Helen F. M. Leary, well known N.C. Scholar, recognized the paradox that many modern Native descendants knew little of their background or was disconnected due to centuries of hiding or pretending to be white, black, Portuguese, etc. just to survive. Often terms like Black Dutch, Black Irish, or even Melungeon were terms used to keep from being singled out and bullied or even murdered. Many Natives were also purposefully separated from their families by government entities or other local groups to separate Natives from their culture for the intent of making them “white” and no longer savage.
Native Americans are still seen as the hostile enemy and killing “Indians” is just what all “cowboys” do. It is ingrained into the culture of America and supported by a government who still seems hostile to its aboriginal peoples. Establishing Native family lines is often difficult and the U.S. government has gone to great lengths to make sure many Native tribes are established as and continue to be “extinct” and not organized. Reliability of hard evidence, paper trails, is not always available when tracing family ties, especially when it comes to coastal tribal groups.
“During the early nineteenth century, Native Americans were labeled by federal census takers as free persons of color, mulattoes, or whites simply because no correct racial category was included in the government’s instructions. Consequently, genealogist searching for their minority or mixed-blood ancestors and local historians interested in ethnic representation within the community often must depend on present-day descendants’ oral traditions, which are not primary sources but are nevertheless essential to these kinds of investigations”.[i]
This statement also holds true for the eighteenth and even seventeenth centuries. Oral traditions were all that this author had to go on in my investigations of the origins of my people.
Waxahachie is a small town just south of Dallas, Texas that has become the home to several displaced mixed breed Native Americans, and my family is one of them. Waxahachie is a native word of the original inhabitants of the area that means Buffalo Creek or Cow Creek, or as I like to put it “Female” Buffalo Creek. The original inhabitants, like the buffalo and even the alligator, have long since disappeared.
Waxahachie was originally a plot of land of about 69 acres donated for a town to be built by an Indian who was born and raised in the old Cherokee Nation. One would think that a town such as this would always be friendly to Indians, especially with its High School being the home of the “Waxahachie Indians”. But this was far from the truth during segregation.
My father was a mixed blood Indian boy who was born and raised in the sleepy little town of Waxahachie. He grew up being called by his middle name Edward and always hated the name, but not as much as he hated Waxahachie. Well, at least the white people. Don’t get me wrong, he had a few white friends and other friends who were of varying racial backgrounds, but his disdain for those who made Waxahachie the segregated place it was; the WHITES ONLY separatists that made sure he knew his place was beneath them, they were the thorn in his flesh. It was because of them though that he learned to run and to fight. He said, “You get your butt whooped only so many times before you learn to either run away or fight.”
I called my father Running Bear in his later years as a term of endearment for him and for the heritage that I received from him. The reference was to the ballad written by The Big Bopper and sung by Johnny Preston in the 1950s titled Running Bear.
There are remnant groups of East Coast Native Americans “scattered to the wind” throughout the lower south often found as mix bloods in family groups that are trying desperately to hold on to their Native pasts. My father’s family comes from several tribes often referred to as “extinct as a tribe” because they were scattered and decimated everywhere they went. My grandparents both had stories of being Gypsy like because of constantly moving. All the way up into the 1970’s it was taboo to openly discuss Native blood outside the family group. Only trusted individuals knew and they were usually mixed breeds themselves or married into the family. It is not unusual to find that these people did not exactly know the name of the tribe they came from.
Research many years ago led me to the King family and their close allied families as a possible source of my Native American ancestry on my grandmother’s side of the family. It certainly has been interesting to find these ties that bind the Kings to those Natives who have been emerging out from under of the wings of the wind that has obscured their existence for so many decades due to the prejudice nature of the “changing tides”.
My 3x great grandmother Isabel King Dean is buried in Avalon Texas, not 20 miles from my home in Waxahachie, TX. Stories passed down from her stated that she was Native American but there was little else to go on other than being born in Georgia. Researching her lineage led to an immigrant named Michael King who first came to the colonies in the mid 1600s as an indentured servant to John Wright. He married a Native woman named Elizabeth [ii] and had several children.
There has been much said about Michael King, born in Norwich, England, and his descendants on the frontier of both Virginia and North Carolina who seemingly owned land on both sides of the border, a border that was not solidified as to which state their holdings were until the line between the two states was finally established in 1728[iii]. It is obvious that they lived in peace with the Natives and did indeed become a part of the makeup of a new subculture of mixed breed peoples who had to hide their Native blood.
The maiden last name of Elizabeth King, wife of Michael King the immigrant, has been the topic of much debate. There is only one place known that records her family name and it was damaged due to smudging. That place is in the Bible recording of a descendant names Solomon King and Henry Lee King, a King researcher, says that it is most likely Elizabeth Hare.[iv]
[iv] Research found on-line at the site of http://home.comcast.net/~tinasgenealogy/surnames/king/loupero/michael/michadd5.htm
[iii] Research by Henry L. King http://home.comcast.net/~tinasgenealogy/surnames/king/loupero/michael/michaela.htm
[ii] Research date and source
[i] The following is from NORTH CAROLINA RESEARCH-GENEALOGY AND LOCAL HISTORY by Helen F. M. Leary (well known N.C. Scholar) page 10.