Jimi Hendrix. Crispus Attucks. Andre 3000. Even The Jacksons. All Black and Indigenous.
This month being Native American Heritage Month I wanted to give a shout out to my very beautiful shared cultures and what being black & indigenous means to me.
Indigenous & Black folks have a very shared history when it comes to oppression, stolen lands, broken government promises, police killings, living in poverty and just being seen as less than by the American people but that’s not our whole history. Today we are going to celebrate our victories and how we came together to help each other out in our struggles to live another day.
I come from many different tribes on my mother’s side from Blackfoot to Powhatan to Cheyenne to Cherokee as well as being black on both my mom’s and dad’s side as he comes from a creole background from New Orleans. I also have some French and Irish culture as well on my mom’s side and I’m just very proud of my rich culture. Check out my video for more of my prospective of being mixed blood. ↓↓↓
So Indigenous folks are living on Turtle Island minding their business. Yes wars and conflicts are happening between tribes, yes trade is happening, ect. 1492 happens and Columbus comes through meeting up with the Tienos who live on what is now Puerto Rico and other indigenous tribes in the Caribbean. Columbus thinks it’s a good idea to make Indigenous folks into slaves and took a few of them to Europe but it doesn’t work so they go to Africa and some Africans sell other Africans down the river and they are brought to America to be slaves. This is when the African Indigenous story begins or where I am starting. (some might say it happened earlier than Columbus but that’s up for debate)
Many runaway slaves were welcomed to live with Indigenous tribes and many mixed and had babies with them which would make for our ancestors and us today. Now there are some tribes on the east coast and south who were already dark-skinned tribes. One such tribe would be the Seminoles in Florida. The Seminole tribe was already around before the slaves came to live with them and created a community. Many slaves who ran away or became free went to Florida to build a community near the Seminole tribal lands and called themselves the Seminole Freedman. Since then and the forced removal of tribes during the Trail of Tears the Black Seminole are now located in Oklahoma but also have a small community in Florida.
The five tribes that were forced to walk in the sleet and snow from the East coast and South to the Southwest were the Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek, Chickasaw and Seminole. These tribes also had black folks who lived with them and moved with them during their forced removal.
Now these tribes did have runaway slaves that would become apart of a tribe but also they did have slaves themselves as these tribes where sovereign nations and didn’t function under the United States government.
Later in life when you could only be either a colored person or white many indigenous folks had to choice which one they were going to go under based on how dark their skin is. Many darker skinned indigenous people would be forced to live with the black community and were not allowed to talk about their indigenous roots, culture and spirituality with fear of being killed. This led to many black folks today to want to look into their indigenous ancestry due to them having a picture of a great-grandmother or grandfather who looks very indigenous but they don’t know from where or what tribe.
Famous Black-Indigenous, Black Natives or Black Indians in History:
Crispus Attucks was the first person to die in the Boston Massacre in the American Revolution. He was of mixed heritage of Wampanoag on his mother’s said and black. Circumstantial evidence suggests his father may have been Prince Yonger, an African-born slave and his mother, Nanny Peterattucks, a Natick Native American. Crispus is one of the earliest accounts of the mixing between black and native and is an American hero.
An African-Natchez woman, born into slavery in St. Louis, then located in French Upper Louisiana. She was held first by Joseph Tayon and later by Jean Pierre Chouteau, one of the most powerful men in the city.
In 1805, two years after St. Louis came under US rule, Marguerite filed the first “freedom suit” in the city’s circuit court, 41 years before Dred Scott and his wife Harriet filed their more well-known case. In November 1836 Marguerite, her children; her sister and other descendants of Marie Jean Scypion, her mother, finally won their case as free people of color. The unanimous jury decision in their favor was based on their maternal descent from a Natchez woman, and decided in Jefferson County. The decision withstood appeals to the state and the United States Supreme Court in 1838. The case was considered to end Indian slavery in Missouri.
George Bonga was a fur trader from the 1800s who was one of the first African-Americans to be born in the northern territory of Minnesota. He was born to an African-American father and Ojibwe mother.
George was schooled in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, becoming fluent in French as well as Ojibwe and English. He later became a fur trader and interpreter. He was noted in what is now Minnesota for being, as his brother Stephen claimed, “One of the first two black children born in the state.” Stephen also described them as “the first white children” born there, as the Ojibwe classified everyone who was non-native as “white”.
