Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Drums along the Bayou

Cousin Terry has a new blog which he calls My Redbone Roots. Today he takes aim at two of the most dispictable creeps ever to suck air from real humans, old (and near death) Tupperwear Two Feathers, who is known by more names than Carter has little pills, and Princess Pig Face, the president of that group of wannabe Redbones. You know those two, they're the thugs Don Marler uses to enforce his opinion on the Redbone debate. Marler's opinion, by the way, is that Louisiana's Redbones descend from Blacks. Any of you real Redbones out there just remember that little point. Marler and the RHF is painting you with an African brush. The three of them can eat shit and die.

Go read Terry's blog.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Nature or Nurture: What makes a Redbone

The nurture vs. nature debate is one the online Redbone-identified community dealt with ten years ago, at length. After vigorous research and debate, most of us concluded that there really isn't a cultural difference between people who might be called Redbones and their neighbors. There is no line separating the two.

This conclusion was met with stiff resistance by several writers in the Starks-DeQuincy area who repeatedly insisted that there was "something special" about the Redbone culture in that area. Because of my affection for those writers, I took them at their word on the subject. Later, in my several opportunities to visit in southwest Louisiana, I concluded that "something special" was more about family bonding than anything else. A lot of extended families still living in a more rural setting have that "something special."

I approach the conversation of nature and nurture in a more political context. Do the people who are likely to be called Redbones form a class? The answer is yes. Whether acknowledged or not, when you can be categorized by the population in an area with or without your awareness or consent, you belong to an identifiable class. In the case of our cousins in southwest Louisiana, that class is called Redbones.

In East Texas, there lives a huge number of potential Redbones who are not Redbones because they are not necessarily included in that class. My Droddy cousins in East Texas do not identify themselves as Redbones. They are adamant about it. No one assumes anything about them because of where they live or whether or not they are dark, or because of any association with a particular family name.

By genealogy, they are as Redbone as anyone in Starks, being descended from Redbone royalty: Ashworth, Perkins, Drake, Bunch and Dial/Doyle. So what? They have very few political, cultural, or social ties to southwest Louisiana. I do not consider them Redbones. And if it was so important to Austin and Owen not to be called Redbones that they were willing to shoot people, I am not going to push their great-grandsons and daughters in East Texas on the subject. They have a stronger argument as to why they're not than I do that they are.

So, that's why I don't think it's just a matter of bloodline. If you live in southwest Louisiana and are blood, you're going to be identified as a Redbone whether you participate in that decision or not. If you live anywhere else, being a Redbone is a personal choice of identity. I probably annoy a lot of people in the simplicity of my conclusion, but that's what I believe. No, where I annoy certain people is with my insistence that the class of Redbones who are likely to be identified as Redbones whether they think of themselves that way or not outweigh the interests of those Redbones who are self-identified Redbones who live in places not affected by the discussion.

There is a strong sense of community among our people in southwest Louisiana. I think it's based mostly on the interconnectedness of the various family clans which are continually reinforced through family reunions, weddings, funerals, and church and school activities. These ties have been continually reinforced for 200 years. Those people are as tight as any group that does not define itself separately from the surrounding culture can be.

Larry Keels gives Don Marler way too much credit when he says the movement towards claiming the word Redbone was started by him [Marler] to advance his own little point of view and sell books. I had embraced the word a long time before that. I've been calling myself a Redbone since the early 70s when I came to the conclusion that being part Indian was not in itself satisfactory. I wasn't just a native American in some abstract sense. I was born to a dark people who lived a very simple, subsistence life style, and who were rich in cultural warmth. They were an in-between people, born on this continent with no memory of a before. We didn't remember being Indian and we didn't remember Europe. I felt a very special pride in the idea of being a bridge group between the two. I was in Alaska about this time, and I was accepted completely by the Athapascans in the interior of Alaska as a Redbone, and they got it completely.

And a lot of other people born after WWII have come along the same path. I didn't need Marler to give me cover for calling myself a Redbone. My pride comes from my own experiences and memories of growing up in a special place being raised by special people.

So there, nature or nurture? It's a false choice and has nothing serious to add to the overall discussion, but is one of those personal meditating points which shapes a person's overall point of view.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Happy Redbone History Day!

