(Article) " We are Still Here"
- (Article) " We are Still Here"
"Africa-Native Americans: We are Still Here" is
based on an exhibit, curated by Ms. Eve Winddancer .
[[Many people believe racial and ethnic groups in
North America have always lived as separately ...
However, segregation was neither practical nor preferable when
people who were not native to this continent began arriving here.
Europeans needed Indians as guides,
trade partners and military allies.
They needed Africans to tend their
crops and to build an infrastructure.
Later, as the new American government began to thrive, laws were
drafted to protect the land and property the colonists had acquired.
These laws strengthened the powers of slave owners, limited the
rights of free Africans and barred most Indian rights altogether.
Today, black, "white" and "red" Americans
still feel the aftershock of those laws.
In order to enforce the new laws, Indians and
Africans had to be distinguished from Europeans.
Government census takers began visiting Indian communities
east of the Mississippi River in the late 1700s and continued
their task of identifying, categorizing, and counting
individuals and "tribes" well into the 20th century.
In the earlier days of this process, Native American communities that
were found to be harboring escaped African slaves were threatened
with loss of their tribal status, thereby nullifying their treaties
with the U.S. government and relinquishing all claims to their land.
Wild Eagle, Narragansett/Wanpanoag
Despite the restrictions imposed by the U.S. government,
Indians and Africans still managed to form close bonds.
Some Native American communities ignored the laws
and continued to aid fleeing African slaves.
Some free Africans aided displaced Indians.
Sometimes the two groups came together in "prayer towns"
-- European communities that welcomed and protected
converts to Christianity, regardless of race...
Some Native Americans listed themselves as "Negro"
or "mixed" in order to retain ownership of their land.
Some Native Americans refused to sign the census rolls during
the 18th and 19th centuries, some refused to register with
the Bureau of Indian Affairs or to allow themselves to be
"removed" to "Indian Territory" in Oklahoma during the 1800s.
As a result, many of their descendants grew up in
urban environments instead of on reservations.
This isn't the image of Native American experience
most people carry in their heads but, in this
part of the country, it is quite prevalent...
Our lives reflect the same diversity as
any other cultural group in America.
We are wealthy, middle class and impoverished.
We are educated and ignorant.
We are employed and unemployed.
We are Americans.
Hollywood has taught us to associate the facial features ...
with red skin and sweeping Southwestern vistas, yet the
people have skin tones that range from coffee to cream ...
They are of African descent but they are also Blackfoot, Canarsie,
Caribe, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Lenape, Matinecock,
Mohawk, Munsee, Ramapo, Shinnecock, Seminole, Unkechaug, Taino. ..
Some of them speak indigenous languages ... and
all are extremely proud of their mixed heritage.
They embody the intertwining of two of America's
most stalwart and dynamic ethnic communities.
DID YOU KNOW ???
The first slaves in the "New World" were Indians.
However, colonists found them difficult to contain --
they knew the surrounding countryside and those who had
not been captured often organized successful rescue efforts.
For a time, slave merchants continued to raid Native American
communities along the central and southern shores of the
Eastern Seaboard and to encourage local warriors to barter
captives they would otherwise kill for European trade goods.
The women and children the merchants acquired were sold
alongside Africans to buyers in the north while the
men were shipped to plantations in the Caribbean.