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Black History Month: The Afro-Indigenous—Native Amerikans with Afrikan ancestry

Radmilla Cody, a Diné and African American Grammy-nominated, Nammy-winning singer from the Navajo Nation.

It is fitting to open Black History Month by exploring the long history of relationships between and among the indigenous people of this land with African Americans. Many tribal nations, especially on the East Coast, have members of African ancestry. This should come as no surprise. From the time the first British colonists and settlers arrived and instituted African enslavement, there was contact and intermarriage between slaves, free men, and free women with the original owners of this land—who were themselves under attack and threatened with genocide.

Crispus Attucks is a name most people learned in American History class. Attucks was killed during the Boston Massacre, and is believed to be the first casualty of the American Revolution. Attucks is most often identified as black in American history textbooks, which obscures his native heritage.

Crispus Attucks, Memorial portrait, bust, facing left. "The brave soldier of the Revolutionary War,

Crispus Attucks (1723 – 1770) was an enslaved man born in South Framingham of African and Native American parents. His father, Prince Yonger, was thought to have been a slave brought to America from Africa and his mother Nancy Attucks was a Natick Indian. Attucks was a direct descendant of John Attucks, an Indian killed in King Philip’sPaul Cuffee War in 1676.

The Naticks are now known as “The Praying Indians,” whom Daily Kos’ Ojibwa has written about in-depth in his “Indians 101” series.

From that same era, we also celebrate Paul Cuffee. Henry Louis Gates writes:

The person who spearheaded “the first, black initiated ‘back to Africa’ effort in U.S. history,” according to the historian Donald R. Wright, was also the first free African American to visit the White House and have an audience with a sitting president. He was Paul Cuffee, a sea captain and an entrepreneur who was perhaps the wealthiest black American of his time.

Cuffee was born on Cuttyhunk Island, off Southern Massachusetts, on Jan. 17, 1759, and died on Sept. 7, 1817. He was one of 10 children of a freed slave, a farmer named Kofi Slocum. (“Kofi” is a Twi word for a boy born on Friday, so we know that he was an Ashanti from Ghana.) Kofi Anglicized his name to “Cuffee.”

Paul’s mother was Ruth Moses, a Wampanoag Native American. He ended up marrying a member of the Pequot tribe from Martha’s Vineyard, Alice Pequit.

What’s interesting about both Attacks and Cuffee is that their indigenous ancestry and tribal affiliations have been virtually erased over time. Yet the descendants of these long ago marriages live on, and many other tribes have swelled with intermixings, black and Native American, over the centuries.

Due to the African ancestry of many of its members, the Shinnecock Nation of New York has had a long fight with federal gatekeepers over who is or is not Indian.

The Shinnecock were among the thirteen Indian bands loosely based on kinship on Long Island, which were named by their geographic locations, but the people were highly decentralized. “The most common pattern of indigenous life on Long Island prior to their slaughter by the Europeans was the autonomous village linked by kinship to its neighbors.” They were related and politically subject to the Pequot and Narragansett, the more powerful Algonquian tribes of southern New England across Long Island Sound. The Shinnecock are believed to have spoken a dialect of Mohegan-Pequot-Montauk, similar to their neighbors the Montaukett on Long Island. As is the case with many North Eastern tribes after the establishment of reservations, the Shinnecock language was not allowed to be spoken in schools, or off of the reservation. This caused a decline in the number of people who spoke the language, however, the tribe is actively engaged in language renewal programs to secure the legacy of the language for future generations.

Though their history stretches back into the mists of time, their battle for federal recognition didn’t end until 2010, when the Shinnecock finally became the 565th federally acknowledged tribe.

In “Reservations,” the New Yorker’s Ariel Levy wrote about tensions in the Hamptons between the white elite Hamptons glitterati and the original Long Island inhabitants.

Long Island’s Native Americans have been marrying African-Americans since the seventeenth century, when the Dutch started bringing slaves into New York. John Strong, the premier historian of Native Americans on Long Island, told me, “Slave status was defined by law in terms of the woman—a child becomes the property of the mother’s owner. If you’re a slave and you want to make sure your children are free, you marry an Indian woman.” But if slave status was defined by maternity, racial status was defined by color. “If the father was black and the mother was Indian, or vice versa, and the child comes forward with a claim to Native American identity, the white arbiters say, ‘Oh, no, you can’t jump up a notch in the hierarchy—you’re black,’ ” Strong said. “When I came here, in ’65, you’d go in any of the local bars and they would talk about the Shinnecocks as ‘monigs’: more nigger than Indian.” It’s a slur that you still sometimes hear in the Hamptons.

