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The Trading Post

Publication Information: Book Title: Western Women: Their Land, Their Lives. Contributors: Lillian Schlissel – editor, Vicki L. Ruiz – editor, Janice Monk – editor. Publisher: University of New Mexico Press. Place of Publication: Albuquerque. Publication Year: 1988. Page Number: 212.

Faced with generally implacable opposition from their white families and friends, many mountain men simply hid their associations with Indian women. Kit Carson lived with an Arapaho, a Cheyenne, then a Mexican woman before ending his days with Taos-born Marie Jaramillo. Harvey L. Carter, Carson’s modern biographer, writes that “Carson habitually concealed these connections from the women of the family, in accordance with the standards of the time.” But families could be understanding. Lancaster Lupton and Tomasina, a Cheyenne woman, married in 1839, and in 1846 settled in the mixed-blood community of Hardscrabble, Colorado, with their three children. The next year Lupton wrote his parents, breaking the secret he had allowed his marriage to become. His father replied:

Why have you kept this truth from us thru all these years? Had you but told us of your marriage, then we should have understood much. Nothing could have been more disappointing to us than for you to desert your wife and family. The knowledge that you have acted like a man in accepting your parental obligation is a great satisfaction to us. We are so grateful now for understanding. Our only hope is that you can rear your children as you would had you married a white woman, that you will give them all the advantages a father can bring. That is our dearest wish. God bless you, my son, and the blessings of His generous hand be ever over your wife and children.

Accepting parental obligations forced other mixed couples to seek a different way. During the 1830s, before the American Oregon emigration, a considerable number of French-speaking mixed families clustered along the Willamette River, at French Prairie and Champoeg. In 1839 they were joined by a group of Anglo-American trappers, including Joseph Meek, Robert Newell, and Caleb Wilkins, the three of whom had married a set of Nez Perce sisters, who with a dozen other families created a similar settlement for English-speaking mixed families nearby. In the southern Rockies, at Pueblo, Hardscrabble, Greenhorn, and LaPorte, other communities of mixed families formed in the forties. Other centers of mixed families included the environs of the future city of Denver, and the area north of present-day Kansas City, where Jim Bridger settled with his third Indian wife and children, including his daughter Virginia, in the 1850s.

In the Green River country of Wyoming, near Fort Bridger, during the 1880s, traveler William Barrows encountered clusters of mixed families, and towns composed almost entirely of mixed bloods. Here, in the northern Rockies, as William Swagerty notes, was one of the last strongholds of mixed families seeking to prevail against the narrowing racial standards of the West. Barrows was impressed at the “color blindness” of these men and women, and hoped aloud that “we are building a nation, not only in a new world, and under a new system of government, but with a new people…. We are no longer English; that expresses but one of our polygenous ingredients. We are Americans.” In some, the old Jeffersonian dream remained alive. But Barrows was mistaken, for these Far Western mixed communities were overwhelmed by white settlement in the late nineteenth century. Despite their failure, however, we must recognize that mixed-blood communities had a long and complex history in North America. In the Southwest, the site of considerable mixture among white, red, and black peoples, there exist dozens of “third race” communities with long histories as distinct groups: Melungeons in Tennessee, Ramps and Issues in Virginia, Lumbees and Smilings in North Carolina, Brass Ankles, Croatans, and Yellowhammers in South Carolina, Freejacks, Sabines and Redbones in Louisiana, Creoles and Cajuns in Alabama, to name but a few. In the Old Northwest, Chicago, Peoria, and Detroit, Prairie du Chien, Greenbay, and Mackinaw all enjoyed fascinating early histories as racially and culturally mixed communities. In Canada, a large community of English- and French-speaking half-breeds or Metis grew up along the Red River of the North. When Manitoba entered the Canadian Federation in 1869, its population of 12,000 included 10,000 Metis. “Had the Americans not come,” Howard Lamar suggests, “possibly a line of Metis or halfbreeds would have existed from Oklahoma to Saskatchewan,” a fascinating historical “what-if.” For historians, the western Canadian metis’s success at achieving a separate and distinct identity, and the existence of “third races” throughout the American South, suggests a new way to formulate questions about mixed marriage in the fur trade. One should properly view the successful or unsuccessful struggles of Far Western mixed families in the broad context of the problems of ethnic reformulation and the maintenance of self-sustaining communities. The conditions required for ethnic identity and political success are far too complex a problem to analyze here. Let us simply observe that the mixed marriages of mountain men and Indian women and the fate of their mixed blood children — the “mestizos of North America” — present an historical problem of the first order.

