African-Americans Native American Ancestry

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I got Indian in my blood…most likely you do not. While most African-Americans would likely say they have Indian blood flowing in their veins, DNA testing suggests that fewer than 10 percent of black people are of Native American ancestry.  To be exact, 5 percent of African-Americans have at least 12.5 percent Native American ancestry, meaning at least one great-grand parent.  In contrast, 58 percent of black Americans have at least 12.5 percent white ancestry. However there is a long  a connection among African and Native Americans.

Black Indians is a longstanding topic of black oral history. The two cultures have blended since the arrival of Columbus.  The two groups are united by enslavement, genocide and a legacy of being uprooted from the land of their ancestors.It is a complicated history filled with the good and the unpleasant.  African slaves were known to escape from the plantations and find refuge among Indian tribes.  Native people were involved in the Underground Railroad, and Indian trails provided a pathway to freedom for runaway slaves.  They fought together in uprisings against their oppressive conditions and the white man’s incursion, and they married and had children.

Further, Black Indians served in colored regiments with black soldiers, and black soldiers known as the Buffalo Soldiers fought against Native American tribes in the West, while some refused.  And black women on the frontier took a leading role in helping Native Americans.

Meanwhile, a number of tribes— including the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws and Seminoles, together known as the Five Civilized Tribes—owned slaves at the urging of the federal government.  This was an attempt to by whites to “civilize” the tribes through the use of wide-scale agriculture and slave ownership.

Descendants of those slaves, known as the Black Cherokees, sued the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in federal court.  At issue was a provision of an 1866 post-Civil War treaty granting the freedmen and their descendants “all the rights of native Cherokees.”  The treaty came after the Trail of Tears, when Cherokees and their slaves were forcibly marched in the 1830s from the Deep South to present-day Oklahoma, resulting in the deaths of thousands.

In 2007, the Cherokees voted to revoke the tribal citizenship of these 2,800 African Americans on the grounds they did not have at least one ancestor on the U.S. government list of ethnic Cherokees at the time the treaty was signed.

Many African-Americans lay claim to Native American ancestry, and yet very few blacks have taken the steps to research this part of their history, to learn about their Native American roots and embrace the culture.

Thanksgiving is known as a time for American families to reunite, partake in feast and be grateful.  And yet for Native Americans it is a time for mourning, a reflection on the arrival of European settlers that ultimately led to their displacement and elimination by the millions.  Blacks in America are intertwined with that history.

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