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Black Native Americans Are Starting To Embrace Their Roots and Cultural Identity

Black African Americans

Mwalim, (Morgan James Peters) directs the African and African-American Studies program at the UMass Dartmouth

While many Blacks claim some sort of Native ancestry, often undocumented, there is a population of Black people in America who have a strong link to their Native American roots and they are starting to assert their cultural identity.

Many Blacks have Native American ancestry in their bloodline that tie them to a variety of Eastern tribes, director of the Institute for New England Native American Studies at the UMass Boston, J. Cedric Woods, explained to the Bay State Banner.

“Most of the tribes have some degree or another of African intermixture,” Woods said. “It may be a single family line. It may be multiple lines. It may be most of the lines in the tribe. It can run the entire spectrum.”

Either way, more and more Black people are starting to embrace those lines.

One example is Morgan James Peters, a director of the African and African-American Studies program at UMass Dartmouth, who prefers to go by Mwalim.

Mwalim is similar to the Swahili term meaning teacher.

Mwalim has traced his ancestry back to both Africa and North America as a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.

“My primary identity is I’m a Black Wampanoag,” Mwalim said. “It’s having a foot in both communities, being part of the Wampanoag community, being part of the Black community and recognizing that they’re not mutually exclusive.”

In other words, Black people should know that they don’t have to choose between their Native American roots and their African roots.

More people are indeed starting to realize that.

NCBAI-footer-imageOver the summer more than 400 people attended the inaugural meeting of the National Congress of Black American Indians in Washington.

Participants did not have to prove their Native lineage, which was perfect for new members who were looking to discover more about their roots.

For a long time, most organizations did require members to prove their ancestry to some degree beyond just oral tradition.

“Tribes have all kinds of…ways to determine whether somebody meets particular criteria to be a citizen of a particular government,” Woods continued. “You have some tribes who use blood quantum…How much of that blood is required is all across the map.”

There is also a population of Black people that are considered citizens of Native nations although they didn’t necessarily have Indian blood.

These people are descendants of people who were enslaved by Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, Choctaw or Chickasaw Indians.


What people are saying

11 thoughts on “Black Native Americans Are Starting To Embrace Their Roots and Cultural Identity

  1. John Cote says:

    The Grande Chi-Chi Mecca was connected to Canada!

  2. Mark H. Vosburgh says:

    That's the whole article? What did I miss?

  3. Lola K Francis says:

    Native people owned slaves too…

  4. wow something new I've learned: native Americans had slaves too? I wonder if they were treated the way the Europeans treated their slaves.

  5. That's it very short article. I know there's more to speak about.

  6. Luci Ryan says:

    Too short an article. Would have loved more. My great grand was Cherokee.

  7. I still don't get the (WHY) people of color are still on a quest to be embraced by a race of people who don't acknowledge them as being a part of their race or culture. What could be the fascination or drive towards such?

  8. Woody Woods says:

    To be honest…..I'm surprised at some of the responses here. Maybe it's from lack of information or lack of education, but for many Native Americans and African Americans it has been known for years the link between the two cultures. For those who need more information, read…."Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage by William Loren Katz"…..Many tribes took in many runaway slaves who later married into Native American families. Many 'Black Indians' became scouts for those whites who began moving west. This history is also part of African American history and is jointly shared by Native Americans.

  9. Frank Kemet says:

    Blacks are claiming every race. Is there a race black people don't claim?

  10. The Natives "in culture" that have African ancestry have long been accepted because they are tribal. Those who joined the mainstream (maybe intermarried) way back then were cut off from the original culture and became "Black" or a number of other racial terms, deliberately redesignated by the census and adapted to an evolving Black culture. So close to the mainstream, Blacks began to fight for rights. Were they accepted back by tribes. Nope. They're truly cutoffs.

  11. Natives WERE slaves first. For 200 years. Blacks owned slaves, too.

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