Doina Badescu@DoinaBadescu

Shinnecock Indians American 1865

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The Shinnecocks’ group-mindedness has been reinforced by the process of applying for federal recognition, which entails an exhaustive inquiry into who belongs to the tribe. The B.I.A. requires proof that every person listed as a tribe member is the direct descendant of someone who lived on the reservation in 1865. According to the tribe’s own policy, babies born to Shinnecock mothers are automatically included on the tribal roll. But if a baby’s parents are unmarried and only the father is Shinnecock the child is ineligible for enrollment. “There’s a saying,” Fred Bess told me. “Mama’s baby, Papa’s maybe.”

The question of legitimacy has been particularly vexed, because most members of the tribe do not look the way American Indians are expected to look. “That’s what this whole federal-recognition process has been about,” Roberta O. Hunter, a Shinnecock lawyer, told me. “Are you who you say you are? Are you really authentic?” Hunter majored in anthropology at Bennington, and she said that in the twenties scholars got “interested in the ‘red man’ and the ‘vanishing race,’ and everybody raced out West.” The academics, she suggested, were in pursuit of motion-picture Indians. “Those stereotypes of who’s an Indian and who isn’t an Indian, those were based on all those groups west of the Mississippi. I don’t look anything like that,” Hunter, who has dark skin and kinky hair, said.

Suede Santoro 👣@suede_santoro

Shinnecock Native American woman of Long Island, NY (Lost Files)

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Federal recognition has not decreased the Shinnecocks’ conflicts with their Hamptons neighbors. It even became food for satire on The Daily Show in 2019.

The Shinnecock Indian Nation’s recent controversial construction of an electronic monument in Hampton Bays got the Comedy Central treatment in a satirical segment that aired this week on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

Comic correspondent Michael Kosta braved Hamptons traffic in August to interview Shinnecock Chairman Bryan Polite, who can’t contain his laughter when told that Hamptonites find the ad-revenue-generating monument on the side of Sunrise Highway to be an attack on their way of life.

“How much of this monument is economic development and how much of it is kind of a f*** you to the people of Southampton?” Kosta asks. Polite replies, “I think it’s a little bit of both.”



Members of Tribal nations from across the NE and progressive groups stood in solidarity with the Shinnecock Indian Nation on Tuesday to urge Southampton Town to pass legislation protecting the tribe’s sacred burial area in Shinnecock Hills. 

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Also on the East Coast, is the Nation whose members included Paul Cuffee’s mother—the Mashpee Wampanoags. They too have been engaged in battle with the federal government, most recently with the Trump administration.

Their fight for sovereignty sparked a #StandWithMashpee hashtag in 2018.

Manilan Houle@ManilanH

Imagine surviving over 400 years of cultural assimilation, boarding schools, disease, murder, and genocide only to have the President of the United States Suggest that you are not valid.

That is what Donald Trump with the support of Republicans are doing.

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The struggle continues.

Rebecca Nagle@rebeccanagle

Just a reminder that the Trump admin terminated the reservation of the TRIBE THAT WELCOMED THE PILGRIMS saying the didn’t meet the legal definition of “Indian” and instead of helping Congress has turned it into a partisan battle.

Rebecca Nagle@rebeccanagle

On the Trump admins ruling to take the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s land out of trust: 

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The Nation’s Aviva Chomsky examines the white purity police further in “DNA Tests Make Native Americans Strangers in Their Own Land: Reviving race science plays into centuries of oppression.”

The ancestry industry, even while celebrating diverse origins and multiculturalism, has revived long-held ideas about purity and authenticity. For much of US history, white colonizers argued that Native Americans would “vanish,” at least in part through biological dilution. New England’s native peoples were, for instance, systematically denied land rights and tribal status in the 19th century on the grounds that they were too racially mixed to be “authentic” Indians.

As historian Jean O’Brien has explained, “Insistence on ‘blood purity’ as a central criterion of ‘authentic’ Indianness reflected the scientific racism that prevailed in the 19th century. New England Indians had intermarried, including with African Americans, for many decades, and their failure to comply with non-Indian ideas about Indian phenotype strained the credence for their Indianness in New England minds.” The supposed “disappearance” of such Indians then justified the elimination of any rights that they might have had to land or sovereignty, the elimination of which, in a form of circular reasoning, only confirmed their nonexistence as a people.