A lot of people are put off by the idea of celebrating a day dedicated to a lost Italian sailing on someone else's ships looking for one place while stumbling onto another. What a loser! A lot of native Americans say we should call it Indigenous People's Day, but why would we give what is probably the worst day in their historical experience a day dedicated to joyful celebration?

I think I'll call it Redbone History Day. Let Redbone men and women everywhere rejoice! Let little children approach their parents and ask, "WTF is a Redbone?" Let Redbone men go into the woods and return with wild turkey and venison. Let Redbone women cook that wild game and gather their families about the hearth and tell stories and recount genealogies.

Why not? Me, I love theme parties.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Family Photographs

When I was home at Memorial Day, several cousins brought all of their photographs over for me to scan. I haven't had time to go through and identify everyone yet, but I will over the next week or so. Here's the link for them to be viewed as a slideshow: Bearhead Creek Redbones.

Yeah, yeah, I know, there's no such thing as Bearhead Creek Redbones. We're a figment of an overactive imagination: mine. In fact, I made up the pictures, too. I just thought Chaddy and Linda brought pictures for me to scan.

This one of Lizbet Miller and a couple of grandsons working is one of my favorites.

Not bad for just imagining it, eh? Here's another of which I'm fond. It's my first cousin, Sue Miller Sibley when she was about three or four.

Go look at the whole bunch.

Mark your calendars, cousins. We're gathering on October 27, 2007 at the VFW Hall in Starks, Louisiana to talk about our kinship and our history. We're going to tell stories and remember our ancestors. We're also going to talk about what it means to be a Redbone. We've got a lot to talk about. See you there.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Point of Clarification

Just because someone is white trash with a bit of Indian in 'em, does not make that person a Redbone. I'm just saying, that's all.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Mayhaw

Can you believe that people found something to do with mayhaws? In case you don't know, the fruit of the mayhaw i's a bitter, seedy, little thing sort of like a crabapple, but smaller and less tasty. It's supposed to be some relative of the hawthorne. I have no idea about what a hawthorne is, but I do know what a mayhaw is, and I have the utmost admiration for the first determined Southern pioneer woman who figured out a way to use it. I did extensive Google searching for the history of mayhaw jelly and it seems to have no beginning. It's just one of those things that's always been. That means it was invented by women.

Like all Southerners, I grew up with mayhaw jelly. To me as a kid, it wasn't special in any way, it was just jelly. All biscuits tasted better with jelly. Besides mayhaw, we had dewberry, blackberry, and plum. Figs were preserved, pears made into a butter which was a preserved puree. Generally, if it was made from edible fruit, preserves were preferred to jelly. Dewberries and blackberries were a toss up. Jelly got rid of the fruit pulp, and most importantly, the seeds. I liked both.

The mayhaw is an edible but not palatable fruit. It's all seed covered by a thin layer of bitter pulp, covered by a tough and even bitterer peel. Its flavor is strange and elusive. Like I said, I grew up with the taste of mayhaw jelly, but when I moved away from the South in the early 1970s, I quickly forgot about mayhaw as a flavor. Fast forward 30 years and I'm sitting down to breakfast on Cow Creek in East Texas on a cold morning and placed in front of me was a large platter of biscuits, butter and mayhaw jelly. The taste was like a sweet tart of memory, taking me back to childhood. What a rush. I have not been without it since.

This week-end, Starks, Louisiana is celebrating its Mayhaw Festival. By circumstance, it's probably the largest gathering of Redbones in southwestern Louisiana and east Texas. I am there in spirit at least. Meanwhile, I'm having another biscuit and jelly.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Orange County War of 1856

Here's a version of it I bet you never heard before.

(From the Calcasieu Press)
Madison, Orange County, Texas
July 4th, 1856

Mr. Editor:

Your readers will perhaps be benefited by a knowledge of the present state of affairs in Orange County, Texas. If you think so, you are at liberty to publish in your valuable paper, the following statement which will be found near the truth:

First, all the good citizens of the county are under arms on duty in various directions, endeavoring to drive out from their midst a gang of gamblers, cow, hog and horse thieves, mail robbers, mail burners, counterfeiters, and murderers, who have been collecting in this county for many years, increasing in boldness as they increased in numbers, till they became wicked beyond endurance.

