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Subject: [BLACK-DUTCH-AMERICA] REDBONES - Local Theories
Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2000 16:04:39 EST




LOCAL THEORIES OF ORIGIN

Let us review of some of the other groups who are not Redbones but have
been confused with them. The United Houma Indian Tribe embraced French
whites and Africans. From this amalgamation came the "Sabines."
Occasionally, one hears Redbones referred to as Sabines. Perhaps the
confusion is because so many Redbones live in the Sabine River area. The
Sabines, however, live in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes. They are
historically French speaking fishermen and trappers who live along the
Gulf Coast.12

The Clifton Choctaw Tribe is a group living in a closed community in
Rapides Parish. They are Choctaw, Chatot, Creole and African. The tribe
has failed to receive federal recognition as an Indian tribe but has
received state recognition. It maintains a tribal office. The Clifton
Choctaw Tribe has not accepted the Redbones nor have Redbones accepted
it. One student of this group relates that some of the families from the
Clifton group may have come originally to Louisiana from North Carolina
where they were members of the Lumbee Indian Tribe.13 This has not been
documented.

Bonnie Ball in her book The Melungeons says the "Cane River Mulattoes"
near Natchitoches are Redbones.14 This is an error. She relied upon the
writings of William H. Gilbert, Jr., who was wrong in almost everything
he said about Redbones in Louisiana. He did not correctly identify a
single group which was Redbone. Gilbert apparently relied heavily upon
Lyle Saxon's novel Children of Strangers, which was not about Redbones
at all, but about the Cane River Creoles.15 Gary Mills, in his otherwise
excellent book, The Forgotten People: Cane River's Creoles of Color says
some slaves owned by the Cane River Creoles ran away to join "redbones"
whom he refers to as " marauding groups" of racially mixed people.16
Mills makes clear that the Cane River Creoles of Color (a mixture of
Spanish or French and Negro) are not Redbones. Whatever else Redbones
are they are not Creoles and are not marauders.

Ball also suggests that Melungeons may be related to the Gypsies
(Romani). She lists some common Gypsy names, two of which, Stanley and
Boswell, were common among Louisiana Redbones.17 Since Gypsies were
present in the Redbone country from the early 1920's to 1960, the author
has been exploring the possibility of a relationship between the two
groups. The Romani originated in India before the year 1000 and have
spread over much of the world including many countries from which
Melungeons, and through them the Redbones, may have derived, but no
evidence has been found thus far to establish a common heritage.
Certainly there are physical similarities between the two groups and
both groups have a history of being skilled metalworkers, but their
lifestyles are otherwise quite different. Melungeons/Redbones are not
nomadic nor are they wanderers. They are wedded to their property and
the Redbones defend their real estate with a vengeance as we will see
later. The author found that in one instance a Redbone (Droddy) married
a Gypsy girl and they settled down in the Redbone community rather than
travel as Gypsies.

The Ebarb Choctaw-Apache Tribe is a state recognized tribe which has
lived in Sabine Parish since the 1700's. They maintain a tribal office
in Zwolle and a pow-wow ground at Ebarb, both in Sabine Parish. They are
of Choctaw and Lipan Apache heritage. The Spaniards brought Apaches into
Louisiana as slaves in the eighteenth century. One may keep an Apache a
prisoner but one does not easily make a slave of him. The Apaches caused
so much trouble for their captors they were finally freed. Webster Talma
Crawford has stated that Redbones are related to these Apaches. It is
quite possible that there was intermarriage between these two groups
especially during the mid-nineteenth century. The Ebarb Choctaw-Apache
already lived on the northern edge of the Neutral Zone when the Redbones
arrived. Crawford, an early writer on Redbones, believed that as these
Apaches were freed they went south and married into the Redbone group.

He wrote that it was the Apache who provided the "noxious blood" to the
Redbones. While there may well have been a mixing of these two groups,
Crawford's timing was somewhat off as the Apaches had already been
released when the Redbones arrived. Crawford did not believe that
Redbones arrived from another state or territory but that they developed
in the local area. He also thought the Redbones had mixed with the
Koasati (Coushatta) and Choctaw, which is more likely.

Webster Talma Crawford, who was reared near the Louisiana Redbone
community, wrote a monograph in approximately 1932 which was popular in
the Redbone community, being circulated as a typescript until its
publication in booklet form in 1993.18 The Crawford material is one of
the few writings on Louisiana Redbones. Crawford managed to preserve
some of the language and a description of the lifestyle and attitudes of
the 19th century Louisiana Redbones. His material is in two parts; part
one is a history of the origins of the Redbones, and part two is an
account of the Westport Fight -- a successful effort of the Redbones to
defend their territory from outsiders.

