The Mission 's Presence Of An Indian Mission Essays

The Mission 's Presence Of An Indian Mission Essays

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Yet, for all the good that the Episcopal mission brought to the Amherst Indians, the mission’s presence may have also circumscribed their identity formation and survival strategies in important ways. For instance, how did the presence of an Indian mission influence the community belonging of persons who looked less demonstrably “Indian”? And what role, if any, did the Episcopal Church take in maintaining racial boundaries? Observations from Rev. Gray’s first year at the mission suggest tensions between darker and lighter skinned residents were present prior to the mission’s founding: “Those who have the most Negro blood and least Indian,” he claimed, “are not in the same social standing as others.” The racial stratification that Gray observed only seemed to worsen after the passage of the Racial Integrity Act and the publication of Mongrel Virginians. Racial tensions within the community reached such a boiling point that in the 1940s the Presbyterian Church established a separate school for the Indians “with more Negroid appearances” in the adjacent town of Pedlar Mills. Many Amherst residents found the racial strife too much to bear and chose to leave the state rather than continue to live under Virginia’s racial regime. Between 1917 and 1945 twenty-four families left the Bear Mountain area of Amherst County; by 1946 only 570 people remained. By 1948 that number shrank further to 326 people. The majority of the families who relocated moved to other eastern states like Maryland, New Jersey, and Tennessee.
Very close to the time that the Amherst Indians established their mission, the Ramapo Indians of New York also established a church and school of their own with the help of the Presbyterian Church. Rev. Francis Wheaton start...


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... system – even if lacking formal categories by which to recognize multiracial individuals – was capable of incorporating multiracial Indians into the existing racial hierarchy. Despite living in a social system that formally recognized only two races, multiracial Indians created a racial identity that was neither white nor black. In so doing, they continually challenged – and often disproved – the legitimacy of an imagined racial binary. And yet, some Indian communities’ efforts to establish a racial identity between whiteness and blackness often relied on, and indeed reinforced, deeply racist conceptions of an inferior black other. Ultimately, American Indians’ ability to gain recognition from whites relied on the degree to which they could be incorporated into the existing system of racial hierarchy without challenging its underlying logic or structures of power.

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