So-called American Ancient "Tri-Racial Isolates" explained



"The term"tri-racial isolates" is distasteful today, but its existence is part of history that we must recognize....

"As details have fallen together, it has become apparent that the isolate groups are, in fact, remnant Native American communities that have remained outside the official system of recognized tribes."   (Ned Heite)

The Tri-Racial Isolates


Lumbee Indian Origins
Only a few terms refer to bi -ethnic Indian-white and black-Indian mixes. The only terms for Indian and white mixes are half-breed [ 1775], quarter-breed [ 1862], and cross-breed, all of which have been shortened to breed. Griffe was occasionally used for a black and Indian mix. Most racially mixed descendants of these original groups long ago passed into one of these three racial categories. But communities of TriRacial Isolates have been denominated with as many as 68 terms, and there are undoubtedly others. These refer to racially mixed groups who live in scattered settlements of persons of various Native American Indian, black, and white ancestry.


Best historical tri-racial group origin map on the Internet.
ethnic racial isolates of reputed partial Indian origins
Kentucky Melungeons
For various historical reasons some descendent's of these mixed unions, many of them tri-racial mixes, settled into more than 200 small, rural, and isolated communities in the eastern United States. Many of these local settlements soon acquired local names. Some of these names derive from surnames prevalent in the communities and from the names of places where the groups live. Other names for Tri-Racial Isolates reflect the same themes of outgroup derogation as terms for other groups. Dunlap and Weslager ( 1947), Berry ( 1963), and others studied the origins of names for these groups and noted 68 terms and their etymologies. Some of the names apply to several different settlements, which accounts for some of the discrepancy between the number of communities and the number of terms (there are more than 200 communities and only 68 terms). Melungeon [or malungeon] is probably the best known of these names, and it designates several related communities.
Though these groups, taken together, have no single, widely accepted proper name, scholars have used terms such as mixed-blood. Genteel regional writers have referred to them with names such as mystery-people, referring to their obscure origins, raceless-people, and racial-orphans. They also have been referred to as local-mixed-groups, mixed-blood-racial-islands, and, unkindly, as half-castes, half-breeds, or just breeds. Estabrook and McDougle ( 1926) coined the acronym WIN, apparently for White, Indian, and Negro, as a pseudonym for one such community. Berry ( 1963) suggests borrowing the Spanish mestizo. But the jargonish term Tri-Racial Isolates has favor among most academics who write about these communities.
Most of the local, informal terms leveled at these communities are derogatory. (Certain names, such as our-people and others, are applied by the groups to themselves without pejoration.) While nicknames for these people are a product of intergroup contact and conflict, they are an exception to the principle that the coinage of outgroup nicknames flourishes where many different groups are in forced, close contact, such as at the center of an industrial city. Each community, sometimes including a few nearby communities, has been given a separate nickname. The proliferation of nicknaming occurs, not because the outgroup is large and compact, but because its communities are small and geographically so widely dispersed as to be seen as separate communities and thus as separate peoples. The isolation of these communities and their particular origins and histories also produce distinctive subcultures or variegated ethnicity.

The explanation for the large variety of terms nonetheless lies with the demographic and ecological situations of the groups rather than just with the prejudice of the name-callers.

The allusions of these terms are similar to those of nicknames for other groups. Allusion to dark color is a frequent but not a dominant theme. Certain other themes are noteworthy.

About a dozen nicknames derive from, sometimes as alterations of, patronymic names of clans thought to predominate in these communities: bones [probably from Boone, but possibly short for red-bones]; chavises; clappers; coe-clan; collinses; creels [possibly a variant of creoles]; goins; goulds [also gould-towners]; laster-tribe; males [possibly from Mayle, Mail, or Mahle]; pools [from Vanderpool]; slowters [from Slaughter]; and vanguilders (see Berry 1963).

A score of nicknames for other groups derive from place names: adamstown-indians; black-waterites [or black-waters]; cane-river-mulattoes; carmel-indians; cecil-indians [or cecilville-indians]; croatans [or croatan-indians. Very offensive when shortened to cros, i. e., "crows"]; g. -and-b. -indians[from the initials of the Grafton and Belington Railroad]; haliwa-indians; keating-mountain-group; marlboro-blues; pea-ridge-group; person-countyindians; ramapo-people; ridgemanites; sabines; sand-hill-indians; summerville-indians; west-hill-indians; West-Feliciana Creole-Indians.

Yet other groups are named after actual nationalities, whose names are symbols widely applied to notably foreign, especially dark people: arabs; cajuns; creoles; cubans; greeks; guineas; moors; Portuguese; and turks.  Several of these terms--arab, greek, guinea, and turk--were associated with groups as various as blacks, Italians, Irish, and Jews.

A few groups have nicknames, which are used generally for mixed persons: breed; creole; half-caste; and half-nigger. Half a dozen terms make direct allusion to color: blue-eyed-negroes; brown people; red-bones [possibly from a folk belief that Native American Indians have bones with a reddish hue]; red-legs; red-nigger; yellow-people; and yellow-hammers [Hammer is an old term of general derogation, possibly reinforced in this usage by "yellow." Also yellow-hammer is a term for the yellow-shafted flicker. Cf. peckerwood].

