Americans with Native and Black Ancestry

I hope I get a chance to catch this very interesting exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. It’s called “IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas” and it looks into the lives of Americans who have both African and indigenous ancestry. Apparently, up to 60% of African Americans may have some indigenous ancestry.

Black and Indigenous

From an article in Indian Country Today:

The exhibition takes the long view of history, traveling in a few short panels that illustrate the 1600s, when intermarriage and slavery brought Native peoples and African slaves together, to present-day families for whom this dual identity is indivisible.


Ideas about the identities of mixed-heritage people grow out of colonial policies, which viewed black and Native people as dangerous.

“In colonial Mexico (the word) lobo, the wolf is the blend of Indian and black,” Tayac said. “The combination was thought to be dangerous, that you could have two colonized and enslaved people, if they come together it could be dangerous. How much did we absorb those ideas?”

This mixed heritage comes from times when Indians and Blacks were enslaved side-by-side, or when enslaved Blacks were able to escape white communities and chose to join Indian communities. Also, some Indians owned black slaves and subsequent intermarriage took place.

Whites were much more comfortable with Indians owning slaves than working alongside of, intermarrying, or welcoming blacks into their communities. If these two oppressed peoples could come together, why, it could threaten white hegemony!

More information on this topic here.

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