Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Program Review - Donna Bradley's "How to Prove Your American Indian Genealogy"

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society program meeting on Wednesday, 30 July was well attended with 33 members and 6 guests.  

Donna Bradley, from Anza in Riverside County, presented "How to Prove Your American Indian Genealogy."  Donna had provided a chart and five maps of California to the society to use as learning aids, and Gary showed them on the screen while Donna lectured.  

The chart showed the heirarchy of how Native Americans were categorized anthropologically, linguistically and socially - from core groups (many tribes with a similar language base) to tribes (in a core group) to bands (in a tribe) to villages (in a band) to families (in a village).  Researchers need to understand the heirarchy in order to do Native-American research.  She noted that some native Band names have been lost due to time, and English or Spanish names have been substituted.

The maps showed the different core groups in the Americas, the tribes in California (in several different core groups), and the tribes in Southern California, and the bands in San Diego County area.  For instance, the coastal California core group is the Athabascan, who migrated over eons from Alaska into Western Canada, Washington, Oregon, California and Baja California.  

Donna noted that the DNA website www.DNATribes.com, offers a 26-marker autosomal DNA test that can distinguish between core groups.  However, she did not display her own results, nor results from any other autosomal DNA test.

She noted that if Native-American heritage is not proved, then the heritage will be forgotten, and the opportunity to receive U.S. government benefits will be lost.  Tribal benefits might include government, medical, legal, financial, college and tribal income.  To receive benefits, a person must have a family member on the tribal rolls after 1900 and before 1972.

Donna provided some of the history of how American Indians came to be on Indian reservations, and some of the problems that occurred over centuries of mistreatment by the European colonists and immigrants, including:

*  Indians did not have surnames until the late 1800s
*  If they were on U.S. census records, they often said they were White
*  Some Indians married white people, especially on the frontier.
*  They are usually buried on on tribal land.
*  They could not own land or vote until they became American citizens in 1924
*  They did not start scalping, the whites did.  The U.S. government paid a $50 bounty for every Indian scalp in about 1850.  The goal was to annihilate the Indians.
*  By 1900, the Indian population was down to about 400,000.
*  The non-tribal education system tried to "civilize" Indian children by stealing them and teaching them white social values and practices
*  Tribal identification is through the mother's tribe, not the father's tribe.

Donna said that proving American Indiana heritage is difficult.  She recommends not going to the tribe for genealogical information.  There are records in the National Archives, especially Indian agent reports in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, that might provide useful information. 

Donna wrote the book Native Americans of San Diego County in 2009, published by Arcadia Publishing.  You can order it at  http://www.arcadiapublishing.com/9780738559841/Native-Americans-of-San-Diego-County .

This was an informative talk for those interested in Southern California Native-American history and ancestry, but did not discuss Indian history, culture, migration, or records in other parts of North America.

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