In reading Crawford's theory of the origins of the Redbones, one must
keep in mind that he was writing at a time when research resources were
more limited than they are today and that much basic research has been
done since his writing. Nevertheless, he conducted extensive research
including interviews with local residents some of whom were descendants
of participants in the Westport fight, and he reached some remarkable
conclusions.19 Regrettably, he included no documentation and, as far as
is known, left no research notes.

Crawford concluded that the Louisiana Redbones were unrelated to the
Melungeons or to any other group in the eastern part of the United
States, but rather that they developed in the Neutral Zone of
southwestern Louisiana and that the 19th century was, in his words, the
"incubation period." He stated:
"In brief, I have found the Redbones to be a brave, proud and
independent clan into whose province they have permitted no invaders.
They maintain the proposition that socially, all Redbones are equal;
they recognize no nobility in the clan. In their own ranks there is
frequent warfare, yet they quickly band together to fight a common
enemy. They are clannish, guerrilla warriors. Their promptitude to
avenge any insult has been proverbial. Industrious and home loving, they
have steadfastly refused to be amalgamated with the outside world. And
yet, they are not village-loving people. The Redbones have built no
villages. The population dwells in lonely scattered habitations and the
individuals do not fear solitude. Their name, "Redbones," serves as a
convenient label for a people who combine in themselves the blood of the
wasted tribes, the early colonists or forest rovers, the runaway slaves,
and the stray seaman of the Mediterranean stock from coasting vessels in
the West Indian or Brazilian Trade.
>From the very beginning of my study of the Redbones, it seemed almost a
foregone conclusion that these bold people were of Mediterranean stock,
for it had been said that Hannibal was a "Redbone." One may more
correctly conclude that the Redbones are of the stock of Hannibal.
Hence, in the veins of these people there may be found the blood of
ancient Carthage; of Crossus perhaps and of Sidon and Tyre. Part
Semitic, part Hamitic, Berbers, Mauretanian (sic) Arabs, Nubians,
Phoenicians and true Carthaginians are perhaps all represented among
their ancestors. And having very little of either Aryan or Ethiopian
stock in their ancestry, we may call those people most properly,
"Moors."20

Crawford further states:
"The hair of the Redbone...is straight, wavy or strongly frizzled;
rarely or never woolly. Yet, it appears that a few Redbones carry the
blood of some Negroid people; possibly perhaps most likely Nubian.... In
both racial and physical characteristics the Redbone appears to be akin
to that mystery people of the Pyrenees, the Basques.
The Redbones of the Sabine Frontier are a homogeneous element of people,
unrelated to the Delaware "Moors," the "Croatans" of North Carolina, the
so called "Melungeons" of eastern Tennessee, or any other clan of
mystery people...."21

In The Historic Indian Tribes of Louisiana, Fred B. Kniffen, et. al.
listed Redbones as an Indian tribe. They discuss them as follows:

A large new Indian population had begun to develop in southwestern
Louisiana in the mid-nineteenth century. Apparently, immigrants from the
Carolinas and Georgia sought areas where there were Indian or mixed
Indian and black-and-white families. Today, these early Carolinians and
Georgians would nearly all be from families bearing surnames associated
with the non-tribal groups in those states with the strongest Indian
identities, such as the Lumbee, Haliwa, and Westoes. These were the
people who came to be identified as "Red Bones." ... A scattering of
Louisiana Indians, including Biloxi, Choctaw, and Panana, sometimes
called "Seminole" in error, was clearly associated with the Carolina and
Georgia immigrants, reinforcing Indian genetics. Whites and blacks, in s
ome instances, are said to have become part of this mixture of races and
cultures. Indian identity remained strong in the Red Bone communities,
and cultural behavior reflected Indian roots. Artifacts were placed on
graves, fires were often lighted for the dead, matrilocal residence was
common, and a forest economy with such material traits as basketry and
blowguns persisted....many communities became isolated, both
geographically and socially. Many excluded blacks owned no slaves and
wished no association with either group, and in so doing invited
discrimination from powerful land-holding whites. ... Even today, the
Red Bones often prefer social isolation to interaction with outsiders.22

In the once popular novel Red Bone Woman, author Carlyle Tillery, has
his main male character, Mr. Randall, pursue the heritage of his Red
Bone wife, Tempie, until he concludes she is not a mulatto, nor "Spanish
white" as her people claimed but "Indian white" as opposed to "regular
white".23

Redbones have never maintained a tribal government. Since this is a main
prerequisite for winning tribal status it is unlikely that they will
ever receive recognition as a separate tribe. Indeed, this writer is not
aware that they have ever petitioned for such status or that they
consider themselves a tribe in the usual sense of that term.

Early this year a new Indian group has been approved by the Louisiana
state legislature. The Four Winds Tribe of the Louisiana Cherokee
Confederacy is open to Indians of any tribe and many Redbones are
joining. This is not a true tribe but more properly an association or,
as the name suggests, a confederacy.


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