Saturday, October 17, 2009


Article submitted by Pamela DeRensis and posted with permission.

While searching my own “Goins” roots, I’ve come across many instances where persons wishing to quickly validate themselves as “Indian” are clueless about the mislabeling of Southeastern Indians in our early history. American Indians particularly in this part of our country have notoriously been mislabeled as African, Black Dutch, Colored, Freed Persons of Color, Mulatto, Melungeon, Multi-racial, Portuguese, Tri-racial isolates, and probably even more identifiers that I’m not familiar with. Additionally, I might add that we are in most cases we are labeled by the feds as “non-federally recognized” Indians. These labels have come from anthropologists, genealogists, and state and federal government officials who often believed that there were no “Indians” left in the Southeastern part of our country after their removal to the West. I will also add that in some cases Indian people gave in, and or accepted such labels in fear of being removed from their homes and livelihoods. These Indian people often hid in the mountains or the swamps to avoid their suppressors.

Many people searching for their Indian ancestor are not familiar with the term “eugenics,” and the on-going lingering effect it has had on American Indian people. Eugenics according to Wikipedia, “is the study and practice of selective breeding applied to humans, with the aim of improving the species.” Some have labeled it “documentary genocide.” While the Eugenics movement was worldwide, I’m just focusing on what occurred here in the USA.

In the early part of the 20th century, Walter A. Plecker, a public health officer, became the first registrar of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics. He believed, that American Indians had been “mongrelized” with the African American population. In 1924, the state passed “The Racial Integrity Act,” recognizing only two races, “white” and “colored.” Plecker believed that “colored” people were trying to pass as Indians, and he went about reclassifying Indians as such. Plecker did many things to implement his “pure white” is best polices including altering the birth certificates of Indians in the state of Virginia and forcing them to note themselves as “colored!” To this day, the Virginia tribes are struggling to achieve well deserved federal recognition and are having difficulties with documenting their ancestry due to Plecker’s policies. In 1997, then Governor George Allen repudiated Plecker’s policies and implemented a law through which Virginia Indians could receive corrected birth certificates, free of charge!

Walter Plecker was not the only high level official to spread lasting harmful actions on American Indian people in the South. In 1935, as the Lumbee Tribe of Indians in North Carolina continued their quest for federal recognition, the U.S. Department of the Interior sent an anthropologist named Dr. Carl C. Seltzer to take physical data on Indians applying for federal recognition of one-half or more Indian blood. This is many years after they we were state recognized as Indian people. Seltzer ‘s techniques included analysis of head shape and measurements, skin pigmentation, hair, ears, nose, lips, teeth, and blood type measurements. Out of approximately 12,400 Indians in 1935, only, 209 persons applied to be part of the study. Of that 209, only 22 met the test! They became known as the “Original 22.” This was ludicrous to say the least and the study came to be invalid.

I’m saying all of this to reiterate to those searching not to be so quick to judge or accept the labeling of American Indian people as something other than “Indian.” And, I’m also saying to Indian people, not to be so quick to accept the labels forced upon us! There are many misinformation internet sites floating around out there about southeastern Indian people and need to be corrected. An example is the William Goyes (or Goings), an early Nacogdoches, Texas settler and businessman. The site says “he was born in Moore County, NC in 1794, the son of William Goings, a free mulatto and a white woman.” He was American Indian for heaven’s sake! I wrote the website I discovered it on and ask for it to be corrected. Also just recently, I requested a correction (and they did so) of a site labeling a legendary historical hero for my tribe (Henry Berry Lowrie) was mislabeled as a “The Black Robin Hood in the Civil War!”


  1. I am having the same problem with the Lucas family. My older relatives told me they were Indians and I have pictures that show what my great aunt looked like, but since so many researchers are so quick to ignore them it is difficult to complete my research. I do find them listed back to 1820 listed as free persons of color. Could you please email me at so we can discuss further.

    Thank you,

    GiGi Best

  2. Hey, I just found out about my missing link. My great grandmother was listed as mullato and a person of free color. It was not until my family reunion until, I was told about the Lumbee connection. Our surname was Goins until my Greatgrandmother children picked up the last name Vause. But sh was never listed as been married. However, know I am considered African American, but it was only until my grandfather did the first black entered my family so im told. Im really confuse. Nearly all my ancestor that I know of have all Indian first names but English last names. Im trying to learn more could you please email me with more info @ Thanks .

  3. This William Goyens Jr of Nacogdoches is my fifth generation great grand-uncle. I am descended from his sister, Leah, a croatan by origin. He served under Sam Houston fighting as a Cherokee with the Cherokees in the Battle of the Horseshoe Bend, Alabama 1814. This is how he came to know Sam Houston and why he was able to be an effective Indian Agent to the Cherokee Nation.