However, it was never phenotype or distant ancestry but, as O’Brien points out, “complex regional kinship networks that remained at the core of Indian identity in New England, despite the nearly complete Indian dispossession that English colonists accomplished… Even as Indians continued to reckon membership in their communities through the time-honored system of kinship, New Englanders invoked the myth of blood purity as identity in denying Indian persistence.”

Scholastic Magazine produced a teaching video for first graders on “the Wampanoag Way,” which does not erase who Wampanoag are.

The Wampanoag are a Native American tribe from the northeastern United States. They were there when the Pilgrims arrived in 1620 and they are still there today.

There are too many related issues to cover in just one story. The fate of the descendants of slaves held by the “Five Civilized Tribes,” many of whom are also descended from those who owned them, requires its own space. This struggle also raised issues of “anti-blackness” in those communities. 

In 2017, the Cherokee Freedmen finally won their citizenship battle with the current tribal leadership.



Judge Rules That Cherokee Freedmen Have Right To Tribal Citizenship 

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I wrote about some maroon communities, often dubbed “tri-racial isolates,” among them the Lumbee of North Carolina in “Slippin’ into whiteness: Melungeons and other ‘almost white’ groups.

Hattie Hammonds, PhD@nubian0304

Excellent article about my tribe’s continued quest for federal recognition.

What makes someone Native American? One tribe’s long struggle for full recognition. – The Washington Post 

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The Lumbee continue to fight a seemingly endless battle for federal recognition, as The Washington Post reported in 2018.

Her birth certificate says she’s Indian, as did her first driver’s license. Both of her parents were required to attend segregated tribal schools in the 1950s and ’60s. In Nakai’s hometown in Robeson County, N.C., strangers can look at the dark ringlets in her hair, hear her speak and watch her eyes widen when she’s indignant, and know exactly who her mother and father are. “Who’s your people?” is a common question in Robeson, allowing locals to pinpoint their place among the generations of Lumbee who have lived in the area for nearly 300 years.

Yet in the eyes of the BIA, the Lumbee have never been Indian enough. Responding to Nakai the following month, tribal government specialist Chandra Joseph informed her that the Lumbee were not a federally recognized tribe and therefore couldn’t receive any federal benefits, including “Indian preference.” Invoking a 1956 law concerning the status of the Lumbee, Joseph wrote: “The Lumbee Act precludes the Bureau from extending any benefits to the Indians of Robeson and adjoining counties.” She enclosed a pamphlet titled “Guide to Tracing Indian Ancestry.”

Many black families refer to ancestral kin who were Cherokee, oftentimes with no proof. In a recent, rather obstreperous Twitter discussion on this issue that I won’t link here, it was pointed out that most of these families have no interest in claiming to actually be Indigenous themselves; instead, being “part Cherokee” is a way to explain away photos of “great-grandma with the long straight hair,” rather than face the traumatic reality of the long history of black women in this country being raped (and bred) by owners, overseers and other white men.

Shifting to the Southwest, and more recent history, I discovered the story of Radmilla Cody several years ago, while reading my friend Ajijaakwe’s blog. Aji featured her for Women’s History Month.

We begin today with Radmilla Cody, GRAMMY-nominated, NAMMY-winning singer from the Navajo Nation. And I do mean “singer” in the fullest Indian sense of the word.

Diné and African American, Ms. Cody has a special perspective on what it means to be a multiracial woman straddling multiple cultures and lifeways, one that I understand (in some ways, all too well). She’s a survivor of domestic violence, another issue that is close to my heart for many reasons, and she has become a fierce anti-domestic violence activist. She also does what I will never be able to do if I live to be a thousand: Sing. In the most hauntingly beautiful voice.

Journalist Garth Cartwright’s interview with Radmilla Cody digs even deeper.

“Flagstaff’s a conservative town and I have three strikes against me. Firstly, I’m a felon. Secondly I’m a woman. Third strike, I’m Native and black.’

Brief resume: born of a teenage Navajo mother and African American father, Radmilla Cody was raised on the Navajo Nation Reservation by her grandmother, Dorothy Cody, initially speaking only Dine (as the Navajo call themselves – Navajo is a Pueblo Indian term bestowed on these people when they settled the South West half millennia ago – and their language). Across two albums recorded for Phoenix Native music specialists Canyon Records she’s marked herself out as a distinctive Native voice…

Radmilla describes a childhood spent herding sheep on foot and horseback, carding and spinning wool, searching late into the night with grandmother for lost sheep and lambs. Sounds idyllic. Not so, says Radmilla. ‘’Things weren’t easy. My Mom was eighteen when I was born and was away living her life while my dad wasn’t ‘round at all. Being mixed race I attracted a lot of racial abuse. Kids were always teasing me about it; black kids doing war whoops and saying all Indians were drunk. Indian kids calling me “nigger”. I never took sides when people were rude; I stood up for Navajos and for African Americans. I’m not bitter about this. It hurt, yes, but I’ve put all these incidents behind me. My grandmother has been a great teacher. She raised me planting corn, shearing sheep, gathering water from the well. Living this life you take on tasks and responsibilities which teach you life lessons urban existence can’t.’

