Sunday, October 2, 2011

CVGS Fall Seminar Summary: Donna Bradley – “American Indian Research"

The afternoon presentation at the Chula Vista Genealogical Society Fall Seminar on 24 September was by Donna Bradley, titled “American Indian Research."

This was a 90 minute lecture without notes, and without a syllabus.  Donna's ancestry and experience includes Scots-Irish and Native American in the southeast and Native American in California, and her presentation reflected that experience.

She noted that Scots Irish migrated to the colonies, then moved down through the Appalachians, Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge. Indians lived in these places, and lonely white males found Indian wives. It was rare to find Indian males marrying a white woman. 

Where did the Indians come from? She said that they were here when the continents split apart, and those on the North American continent were always there. They stayed in approximately the same place for thousands of years. Indians didn’t keep written records. They lived mainly in hunter-gatherer societies as tribes, and their history was oral – told in stories, chants, etc. 

Donna defined these Indian groups:

*  Mestizo - in Mexico, Central America
*  Athabascan - in Alaska and North America
*  Navajo/Apache – in Southwest North America
*  Aztec/Mayan - in Mexico and Central America
*  Cherokees from Florida and Georgia – Trail of Tears to Oklahoma

She noted that tribes are specific groups with a distinct culture, but there are bands within tribes. Different tribes may have different dialects or linguistic characteristics.

To understand the history of Indians in North America, you have to understand the white man’s government. White men wanted land, but Indians had no concept of property. White men brought destruction to Indian tribes through war, annihilation, disease, broken treaties and servitude.  For example, there were two million Indians in Califronia before the white men came in the late 1700s, but only 16,000 were enumerated in the 1900 census. 

Donna said that American Indian research is not like any other genealogy research.  There are no cemetery plots - Indians usually cremated bodies rather than bury them. Indians were considered lower than black slaves by whites, and the 1863 emancipation did not apply to Indians.  In 1924, Indians were given U.S. citizenship, given the right to own land and to vote in federal elections, and were given the right to vote in state elections in 1932. State censuses show many Indians, but they often have only a first name (for example, the 1852 California census).  There were no California birth, marriage or deaths of Indians until 1924. There were many name changes as Indians moved between Indian culture and the American/Mexican government records.

Tribes work on a lineal descent. Each tribe has a blood quantum level to qualify for membership.   No tribe will help you do genealogy research – there is no cooperation because  the tribes don’t want you to be Indian – they will have to share their casino profits with you. A person needs to prove to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs that they have Indian ancestry, and obtain a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood. Once proven, the tribes may accept you, but tribal law is paramount.. 

Certain DNA markers mean certain things and are associated with certain races, tribes and/or certain locations. Look at the website. 

If you think that you have Indian ancestry, follow these suggestions:

* Do a DNA test to determine if there is Indian haplogroups
* Check Indian school records
* Check Indian Rolls like Dawes roll and Miller roll.- here is a lot more nformation than what is on
* Ask National Archives for records of tribe.
* Check Indian census rolls.
* Do census searches on Ancestry using no name, but in a place and an age range.
* Find history books and manuscript collections in libraries, local or state historical/genealogical societies or archives.

This was a challenging presentation.  It was California-centric, and some of Donna's historical facts and conclusions were curious to this reporter.  Many of the statements made conflict with the summary on Wikipedia in Native Americans in the United States.

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