Publication Information: Book Title: North American Cattle-Ranching Frontiers: Origins, Diffusion, and Differentiation. Contributors: Terry G. Jordan – author. Publisher: University of New Mexico Press. Place of Publication: Albuquerque, NM. Publication Year: 1993. Page Number: 188.

At the same time, westward expansion along the coastal prairie occurred. About 1820 Cajun, Anglo, African, and assorted mixedblood cattle raisers and cowboys began crossing the Sabine into the prairies of southeastern Texas, bearing a herding system well preadapted for the western grasslands. The Cajuns, more tied to place and kin, would not accompany the Anglos beyond the lower Trinity River in any substantial numbers, but they nevertheless assisted greatly in the prairie readaptation. Southeast Texas would, accordingly, belong mainly to the Carolina-derived Anglos. Perhaps representative was Micajah Munson, a stock raiser born in South Carolina about 1789, who came as a child to Mississippi, resided in Louisiana in the early 1820s, and entered the Atascosita District on the Texas coastal prairie about 1824. Fully 86 percent of the cattle raisers of the prairies west of the Sabine immigrated directly from Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama. Concealed in these totals were some thoroughly creolized genealogies and diverse ethnicities. For example the largest cattle raiser in early Jefferson County, Texas, bordering the Sabine, was a “redbone” of mixed white, black, and Indian ancestry.

Clearly the Louisiana grassland readaptation of the pine-barrens cattle herders yielded success. By 1850 the Texas coastal prairie between the Sabine and Trinity rivers was home to thirty-eight persons owning five hundred or more longhorn cattle, including five Cajuns and four “redbones.” Travelers even as early as the 1830s reported “immense herds of cattle,” including five thousand head owned by Taylor White, a rancher on the eastern shore of Galveston Bay. To the present day, cattle still rule the salt marshes east of the Bay. Many of the early southeast Texas graziers continued to use slave cowboys, just as they did back East, but they had been converted into mounted herdsmen skilled in the use of the rope. The prairie coastal Carolinian herders, by now diverse in genealogy and even more so in techniques, were in many important ways ready for the West, a readiness acquired east of the Sabine.

Publication Information: Book Title: Confounding the Color Line: The Indian-Black Experience in North America. Contributors: James F. Brooks – editor. Publisher: University of Nebraska Press. Place of Publication: Lincoln, NE. Publication Year: 2002. Page Number: 5.

One portion of the answer lay in my own guiding questions and those of earlier researchers. Potential and tangible relationships between Africans and Native Americans triggered fear and fascination from the time the two groups met under the force of European colonization. Despite abundant local traditions of mixed descent (“We Sorts” in Maryland, “Cros” in North Carolina, “Mustees” in South Carolina, “Redbones” in Louisiana), the colonial incentive to keep the two peoples apart found continuity in separate historiographical traditions well into the twentieth century. The Native American experience, if treated at all, came to be known as the history of “Indian-White Relations, ” while the African American past developed primarily under the rubric of historical “Race Relations” in which Indians remained virtually invisible. Even as interest in (and funding for) pluralistic historical studies emerged after World War II, the Indian Claims Commission and civil rights initiatives encouraged “tribal” histories on the one hand and “Negro” histories on the other. 7

Publication Information: Book Title: The American Race Problem: A Study of the Negro. Contributors: Edward Byron Reuter – author, Seba Eldridge – editor. Publisher: Thomas Y. Crowell. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1927. Page Number: 123.