These villains of various criminal hue, have been ordered to leave the county and go beyond the limits of fifty miles distance. The number of these characters may equal forty, more or less, including all the free mulattoes and their white associates.

At the present writing only three have been killed, some others keep themselves hid in the thickets and marshes, playing a hide and seek game to assassinate the better citizens and fulfill their threats heretofore made, and many are aiming to go into Calcasieu and the adjoining parishes to live.

I will give you the names of many of these people and a light touch of their practices, that your readers may be on their guard.

Wm. Ashworth, mulatto, has possessed a handsome stock of cattle, and for many years has proved himself a man of universal hospitality, but owing to his color, few people of honor and pride of character have descended to enjoy it, while hordes of gamblers, thieves and counterfeiters hung about him and played securely at their respective games unmolested, except by one another. It is said, (and believed to be true) that some 7 men have been shot in his house in the course of his hospitality to these villains.

His son Luke has pursued a course which has thrown some wealth into his hands, but although he has cautiously avoided the appearance of open dishonesty, yet he has been a secret keeper for these rascals and had knowledge of the most of their rascality without ever informing the officers of Justice.

Henderson, 2d son of Wm. Ashworth, never courted the name of honesty, as I can learn, but on the contrary, is inclined to boast of his ability to steal, and I have no doubt but he is entitled to all the honor due to a master thief and an accomplice in murder. Luke Ashworth and others, state that he penned 18 head of cattle belonging to the neighbors and killed them at one time, for the hides. He assisted in the murder of Samuel Deputy.

Clark Ashworth, 3rd son of Wm. Ashworth, has acted his part among the rest, and, on his own responsibility, only stands bound over the court for the Hog stealing.

Tap Ashworth, was driven from an adjoining County for some misdemeanor, and is now involved in a law suit (I am told) of a thousand dollars on account thereof; since residing here, nothing has been alleged against him more criminal than his assistance personally rendered to Henderson in penning the stolen cattle which he butchers; for which he, Tap, receives gratis as much of the choice beef as he wants.

Aaron Ashworth, has never been charged with dishonesty, nor has he entertained a promiscuous suit of vagabond parasites; but having raised a number of daughters of color, he seems to have disposed of them unluckily among a set of lazy, idle white men for mistresses, who were allured more by the beauty of a few cattle bestowed on them, than by the beauty of the girls. Thus he has entailed upon our country a horde of worthless creatures in a shape of human beings, who, no doubt will in due time, be ready to steal and burn any property which the more honorable and industrious citizens may construct for the beauty and improvement of this country.

Sam Ashworth, son of Aaron, seems to inherit in his disposition, all the most diabolical qualities of the Indian, Negro and White man, without any of their principles, is the murderer of Samuel Deputy, a very useful and enterprising citizen. He had attempted to murder several before, but without success. He now stands indicted for one attempt by the Grand Jury of your Parish, and a writ was issued more than a year ago; but for want of an efficient officer, or some other reason unknown to me, no exertion has been made to arrest him, and he is still at large, threatening the lives of several others.

Those who are considered directly accessory to the murder of Deputy are Jack Bunch, Ned Glover, Bill Blake, Burwell Alexander and Henderson Ashworth, the Cow Thief. Jack Bunch, cousin to Sam, assisted in killing Deputy, and is guilty of killing by his own hand, Terly, the drunken keeper of his sister a few years ago.

Ned Glover, alias Haywood, according to his own confession before execution, murdered a man in the State he came from, and changing his name, made his escape to this country. He together with Bill Blake and Burwell Alexander, are accessory to the death of Deputy, by allowing Sam Ashworth, then a prisoner under them, to go at large, but a few hours before the murder took place, Glover is well known to deal in counterfeit money.

Bill Blake is well known to be an extensive and accomplished Thief, Gambler and Counterfeiter.

Burwell Alexander, is at present in Madison recovering from his wounds.

[Illegible] Smith, [illegible] and Bill Wingate are the reputed burners of the East pass Saw Mill and are [illegible] cow and hog thieves.

Jack, {illegible] and Mart Stewart, Bill Jim and Steve Wingate—Johnson and Oliver Clark, Ana and Jim Mc[illegible], all he bunches, and some others are all [illegible] cow and hog thieves, belonging to Henderson Ashworth’s gang.

Willis Goodman, Wright, Pate, Charlie Martin are promiscuous thieves and villains of various hues.

