Indian Mixed-Blood

To gauge accurately the amount of Indian blood in the veins of the white population of the American continent and to determine to what extent the surviving aborigines have in them the blood of their conquerors and supplanters is impossible in the absence of scientific data. But there is reason to believe that intermixture has been much more common than is generally assumed. The Eskimo of Greenland and the Danish traders and colonists have intermarried from the first, so that in the territory immediately under European supervision hardly any pure natives remain. The marriages (of Danish fathers and Eskimo mothers) have been very fertile and the children are in many respects an improvement on the aboriginal stock, in the matter of personal beauty in particular. According to Packard 1 the last fall-blood Eskimo on Belle Isle Straight, Labrador, was in 1859 the wife of an Englishman at Salmon bay. The Labrador intermixture has been largely with fishermen from Newfoundland of English descent.

Some of the Algonquian tribes of Canada mingled considerably with the Europeans during the French period, both in the east and toward the interior. In recent years certain French-Canadian writers have unsuccessfully sought to minimize this intermixture. In the Illinois-Missouri region these alliances were favored by the missionaries from the beginning of the 18th century. As early as 1693 a member of the La Salle expedition married the daughter of the chief of the Kaskaskia. Few French families in that part of the country are free from Indian blood. The establishment of trading posts at Detroit, Mackinaw, Duluth, etc., aided the fusion of races. The spread of the activities of the Hudson’s Bay Company gave rise in the Canadian Northwest to a population of mixed bloods of considerable historic importance, the offspring of Indian mothers and Scotch, French, and English fathers. Manitoba, at the time of its admission into the dominion, had some 10,000 mixed bloods, one of whom, John Norquay, afterward became premier of the Provincial government. Some of the employees of the fur companies who had taken Indian wives saw their descendants flourish in Montreal and other urban centers. The tribes that have furnished the most mixed-bloods are the Cree and Chippewa, and next the Sioux, of northwest Canada; the Chippewa, Ottawa, and related tribes of the great lakes; and about Green Bay, the Menominee.

Toward the Mississippi and beyond it were a few Dakota and Blackfoot mixed-bloods. Harvard 2 estimated the total number in 1879 at 40,000. Of these about 22,000 were in United States territory and 18,000 in Canada. Of 15,000 persons of Canadian-French descent in Michigan few were probably free from Indian blood. Some of the French mixed-bloods wandered as far as the Pacific, establishing settlements of their own kind beyond the Rocky Mountains. The first wife of the noted ethnologist Schoolcraft was the daughter of an Irish gentleman by a Chippewa mother, another of whose daughters married an Episcopal clergyman, and a third a French-Canadian lumberer. Although some of the English colonies endeavored to promote the intermarriage of the two races, the, only notable case in Virginia is that of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. The Athapascan and other tribes of the extreme northwest have intermixed but little with the whites, though there are Russian mixed-bloods in Alaska. In British Columbia and the adjoining parts of the United States are to be found some mixed-bloods, the result of intermarriage of French traders and employees with native women.

Some intermixture of captive white blood exists among the Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, and other raiding tribes along the Mexican and Texas border, the children seeming to inherit superior industry. The Pueblos, with the notable exception of the Lagunas, have not at all favored intermarriage with Europeans. The modern Siouan tribes have intermarried to some extent with white Americans, as some of their slid in early days with the French of Canada. The Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma–Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creeks, and Seminole, have a large element of white blood, some through so called squaw-men, some dating back to British and French traders before the Revolution. In the Cherokee Nation especially nearly all the leading men for a century have been more of white than of Indian blood, the noted John Ross himself being only one-eighth Indian. Mooney 3 considers that much of the advance in civilization made by the Cherokee has been “due to the intermarriage among there of white men, chiefly traders of the ante-Revolutionary period, with a few Americans from the back settlements.” Most of this white blood was of good Irish, Scotch, American, and German stock.

Under the former laws of the Cherokee Nation anyone who could prove the smallest proportion of Cherokee blood was rated as Cherokee, including many of one-sixteenth, one-thirty-second, or less of Indian blood. In 1905 the Cherokee Nation numbered 36,782 citizens. Of these, about 7,000 were adopted whites, Negroes, and Indians of other tribes, while of the rest probably not one-fourth are of even approximately pure Indian blood. Some of the smaller tribes removed from the east, as the Wyandot (Hurons) and Kaskaskia, have not now a single full-blood, and in some tribes, notably the Cherokee and Osage, the jealousies from this cause have led to the formation of rival full-blood and mixed-blood factions.

During the Spanish domination in the southeast Atlantic region intermixture perhaps took place, but not much; in Texas, however, intermarriage of whites and Indians was common. The peoples of Iroquoian stock have a large admixture of white blood, French and English, both from captives taken during the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries and by the process of adoption, much favored by them.

Such intermixture contains more of the combination of white mother and Indian father than is generally the case. Some English-Iroquois intermixture is still in process in Ontario. The Iroquois of St Regis, Caughnawaga, and other agencies can hardly boast an Indian of pure blood. According to the Almanach Iroquois for 1900, the blood of Eunice Williams, captured at Deerfield, Mass., in 1704, and adopted and married within the tribe, flows in the veins of 125 descendants at Caughnawaga; Silas Rice, captured at Marlboro, Mass., in 1703, has 1,350 descendants; Jacob Hill and John Stacey, captured near Albany in 1755, have, respectively, 1,100 and 400 descendants. Similar cases are found among the New York Iroquois. Dr. Boas 4 has made an anthropometric study of the mixed bloods, covering a large amount of data, especially concerning the Sioux and the eastern Chippewa. The total numbers investigated were 647 men and 408 women. As compared with the Indian, the mixed-blood, so far as investigations have shown, is taller, men exhibiting greater divergence than women.

A large proportion of Negro blood exists in many tribes, particularly in those formerly residing in the Gulf states, and among the remnants scattered along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts southward. The Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma, having been slaveholders and surrounded by Southern influences, generally sided with the South in the Civil War. On being again received into friendly relations with the Government they were compelled by treaty to free their slaves and admit them to equal Indian citizenship. In 1905 there were 20,619 of these adopted Negro citizens in these five tribes, besides all degrees of admixture in such proportions that the census takers are frequently unable to discriminate.

The Cherokee as a body have refused to intermarry with their Negro citizens, but among the Creeks and the Seminole intermarriage has been very great. The Pamunkey, Chickahominy, Marshpee, Narraganset, and Gay Head remnants have much Negro blood, and conversely there is no doubt that many of the broken coast tribes have been completely absorbed into the Negro race.

For Further Study

The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the subject of mixed-blood:


  1. Beach, Ind. Miscel., 69, 1877[]
  2. Rep. Smithson. Inst., 1879[]
  3. 19th Rep. B. A. E., 83, 1900[]
  4. Pop. Sci. Mo., xlv, 1894[]


Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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