Slavery of the native Indians existed in a number of the English colonies before the coming of the Negroes. Those captured in battle were in some cases sold into slavery in distant colonies. Others were kidnapped along the coast and sold as slaves in the more settled regions. The mention of Indian slaves and of slaves of Negro and Indian blood is frequent in the racial literature of the early slave period. With these enslaved Indians the Negro slaves came into close and intimate contact. The social status was the same and as slaves they met on terms of equality. Intermarriage followed and, as the body of Negro slaves increased and Indian slavery declined, the Indian slaves were gradually absorbed into the larger black population. The offspring of Indian slaves or of mixed Negro and Indian parentage came presently to be counted with the Negroes. Many of the broken tribes of coast Indians disappeared entirely into the Negro people. The amount of Indian admixture may of course not be known but was certainly very considerable. There is a similar trace of Indian blood in many white families of certain regions.

There is also a pronounced Negro strain in a number of the Indian tribes. Runaway slaves frequently made their way by accident or otherwise to the Indian camps. In some cases the Indians returned these escaped slaves to their masters; sometimes they were killed or otherwise mistreated. But in other cases they were protected and kept as slaves to the Indians among whom they sought refuge or were taken into the Indian tribes by adoption. The five civilized tribes owned many Negro slaves whom they were required to free and admit to equal Indian citizenship at the close of the American Civil War. The Seminoles in Florida had in 1834 some two hundred Negro slaves who had gone to them as runaways from the whites and had been in turn enslaved by the Indians who intermarried freely with them. Also, other Negroes who were not classed as slaves made their way into Indian groups and many of the reservations became the joint home of Indians and free Negroes. In some cases the Negroes were more numerous than the Indians and the reservations became Negro and mulatto settlements with little more than a tradition of Indian ancestry. The socalled Croatan Indians in North Carolina, the “Redbones” of South Carolina, the “Moors” of Delaware, the “Melungeons” of West Virgina, and other similar groups of the present day are wasted Indian tribes that have been swamped by intermixture with escaped slaves, free Negroes and mulattoes, and white outlaws and rovers.

Much of the Negro-Indian intermixture has chosen to be Indian rather than Negro and so appears in the statistics. Some of the Indian tribes today are more Negro than Indian in their ancestry and many of them contain a large admixture of Negro blood.

Publication Information: Book Title: Regions of Identity: The Construction of America in Women’s Fiction, 1885-1914. Contributors: Kate McCullough – author. Publisher: Stanford University Press. Place of Publication: Stanford, CA. Publication Year: 1999. Page Number: 196.

Moreover, by the postbellum period, outsiders often conflated Cajuns with Creoles, a term complicated enough in its own right. Albert Rhodes, in an 1873 article titled “The Louisiana Creoles,” for instance, calls the Cajuns “a small portion of the Creole population” and asserts that they are “the least intelligent of the Creole population, and occupy small patches of land along bayous and the coast, which are just sufficient in extent to satisfy the wants of their simple lives” (254). In fact, the two groups are, in derivation and later identification, distinct. As I discuss in Chapter 2, the Louisiana usage of “Creole,” while originally signifying the first-generation, American-born offspring of European parents, swiftly became a complicated and contested term. Not originally racially inflected, by the 1830s “Creole” was, as Virginia Domínguez notes, taken to mean a descendent of French settlers although not necessarily white (121). In the postbellum period, however, in part because Louisiana shifted from its original French tripartite legal categorization of race to an American binary system, racial lines became more at issue and two competing definitions came into circulation. As Domínguez explains it, for white Creoles, “Creole” came to mean white “blood” only, of French or Spanish descent, and generally of class privilege, while “Cajun” meant the white descendant of the Acadians; for Creoles of color, however, “Creole” came to mean of racially mixed blood, not necessarily of French or Spanish descent, while “Cajun” meant of Acadian ancestry but not necessarily white (149, 150). Moreover, in addition to these two groups and sometimes overlapping with them, the Louisiana population contained the descendants of what had been known in the antebellum period as the gens de couleur libre (free people of color) as well as in some areas a population known as Redbones, defined by Marcia Gaudet as “people of partIndian ancestry” (45). Michael Omi and Howard Winant remind us that “the categories employed to differentiate among human groups along racial lines reveal themselves, upon serious consideration, to be at best imprecise, and at worst completely arbitrary” (55); both in the Louisiana of Chopin’s day and in her work, these long-complicated categories were deeply intertwined with categories of ethnicity and class and were often contingent on an urban/rural dichotomy that identified New Orleans’s “founding families” as Creole while locating Cajuns as specifically rural, sometimes accompanied by Creoles of color.