Jack Moore was a bold counterfeiter the man of the mint, and was executed by the Committee of safety amidst his coin and dies, at Joe Bremons on Sabine in the big thicket. Boz Sapp and his father Addison Sapp, were found with him, but made his escape bare footed and bare headed, leaving their saddle bags, in which was found plenty of proof of their rascality and guilt.

The balance of them are either connected with Bill Blake’s gang of horse thieves or Henderson’s gang of cow thieves or both.

The White people on Johnson’s Bayou have wisely determined to rid themselves of their colored neighbors who keep up a constant intercourse with rascals abroad, and they have already ordered them to leave.

They find it impossible with safety to let any remain, as it is reduced to a certainty, that the most honest among them will hide for others who steal and commit other depredations. So your readers may look for the following names among them ere long, to wit: Franswa Galia, Silista Galia, Eli Burwick, James Anderson, Drury Ashworth, Larkin Ashworth, Wm. Nelson, Moses Nelson, Robert Nelson, Stephen Perkins, and Jonathan Carter, all of colored families.

Now Mr. Editor, your readers at once the impropriety of allowing this motley gang to settle among them without industry, without moral principle, and without the least shade of hope, that their descendants which they are propagating, can ever be admitted to an equality with the white people. And they at once see the mistake, which these colored people are laboring under to want a settlement there, under such circumstances. Can you, Mr. Editor (I believe you can), convince some of the leading ones among these deluded people, of this mistake, and show them their true interest in making their exoduses beyond the Rio Grande, where they and their children will at once be on an equality with the Natives of that Country.

Adieu [signed:] PROGRESSION

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Letter from Bearhead

Hey Cousins,

I've got to share this with you all.

This event happen yesterday to Erlene when she was leaving one of the stores here in Dequincy. It was right at dark, Erlene had gotten into the truck to leave the store, as she was backing up to turn around to enter the road, another truck passed. She heard a noise and looked around and this truck had slammed on its brakes and thrown the truck in reverse. It backed up and drove into the drive beside her. The driver door flung open and got out. She saw the look on his face and thought to herself, Oh no here is a nut, what's he going to do!!!!. She said his eyes were the size of silver dollars, He came up and knocking on the window with one hand and had the other one in the air made into a fist. He was saying over and over, YES! YES!YES! He kept motioning for her to roll down her window.

Since there was a few people around, she lowered her window enough to hear him and he told her this.

"Lady," he said, "I don't know who you are and you know nothing of me. I have just found out in the last few months that I am a descendant of Redbones and maybe Indians. He said he had lived in California all his life and had never been to Louisiana, but once he learned of his ancestors history and where they were from, he packed up and left Calfornia and just moved here to be amongst his people and to become one of them.

She said he was talking a mile a minute. He then said the reason he stopped was because he saw her license plate which says "R3DBONE" and the "REDBONE AND PROUD OF IT" bumper sticker. He went on to tell her to never be ashamed of who you are and who your people are.

He said "I am so proud of my people and our ancestors." She was still a little shocked over this and kept saying over and over O.K. O.K. and drove off without even mentioning his name. As she drove off he was still standing there with his fist in the air saying over and over "YES! Yes! Yes!

Thought I would just pass this along to show you our message is working in mysterious ways, just as our ancestors did.


I'm glad our message is getting out there, but that dude is lucky he didn't get shot. You just don't approach a Redbone you don't know that aggressively. I know people who live in DeQuincy that would have shot him about the time he got out of his pickup truck and headed towards them.

I remember reading a mystery by Tony Hillerman which was set on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. His character drove up to someones house and sat in the car for a few minutes, waiting for the occupant of the house to come to the door. He explained that it would be rude to jump out of the car too quickly. I thought to myself, that's how we Redbones are, too. Maybe for other reasons, but when I was growing up, if someone parked in your driveway, you walked over to the door to see who it was, waiving them in when you saw who it was. I don't remember if the visitors would be waiting to be invited in, in fact, I doubt it, but I do remember that you didn't just jump out of your car and run to the door.

When I was in DeQuincy in November of this past year, I remembered this enough to sit in my car for a minute or two before jumping out and going to someones door. On each of those occasions, the person I was visiting came to the door and waived me in.

I'm just saying, that's all.