Phyllis Kimber Wilcox, Black Voice News |

In November, the Months of Indian Heritage, discussions related to the status of black indigenous peoples in relation to the wider indigenous community, were not given attention.

Negotiating the identity of Afro-Indigenous peoples can be difficult if your appearance does not meet expectations or popular media coverage of indigenous communities.

Discussing how people perceive what it means to be indigenous, and the conflict with the view in the documentary, Black Indians American History, the woman commented on others’ comments about her appearance: “[Y]You don’t look like a Native American, ”she is often told.

The lack of indigenous peoples is just one of the problems they face: from colorism in tribal groups to recognition of their contribution.

Blacks and natives have been in contact since the beginning of the nation’s history. People of African descent came with the first researchers, and through this contact new personalities were created – from Crispus Ataxus to Frederick Douglas and Paul Cuffy to name a few.

Being black and indigenous was a little-known part of American history.

Indigenous Afro will help explore the continent, become translators, bag hunters, fishermen and soldiers. They traveled with Spanish missionaries to help establish missions in Southern California.

People of African descent came with the first researchers, and through this contact new faces were created (Image source:

New perspectives

Indigenous Africans have contributed to many black performers, including Jimi Hendrix, guitarist whose music is famous, Tina Turner, whose soulful voice spans many eras and genres of music, the King of Pop Michael Jackson and the most industrious people in show business. .

These artists, as well as others, helped define their eras and were the soundtrack to the most important moments in the lives of many people.

Today, those who are black and indigenous are negotiating issues and bringing a new perspective to what it means to be a link between more than one cultural identity. Some used the court to maintain association with the tribes, while others sought recognition.

In the documentary We still live here: the black Indians of the Wampanag tribe, one young girl from the Muscovite vampanaag tribe discusses how her personality is perceived by others. “They don’t really consider us Native Americans,” she said.

The vampanaag woman stated, “A lot of the reasoning I get from this world is that vampanaag people don’t exist … for the most part people say that because they never knew a vampanaag person.” The Wampanagas married and had children of various backgrounds. According to historians, the definition of the Wampanag tribe is a community and common cultural traditions.

A young woman from the Wampanaag tribe of Muscovy in the documentary “We Still Live Here: Black Indians of the Wampanaag Tribe.” (Source: YouTube).

The Wampanaagi were a tribe whose ancestors met with Massachusetts colonists when they first landed on the shores of what would later become America.

The experience of being a black and indigenous people

The Black Voice News spoke with Kyle Mace, an associate professor of African American Studies, American Indian Studies and History at UCLA about the experience of being both black and indigenous. According to Mace, there are many tribes, but recognition was a problem. Many of them are not recognized by the state, at the national level or by local authorities. There are no organizations that track numbers when discussing Afro-Indigenous.

“I don’t think there’s an answer to that,” he said. who identify themselves as Afro-Indigenous peoples ”.

Asked about his own unique origins, Mace shared: “I come from Michigan and my family, we are Sagina Chipeva. My great-grandmother came to Detroit in 1940 from the Saginau-Chipeva reservation. ” Mace arrived in Los Angeles, California, in 2017.

Discussing whether he had problems with his cultural identity and how he coped with the fact that the natives did not look like media images, Mace, who identifies himself as an Afro-Indigenous people, explained: “Not really in my family if grew because everyone was either black, or Afro-native, or cousins ​​who knew where we came from. As an adult, I will say that whether you go for a Pow Wow or wear certain earrings, you can get an amazing look. These days I don’t really wear earrings. I used to be asked why you wear these earrings? Are you ashamed to be black? Because I also identify myself as an indigenous person … I just brush it off, I just brush it off to be ignorant. ”

“I think the serious misconception about indigenous peoples even today is that most of them live in cities – be it Los Angeles, which I think has the highest per capita, I haven’t seen the latest census data – not in reservations. On the one hand, they live like ordinary city dwellers, ”Mace said, answering a question about how cultural identity manifests itself among indigenous peoples. “And there is not enough social science data to tell, in particular, about the experience of the urban indigenous population.”

Kyle Mace, associate professor of African American Studies, American Indian Studies and History at UCLA, is a scholar and author of African Indigenous Peoples. “As a black man and a native, I suppose I’m just a mister, a homeless bro,” he writes. (Photo credit: UCLA).

“My family has been in Detroit since the 1940s. In 1975, my great-grandmother co-founded what was called the Detroit Indian Educational and Cultural Center. My aunt Judy Mace founded the American Indian Academy of Medicine Bear with the help of black politicians associated with the Afrocentric school movement of the late 1980s. They hesitated between living throughout Black Detroit, identifying as black, and working on behalf of indigenous youth, and remained respected. ”

According to Mace, the school founded by his family was closed due to limited resources and funding problems that began in the late 1990s.

Media portraits

Noting the lack of images of indigenous Afro-Indigenous people in Mae, commented: “For starters, I don’t think there are many images of indigenous people in the media. And why there are not so many images of indigenous and Afro-indigenous peoples in the media … depends on whose authors, who are the producers and what they value ”.

He explained: “Some people see this as a zero-sum game. And that means we only have such limited resources and opportunities to present what it means to be indigenous. So we have to reproduce the typical, so-called standard view of how indigenous people should look. I think until there may be more indigenous people who are allowed to tell their stories in different media, booking dogs, the Hulu series is a good example [things will be slow to change].

“Many Afro-native people were upset because there weren’t many images [them] in Oklahoma, in that particular area. We’ll see what they do in the second season. I’m sure they will most likely have more representation. ” Speaking of his work and whether there has been much interest in the courses he teaches at UCLA, according to Mace, his classes remain full and he continues to write about both blacks and Indigenous people. experiences. My latest book, City of dispossession: business people, African Americans and modern Detroit, is a continuation of this work.

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