and Martha's mother was Lottie Jeffries. Wilson claimed that his grandfather, Richard Guy, was a white man, although the Macon County records list him as a "Free Colored head of Household." He also stated that his father, Sam Wilson, could speak the Indian language. Assuming he was not exaggerating to impress the government man, William Wilson's father may have spoken the old Saponi language, or he may have learned Cherokee from his neighbors in Macon County.
William and Joe Gibson, from Murphy, North Carolina, applied, and the note "Probably Negros" was written on their application. William Gibson stated that his parents "passed as part Indian. No Negro blood in them." He further stated that his father spoke the Indian language. On the bottom of his testimony is a note, presumably written by the agent, which says, "This applicant shows the Indian so does his brother now with him. However, their ancestors were never enrolled." These Gibsons, who lived at various times in Tennessee and North Carolina, probably were also related to the Gibsons found in the so-called Melungeon groups of eastern Tennessee and western Virginia, which appear to have originated in the early mixed-blood populations of the North Carolina Piedmont area.