State Voices@state_voices

“I come from two beautiful cultures which I have embraced, bridged, balanced, and identify with. I am proud to be who I am as a Diné (Navajo) and Nahilii (African American) woman.” —@radmillacody

Love to all the Afro-Indigenous people in the world.

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Cody is also the subject of a documentary film, “Hearing Radmilla,” produced and directed by Angela Webb.

I salute those whose ancestry is both Native and Naahilii.

*The term Naahilii is a new term that was passed down to Radmilla from a Dine’ practitioner when she inquired about a more positive, respectful, and empowering term to identify those whom she is born for, the African Americans. The following is the Dine’ description of the term Naahilii / Nahilii: “Na(a)” – Those who have come across. “hil (slash in the l)” – dark, calm, have overcome, persevered and we have come to like. “ii” – oneness.

As Black History Month begins, join me in honoring those whose ancestry is both Native and Naahilii!

Next Sunday I’ll be exploring the world of Afro-Puerto Ricans.

This content was created by a Daily Kos Community member.


source: Black History Month: The Afro-Indigenous—Native Americans with African ancestry

Amerika – Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength

Reins of Freedumb
It is my purpose here to demonstrate that the typical Amerikan wageworker is both a slave and a victim of involuntary servitude. In demonstrating this, I will refer primarily to “established” authorities, which are not subject to dispute by the “mainstream.”

Definitions of Bondage

We first begin with the definition of servitude, slavery and the like. The following definitions come from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Slave: 1. A person held in servitude as property.


Drudge: To do hard, menial, or monotonous work.

The following definitions are taken from Black’s Law Dictionary (7th edition, 1999):

Involuntary servitude: The conditions of one forced to labor – for pay or not – for another by coercion or imprisonment.

Slavery: 1. The situation in which one person has absolute power over the life, fortune, and liberty of another. 2. The practice of keeping individuals in such a state of bondage.

In the case of United States v. Kesminski, 487 U.S. 931 (1988) at page 932, the U.S. Supreme Court defined servitude as follows: “Servitude means a condition in which a person lacks liberty, especially to determine one’s course of action or way of life.”

In the remainder of this thesis, I will show that the condition of labor under which the Amerikan wage laborers find themselves conforms to all of the definitions of bondage.


The Amerikan Conditions of Bondage

In his famous treatise, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith makes three things clear about “developed societies,” viz.: 1. that the industrially compelled practice of division of labor is indeed drudgework, 2. that this sort of drudgework destroys the workers’ mental faculties, and 3. that this drudgework is a form of labor into which the poor working family is forced. Smith states as follows:

The understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily found by their ordinary employments … the man whose life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very near the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding … and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to be … but in every improved and civilized society this is the state into which the laboring poor, that is, the great body of people, must fall …

While Adam Smith is hailed as a fountainhead of modern economic thought, this observation made by him is always avoided in mainstream discussions and writings on him and economics.

The above quote from Smith establishes that the modern working conditions of industrial capitalist nations is that of slavery (monotonous, menial, and drudge work) over which arrangement the labor class has no power to change or avoid (involuntary servitude) and therefore renders the labor boss’s position one of total power over the employed workers’ livelihood.

These points are brought into much clearer focus by another writer who was dedicated to the common man and opposed to the labor bosses enough to make the wage worker’s conditions of bondage clear and plain. In his book Soledad Brother, George L. Jackson makes the connection between the system of bondage of past agricultural chattel slavery and modern industrial wage slavery here in Amerika. I quote him at length:

“Slavery is an economic condition. Today’s neo-slavery must be defined in terms of economics. The chattel is property, one man exercising the property rights of his established economic order, the other man as that property. The owner can move that property or hold it in one square yard of the earth’s surface; he can let it breed other slaves or make it breed other slaves; he can sell it, beat it, work it, maim it, fuck it, kill it. But if he wants to keep it and enjoy all of the benefits that property of this kind can render, he must feed it sometimes, he must clothe it against the elements; he must provide a modicum of shelter. Chattel slavery is an economic condition which manifests itself in the total loss or absence of self-determination.

