Mixed Blood Indians: Racial Construction in the Early South

Mixed Blood Indians: Racial Construction in the Early South

by Theda Perdue
     
 

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On the southern frontier in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, European men—including traders, soldiers, and government agents—sometimes married Native women. Children of these unions were known by whites as "half-breeds." The Indian societies into which they were born, however, had no corresponding concepts of race or "blood.

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Overview

On the southern frontier in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, European men—including traders, soldiers, and government agents—sometimes married Native women. Children of these unions were known by whites as "half-breeds." The Indian societies into which they were born, however, had no corresponding concepts of race or "blood." Moreover, counter to European customs and laws, Native lineage was traced through the mother only. No familial status or rights stemmed from the father.

"Mixed Blood" Indians looks at a fascinating array of such birth- and kin-related issues as they were alternately misunderstood and astutely exploited by both Native and European cultures. Theda Perdue discusses the assimilation of non-Indians into Native societies, their descendants' participation in tribal life, and the white cultural assumptions conveyed in the designation "mixed blood." In addition to unions between European men and Native women, Perdue also considers the special cases arising from the presence of white women and African men and women in Indian society.

From the colonial through the early national era, "mixed bloods" were often in the middle of struggles between white expansionism and Native cultural survival. That these "half-breeds" often resisted appeals to their "civilized" blood helped foster an enduring image of Natives as fickle allies of white politicians, missionaries, and entrepreneurs. "Mixed Blood" Indians rereads a number of early writings to show us the Native outlook on these misperceptions and to make clear that race is too simple a measure of their—or any peoples'—motives.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In these trenchant essays, Perdue explores the nexus of race, gender, culture, and power and shatters the legitimacy of historical representation based on 'blood' in regard to southeastern Indians studies. In its place, she crafts an insightful narrative that restores Native cultural values and views to a central place in the story. Her well-written and elegantly argued work will enlighten scholars and general readers alike."—Kathryn Braund, author of Deerskins and Duffels: Creek Indian Trade with Anglo-America, 1685-1815

"In these three pointed essays, Perdue contends that scholars of the Native American South have yet to cast off the racist legacy of the antebellum era. Her uncompromising argument engages a debate that is certain to become central to the next generation of scholarship."—Claudio Saunt, author of A New Order of Things: Property, Power, and the Transformation of the Creek Indians, 1733-1816

"Perdue has written extensively on Indians of the Southeast. 'Mixed Blood' Indians is a fine addition to her body of work."—Charleston Post & Courier

"An interpretive tour de force by one of the finest historians of Native America. Purdue summarizes so many issues so succinctly and memorably that the book will make an excellent supplementary text in United States history survey courses."—Journal of American Ethnic History

"From her exploration of the development of Cherokee slavery to her recent study of Cherokee gender roles, Perdue has established herself as the preeminent historian of the native South. . . . The book is gracefully written, engaging, and bristling with historical and historiographical arguments. Students of native, southern, and, more broadly, United States history ought to take notice, for challenges Perdue levels against the term ‘mixed blood’ could as well be brought to bear on other historiographical commonplaces like Indian, black, and white."—North Carolina Historical Review

"Promises to enliven the debate over the importance of race in southern Indian society. By offering an interpretation rooted in native cultural values, Perdue presents an alternative to the racial categories and thinking that seemingly dominate the field."—Journal of Southern History

"'Mixed Blood' Indians appears at a crucial point in the study of colonialism, race, and American history. [Perdue] speaks provocatively to emerging studies of 'the intimacies of empire,' as well as to the current concern about the ideological power of 'blood' in American Indian communities."—Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

"[This] book should prove to be an invaluable resource to the process of replacing soon-to-be archaic explanations of the impact of interracial marriages on Native-American societies with information that is much more accurate and enlightening."—Journal of the Early Republic

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780820327310
Publisher:
University of Georgia Press
Publication date:
04/28/2005
Series:
Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures Series, #45
Pages:
154
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

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