Publication Information: Article Title: Public Subjects: Race and the Critical Reception of Gwendolyn Brooks, Erica Hunt, and Harryette Mullen. Contributors: Allison Cummings – author. Journal Title: Frontiers – A Journal of Women’s Studies. Volume: 26. Issue: 2. Publication Year: 2005. Page Number: 3+. COPYRIGHT 2005 University of Nebraska Press; COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group

As noted above, Muse & Drudge collects and defamiliarizes familiar phrases from American culture: the idiomatic phrases, official language, and slang that constitute us with each utterance. In addition to illuminating how the languages of advertising encourage women’s insecurities, many phrases affirm women’s beauty and independence: “black-eyed pearl / around the world girl”; “lady redbone senora rubia / took all day long / shampooing her nubia / she gets to the getting place / without or with him” (40, 51). Other lines fend off insult: “ain’t your fancy / handsome gal / feets too big / my hair don’t twirl”; or highlight restrictions on girls: “keep your powder dry / your knees together / your dress down / your drawers shut” (17, 38). Such phrases represent some of the many ways American culture defines women’s identity and sexuality through languages of approval and disapproval.

Publication Information: Book Title: Ain’t I a Beauty Queen? Black Women, Beauty and the Politics of Race. Contributors: Maxine Leeds Craig – author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 2002. Page Number: 40.

of light-skinned women—or perhaps because of it—many respondents told the researchers that they would prefer a spouse with a medium-brown skin tone.

Later investigators found similar results. In a survey conducted in 1950, the majority of students at a black high school in St. Louis, when asked about their skin color preferences, stated that they preferred to be brown (as opposed to light or dark) and preferred to marry a brown-skinned spouse. In a report published in 1952 based on a survey of black students attending a North Carolina college, Joseph Himes and R. E. Edwards found that four-fifths of the students stated that light skin and straight hair were “not important” in a future spouse. More men than women (17.4 versus 8.4 percent) expressed a preference for a light-skinned spouse. Like the students who in 1950 said that brown skin was the most desirable, the majority of these students answered that light skin was “not important” as a characteristic for a mate.

In a later study based on research conducted in North Carolina in 1957, Himes joined with another psychologist, Charles Anderson, to ask black male and female undergraduates what attributes they sought in a dating partner. Among the twenty-eight qualities, including “friendliness and cheerfulness” and “good conversational ability,” Anderson and Himes listed four attributes that might be construed as physical: “sex appeal,” “taller and older men,” “handsomeness,” and “redbone” (light complexion). The students placed “redbone” relatively low on the list, at position twenty-two, two notches above “plenty of money.” Rather than concluding that in North Carolina in 1957 neither money nor light skin won any advantage in obtaining a date, it would seem just as plausible that these findings indicate what students deemed self-respecting answers. In the 1950s, before the black pride movement of the 1960s, young, educated, black Americans knew that it was inappropriate to favor light skin.

In 1970, researchers returned to the St. Louis high school where the study of skin color preference had been conducted in 1950 in order to measure changes in attitudes between cohorts. Again, the majority of respondents claimed that they preferred to be brown and would prefer a brown-skinned spouse. Between 1950 and 1970, the percentage of subjects who said they preferred a dark spouse rose from 2.8 to 16.6.

These findings cannot tell us whether the rejection of dark skin reflected black self-hatred or what respondents made of the consequences of having dark skin, but what is striking here, as in Drake and Cayton’s work, is the consistent popularity of the choice of brown. If these responses can be accepted as accurate assessments of the regard with which brown skin was held, they counter a simple black self-hatred thesis. If, instead, they represent what were deemed by the respondents as appropriate answers, they indicate that, years before the Black Power Movement, many African Americans felt that it was important to demonstrate racial pride.

This page is dedicated to known documentation, citations, mentions and authentic accounting of the Redbone people.