“The new slavery, the modern variety of chattel slavery updated to disguise itself, places the victim in a factory or, in the case of most blacks, in support roles inside and around the factory system (service trades) working for a wage. However, if work cannot be found in or around the factory complex, today’s neo-slavery does not even allow for a modicum of food and shelter. You are free – to starve. The sense and meaning of slavery comes through as a result of our ties to the wage. You must have it; without it you would starve or expose yourself to the elements. One’s entire day centers around acquisition of the wage.

“Others determine the control of your eight to ten hours on the job. You are left with fourteen to sixteen hours. But since you don’t live at the factory, you have to subtract at least another two for transportation. Then you are left with thirteen to fifteen hours to yourself. If you can afford three meals, you are left with ten to twelve hours. Rest is also another factor of efficiency, so we have to take eight hours away for sleeping, leaving two to four hours. But one must bathe, comb, clean teeth, shave, dress – there is no point in protracting this. I think it should be generally accepted that if a man (or woman) works for a wage at a job he doesn’t enjoy, and I am convinced no one could enjoy any type of assembly-line work, or plumbing, or hod carrying, or any job in the service trades, then he qualifies for this definition of a neo-slave. The man who owns the factory or shop or business runs your life, you are dependent on this owner. He organizes your work, the work upon which your whole life source and style depends. He indirectly determines your whole day, in organizing you for work. If you don’t make any more in wages than you need to live, then you are a neo-slave. You qualify if you can’t afford to leave California for New York. If you cannot visit Zanzibar, Havana, Peking, or even Paris when you get the urge, you are a slave. If you’re held in one spot on this earth because of your economic status, it is just the same as being held in one spot because you are the owner’s property. Here in the black colony the pigs still beat and maim us. They murder us and call it justifiable homicide. A brother who had a smoking pipe in his belt was shot in the back of the head. Neo-slavery is an economic condition, a small knot of men exercising the property rights of the slave as if he were, in fact, property. Succinctly: an economic condition which manifests itself in the total loss or absence of self-determination. Only after this is understood and accepted can we go on to the dialectic that will help us in a remedy.”


Labor Forced

This all brings us to the central contradiction between Amerika’s economic arrangement and the political rights it professes to give its citizens, demonstrating that the highest laws of Amerika take a back seat when opposed to the ruling class’s interests in exploiting the masses for private profit. That contradiction is found in Section One of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which holds that all slavery and involuntary servitude is forbidden except in cases of those convicted of crimes. I here quote that provision: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” It must then follow that every so-called minority and poor working-class Amerikan is presumed by the government to be guilty of some criminal violation, and without any opportunity to prove his or her innocence. We might now have an explanation as to why those who overflow Amerika’s prisons are near exclusively members of the so-called minority and poor white working classes.

If the average Amerikan worker took the notion to refuse to participate in the wage slavery economic arrangement, he will be inevitably left and forced by the system to become a vagrant and resort to other “criminal” acts in order to survive. And if a large number of workers elected to also abandon the wage system, they are subject to being forced by the government back to work under such laws as the Taft-Hartley Act (29 U.S. code sections 141 et seq.) under the penalty of imprisonment or fines should they refuse to obey. The worker has no discretion in the matter. Amerika’s economic system rides upon the enslavement of over half the population, who’ve been conditioned by the corporate media, universal compulsory educational system, political mouthpieces, and the indoctrinated nuclear family from birth to believe that their slavery is freedom and that the erosion of their minds under divided labor is conducive to strength.

As the foregoing demonstrated, the oppressive social contract of Amerika is organized around slave labor, while it professes to be based upon principles of liberty and self-determination for every Amerikan. Amerika’s character as a society of slaves and enslavers did not change with the close of the Civil War (1861–1865), nor in the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment (1865). Indeed, it has rendered the entire labor class into slaves with no alternatives for acquiring “freedom,” except that these slaves may compete against one another to acquire more privileges and a small increase in wages with which to gain more diversionary toys and tokens. As long as such economic opportunism and exploitation exist, no one can claim with any degree of honesty that the Amerikan system is based upon principles of liberty and democracy. In fact, it is the social majority – the poor workers – who are the very slaves of society, upon whose backs the economic and ruling class is saddled. As one writer observed, “true liberty is based on economic opportunity. Without it, all liberty is a sham and a lie, a mask for exploitation and oppression. In the profoundest sense, liberty is the daughter of economic equality.”


source:  Amerika – Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength