Remember that even if the family elders don’t know if a relative was Native American or state there were not Native Americans in the family, continue your investigation. In many instances if elders acknowledged Native American ancestry negative consequences resulted. This is because in most states Native Americans were not allowed to purchase land, hold jobs, and have schooling opportunities. Anyone claiming to be Native American was sent to live on the reservations. Being sent to a reservation resulted in loss of land, family connections, accumulated wealth, and in many instances loss of tribal identities and culture.
So, for these reasons Native Americans would claim Colored, Negro, Mulatto, Black Dutch, Black Irish, Melungeon, and even White racial identities. These identities protected them from the hazards of being identified as Native American.
This leads to one of the key ways of identifying a Native American relative. If you find a relative listed on the United States Census records and each year in which you find them listed their race changes, then there is a great possibility that the relative was Native American or of a mixed racial heritage with Native being one of the race mixtures.
Article by CherokeeCloud
Written September 3, 2006