History, page 5

It became a habit to make note of web sites where I found good, verifiable information, so I could link to them from our site. Much of the information I mention here can be found at sites to which I have linked. I also linked to a few sites where the information was not necessarily verifiable but made sense in view of what else I had learned, and was provided by a source that appeared to be reputable.


But the most time-consuming activity by far was the planning needed to organize the site so it was easy to use and to maintain. Www.weyanoke.org went live in March of 2003 and soon we began getting email from people who had visited the site. Every one was an expression of appreciation and thanks for information not easily found elsewhere, which was gratifying. Now I look forward to getting messages from people who take the time to make suggestions for improvement.

The world sees me as an 'African American.' I have never been asked, however, if I had a DAB card, a card certifying my Degree of African Blood. Nobody but me cares who my African ancestors were, what part of the continent they came from, or what cultural traditions they practiced. I can assert my African ancestry as loudly and often as I please, and nobody even blinks.


Fortunately, there is no such thing as a DAB card; if there were, I wouldn't be eligible for one. I have absolutely no clue who my African ancestors were, because my family information doesn't go back far enough. But nobody has ever challenged my right to claim African ancestry or honor my African ancestors, whoever they may turn out to have been, because of the way I look.

With my Native American ancestors it's a different story. They are on both sides of my family, and I know where they lived, what cultural groups they belonged to, and even their names. What I don't have, though, is cards. I don't have a tribal membership card, and I don't have a DIB card to certify my own Degree of Indian Blood.

But that's fine, since I have never applied for any such cards and don't intend to do so. I embrace the second Kwanzaa principle of 'Kujichagulia,' of self-determination. That principle says that I am who I say I am, based on what I know about myself and about the family into which I was born. I choose to acknowledge, to honor and to learn as much as I can about all my ancestors. To do otherwise would be disrespectful, and I don't want any of my ancestors angry with me. I've seen what they can do!

In addition, it doesn't make sense to me to request validation of my Native ancestry of the very folk who came from elsewhere and took over, crowding indigenous nations into a barren corner to get control over all the best land, and who now give selectively the most grudging of benefits in return. Not to mention the many and varied attempts to reduce the Native population by means ranging from the physical through the legal to the statistical.

British colonists repaid the friendliness and cordiality of the native peoples they encountered by burning their canoes and villages; by destroying their crops; by killing their men, women and children; by kidnapping some of those they did not kill, including Pocahontas; by subverting their religious and cultural beliefs, and insisting on the superiority of British culture, including Christianity, the English language, British Common Law and the concepts of class status, racial inferiority and the privatization of land; by making them servants and slaves; and by introducing the world's first germ warfare in the form of smallpox-laden blankets.

The colonists did not find the gold they were seeking, and so invented a 'golden' export crop, tobacco. They wanted lots of land and labor to exploit this addictive substance. They stole both. Having found that Native labor was not as productive as they wished, they imported Africans. The use of Africans to labor on tobacco plantations was so cost-effective that by the 1650s the British had begun enacting chattel-slavery laws that trapped both Africans and Indians in what was to become the most brutal form of slavery ever practiced. Native and African peoples, who held many similar religious and cultural beliefs, were thereby forced to work and live together. In the process, they learned to appreciate each other's humanity.