A few nicknames echo-historical events, such as issues, which is short for "free-issue"--a free-born black before the Civil War. This is probably also the origin of free-jacks, a term used in the late nineteenth century for any black ( Cohen 1972). Jackson-whites may be a rendering by folk etymology from jacks-and-whites, where jacks is short for free-jacks. Other names may derive from putative dietary practices, such as ramps, possibly from eating ramps, a pungent cousin to the onion, and clay-eaters, from alleged geophagy [the same term was applied to certain poor whites in the middle South]. At least one term is said to derive from a phrase: Wesorts, traditionally from "We sort of people is different." Bushwacker is also a term for any rustic.

Etymologies are less certain for other terms. Folk, folkloric, legendary, and traditional etymologies abound. Gilbert ( 1946) and Dunlap and Weslager ( 1947) repeat and cite sources for certain speculative etymologies. But Berry ( 1963) is cautious and concludes that the origin of several, after all, are unknown: bonackers; brass-ankles [also a name for any "mulatto"]; buckheads; dominickers; hi-los; honies; and pond-shiners. It seems probable that melungeon derives from French méglanger, to mix; the first-person plural,present indicative is mélangeons ( Dunlap and Weslager 1947). Or possibly it is related to Afro-Portuguese, melungo, shipmate.


ETHNONYMS: Aframerindians, Creoles, Creole-Indians, Half-Breeds, Marginal Peoples, Mestizos, Metis, Micro-Races, Middle Peoples, Quasi-Indians, Racial Islands, Racial Isolates, Southern Mestizos, Submerged Races, Tri-Racials, Tri-Racial Isolates
This generic label covers some two hundred different groups of relatively isolated, rural peoples who live in at least eighteen states mainly in the eastern and southern United States. In general, the label and the various alternatives refer to distinct peoples thought to have a multiracial background (White-Indian-African-American, African-American-White or Indian-White, Indian-Spanish) who historically have been unaffiliated with the general White and African-American population or with specific American Indian groups. Estimates place the number of people in these groups at about seventy-five thousand, although some groups have disappeared in recent years through a combination of migration to cities and intermarriage with Whites and African-Americans. The best known of these groups is the Lumbee Indians, numbering over thirty thousand mainly in North and South Carolina.

Classification of a group as an American Isolate rests on (1) real or ascribed mixed racial ancestry of group members; (2) a social status different from that of neighboring White, African-American, or American Indian populations; and (3) identification as a distinct local group with the assignment of a distinct group name.

American Isolates existed prior to the American Revolution, perhaps as long ago as the early eighteenth century, and they increased in number throughout the nineteenth century as they came to public attention in the areas where they lived. Among factors leading to group formation were the presence of offspring of African-American male slaves and White women and the offspring of Indians and free or enslaved African-Americans.
Once a small community of multiracial members began, it grew primarily through a high fertility rate and became more and more isolated both socially and physically as its members were rejected by Whites and chose, themselves, to shun African-Americans. The movement of Indian groups west also contributed to their isolation.

More recently, isolation was maintained in part through government action, most significantly through the banning of Isolate children from public schools. Most Isolate groups were and continue to be described by outsiders in such stereotypical terms as lazy, shiftless, criminals, violent, illiterate, poor, or incestuous.

Groups known to have still existed in the 1950s and 1960s include the following, listed by state: 
Alabama: Cajans, Creoles, Melungeons (Ramps) 
Delaware: Moors, Nanticoke 
Florida: Dominickers 
Georgia: Lumbee Indians (Croatans) 
Kentucky: Melungeons, Pea Ridge Group (Coe Clan, Black Coes) 
Louisiana: Natchitoches Mulattoes, Rapides Indians, Redbones, Sabines, St. Landry Mulattoes, Zwolle-Ebard People, Creole-Indians, Houma's, Houma-Choctaw's
Maryland: Guineas, Lumbee Indians, Melungeons, Wesorts (Brandywine) 
Mississippi: Creoles 
New Jersey: Gouldtowners, Ramapo Mountain People (Jackson Whites), Sand Hill Indians

New York: Bushwhackers, Jackson Whites 
North Carolina: Haliwa Indians, Lumbee Indians, Person County Indians, Portuguese, Rockingham Surry Group 
Ohio: Carmel Indians, Cutler Indians, Darke County Group, Guineas, Vinton County Group 
Pennsylvania: Karthus Half-Breeds, Keating Mountain Group, Nigger-Hill People, Pooles 
South Carolina: Brass Ankles, Lumbee Indians, Turks 
Tennessee: Melungeons 
Texas: Redbones 
Virginia: Adamstown Indians, Brown People, Chickahominy Indians, Issues, Melungeons, Potomac Indians, Rappahannock Indians, Rockingham Surry Group
West Virginia: Guineas.

While it is difficult to generalize across all Isolate groups or individuals, most live in rural areas and derive their income from farming and unskilled or semiskilled labor. Social status within a group is based on wealth, access to the White Community, primarily through intermarriage, and residence in a settled, named Isolate community.

The Tri-Racial Isolate Communities of Delaware & So. New Jersey


 The first 5 papers are part of one large web page:




Articles describing Cheswold and the Delaware “Moors

Popular Posts