In 1837 George Bonga tracked down a suspected murderer, a Ojibwe named Che-Ga Wa Skung, and brought him back to Fort Snelling. The ensuing criminal trial was reputedly the first in what was then part of Wisconsin Territory, and the Ojibwe man was acquitted.
George Bonga was described as standing over six feet tall and weighing 200+ pounds. Reports said that he would carry 700 pounds of furs and supplies at once. He served as an interpreter, and was believed to have acted as a guide for governor Lewis Cass.
Well respected in the region, Bonga and his wife opened a lodge on Leech Lake after the fur trade declined. George Bonga died in 1880.
(Juan Caballo, Juan Cavallo, John Cowaya, Gopher John)
John Horse was a general who fought alongside the Seminoles in the Second Seminole War in Florida. He rose to prominence in the third year of what was to become a seven-year war when the first generation of Black Seminole leaders was largely decimated and the primary Seminole war chief, Osceola (Asi Yahola), fell into the hands of the American military commander, General Thomas Sydney Jesup. John Horse had been fighting alongside Osceola and acting as his interpreter by this time. When they were seized while under a flag of truce during negotiations with Jesup’s emissary, Florida militia general Joseph Hernandez, John Horse found himself imprisoned along with Osceola and other members of his band at Fort Marion (Castillo de San Marcos), the old Spanish fort that formerly defended St. Augustine, the colonial capital of Spanish Florida.
Chief Buffalo Child Long Lance:
Born Sylvester Clark Long, was an American journalist, writer and actor from Winston-Salem, North Carolina who became internationally prominent as a spokesman for Indian causes. He published an autobiography, purportedly based on his experience as the son of a Blackfoot chief. He was the first presumed American Indian admitted to the Explorers Club in New York City. After his tribal claims were found to be false, Long Lance was dropped by social circles. He claimed to be of mixed Cherokee, white and black heritage, at a time when Southern society imposed binary divisions of black and white in a racially segregated society.
Mary Edmonia Lewis:
an American sculptor who worked for most of her career in Rome, Italy. She was the first woman of African-American and Native American heritage to achieve international fame and recognition as a sculptor in the fine arts world. Her work is known for incorporating themes relating to black people and indigenous peoples of the Americas into Neoclassical-style sculpture. She began to gain prominence during the American Civil War; at the end of the 19th century, she remained the only black woman who had participated in and been recognized to any degree by the American artistic mainstream. In 2002, the scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Edmonia Lewis on his list of 100 Greatest African-Americans.
Jesse L. Brown:
Chicksaw and Choctaw
Jesse Brown was the first black aviator in the US Navy, a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the first black naval officer killed in the Korean War.
Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to an impoverished family, Brown was avidly interested in aircraft from a young age. He graduated as salutatorian of his high school, notwithstanding its racial segregation, and was later awarded a degree from Ohio State University. Brown enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1946, becoming a midshipman. Brown earned his pilot wings on 21 October 1948 amid a flurry of press coverage; in January 1949 he was assigned to Fighter Squadron 32 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Leyte.
At the outset of the Korean War, Leyte was ordered to the Korean Peninsula, arriving in October 1950. Brown, an ensign, flew 20 combat missions before his F4U Corsair aircraft came under fire and crashed on a remote mountaintop on 4 December 1950 while supporting ground troops at the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Brown died of his wounds despite the efforts of wingman Thomas J. Hudner, Jr., who intentionally crashed his own aircraft in a rescue attempt, for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Brown’s successes in the segregated and desegregated U.S. military were memorialized in several books. The frigate USS Jesse L. Brown (FF-1089) was named in his honor.
Now of course we all know Jimi Hendrix and his amazing guitar skills + beautiful spirit. What most people might not know is that Jimi was black and native. His grandmother was full blood Cherokee and he was also a mix of European and Mexican decedent. He spent a lot of time with his Cherokee grandmother as a kid. He would take this and put it into some of his music and even made an unreleased tribute to his Cherokee roots called Cherokee Mist. Jimi understood the plight of Indigenous people and was very proud of his heritage.
An American figure skater and coach. She was inducted into the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame, as the first person of African-American descent, and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. Of African-American and Seminole descent, Mabel Fairbanks was born on November 14, 1915 in Florida’s Everglades.
Ramona E. Douglass:
A medical sales and marketing professional and one of the most prominent advocates for multiracial Americans.
She is of African-American, Native American (Oglala), and Sicilian heritage. Douglass was a community activist for almost 30 years. She was a founding member of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and participated with Angela Davis’ Political Defense Committee in the early 1970s.
In 1986 Douglass became active in the Biracial Family Network, one of the United States’ oldest community organizations advocating for mixed heritage people and families. On November 12, 1998 the Biracial Family Network joined similar organizations in the U.S. and Canada to create the Association of MultiEthnic Americans (AMEA). Douglass, an AMEA co-founder, served as the organization’s vice president (1988–1991), president (1994–1999) and Director of Media and Public Relations (2000–2005). She served on AMEA’s Advisory Council until her death in 2007.
Douglass was a prominent spokesperson for multiracial issues during the debates preceding Census 2000. In 1993, she testified before Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer’s (D-OH) Subcommittee on Census, Statistics & Postal Personnel in favor of adding a “multiracial” category to the 2000 Census. In 1995, she was appointed, by then Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, to the 2000 Census Advisory Committee. As AMEA’s representative on the committee for 13 years, she contributed a multiracial personal and community organizing perspective. In 1997, Douglass testified before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight on behalf of multiracial Americans.
A graduate of Colorado State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology and Chemistry, Douglass also had a distinguished career in medical sales and marketing.
Ok so I’ve know Maimouna and her whole family since I was a round 6 or 7. I have become like an adopted niece to Mamma Walks on Water MuMu’s mom and feel very close to the whole family like their my own.
Maimouna gets her spirited voice and talent from her mother and grandmother who were and are other worldly singers themselves. As long as I’ve know them they have been a music family and it helps to keep their culture alive. On her mother’s side she has Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee from Mississippi and on her father’s side they are descents of Africa (African-American).
In a lot of her music her cultural upbringing bleeds through whither a song about an African queen or a Native traditional song. Being a product of the DMV (DC, MD, VA) she would go travel a lot through Baltimore where she grew up, DC and Southern Virginia where her grandmother’s land lays.
Radmilla A. Cody:
Radmilla Cody is a model and singer who took a term as the 46th Miss Navajo from 1997-1998. She is of black and Navajo or Diné heritage and works a lot with anti-domestic violence. As she was the first and thus far only Miss Navajo partially of African-American heritage, her nomination sparked considerable debate over Navajo identity. After her tenure, allegations of drug-trafficking and involvement in money-laundering, resulting in her subsequent arrest and imprisonment, led to verbal racial attacks as well as support.
France Winddance Twine:
Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma
France Winddance Twine (born 1960 in Chicago, Illinois) is Professor of Sociology and documentary filmmaker at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the former Deputy Editor of American Sociological Review, the flagship journal of the American Sociological Association. Twine is an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma. She is the granddaughter of Paul Twine, Sr., a founding member of the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago, a social justice organization that played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
An American former professional basketball player, who played for the Tulsa Shock and Seattle Storm in the WNBA. Jonathon is African-American; Fayth is Native American (Cherokee). Goodrich herself is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation.
(Lakota, Nakota, Dakota) Sioux
An American professional basketball player for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Irving’s mother Elizabeth whom was Sioux, died from an illness when he was four, so Drederick raised him with the help of Irving’s aunts. He was named NBA Rookie of the Year after being selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft. A four-time NBA All-Star, Irving was selected to the All-NBA Third Team in 2015. He won an NBA Championship with the Cavaliers in 2016.
Irving played college basketball for the Duke Blue Devils before joining the Cavaliers. He was named the NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 2014. He clinched the 2016 championship for Cleveland with his game-winning shot with 53 seconds remaining in Game 7. After losing to the Golden State Warriors in 2017, Cleveland’s third straight Finals appearance, Irving requested a trade, and he was dealt to Boston. Irving has also played for the United States national team, with whom he has won gold at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Happy Native American Heritage Month! Everybody go out and discover your culture.
Till Next Time…Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