What about slaves who are not black but Native American?

+14 votes
I want to start recording the slaves owned by my ancestors in America. Are Native American slaves categorized in The Black Heritage Project, too?
in Genealogy Help by Beverly Tamanini G2G2 (2.3k points)
Thank you to all who responded. Your answers are helpful and also thoughtful and this is clearly an area for more categorizing and consideration. It appears from my limited knowledge that Native Americans were treated as chattel slaves by the Europeans but not necessarily the other way around. I so love wikitree and how we can collaboratively work on this. I don't have any good ideas right now but will keep tabs on how these projects develop and give it some more thinking.

5 Answers

+6 votes

This article on Wikipedia makes interesting reading:


Many sentences are shocking in this article, but two sentences stand out: 

"Andrés Reséndez estimates that between 147,000 and 340,000 Native Americans were enslaved in North America, excluding Mexico. Linford Fisher's estimates 2.5 million to 5.5 million Natives enslaved in the entire Americas."

by A. Creighton G2G6 Pilot (805k points)
+8 votes
As an outsider, I would say no.

Native Americans (First Nations?) should be considered differently. They were both slaves and enslavers at different times and for different reasons than African American people.

But I look forward to hearing others opinions.
by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
I'm with Marion and would suggest that this would fall more appropriately under the Native Americans project (if in what is now the U.S.).
+4 votes
The individuals and their profiles wouldn't be part of the Black Heritage project, but the categories Slaves, Slave Owners, and Slavery categories are not necessarily project specific.

HOWEVER ... an important caveat

The focus of the Slavery categories is intended to be chattel slavery that is passed down from parent to child. I don't know enough about enslaved Native Americans to know if they fit that description.

(I'm an active member of the U. S. Black Heritage Project, but I don't speak for it.)
by Dave Ebaugh G2G6 Mach 1 (19.4k points)

Dave wrote: "The focus of the Slavery categories is intended to be chattel slavery that is passed down from parent to child."

Where does it say this? Why would a category be limited to only those individuals whose enslavement was passed from one generation to the next? Can you help us explain the reasoning behind that? Thanks.

I don't understand why they would be for chattel slavery either. My understanding was it is for all slavery that occurred in the U.S. regardless of race/ethnicity. I wonder if what you mean is it doesn't apply to those who were indentured servants which is a different group of people? I only understand 2 type of enslaved people--those forced into it and those born into it. What am I missing?

I probably overstated in haste to reply. What I was trying to get at was indenture and similar arrangements. Like I said, I don't know enough about the specifics to offer guidance, which would probably vary greatly depending on circumstances. In the big picture what I think doesn't matter anyway. Not a gatekeeper, not trying to be don't want to be!

It is in our interest to be very diligent about differentiating slavery from systems of indenture. We're all familiar with the "Irish slavery" trope that has infected family history sites. It conflates indenture and slavery and is used specifically to downplay the impact of slavery in America and on Americans. I'm not saying anyone here is or would be doing that, just that it behooves us to draw a sharp line. That's not always easy or obvious - I can think of several examples I've seen where I'm just not sure.

(Another wrinkle - many slaves in the U. S. today are presented as indentured servants, but the conditions for their release - often repay a debt or such - are constantly moving just out of their reach. And yes, there are slaves in the U. S. - an estimated 400,000 in 2018.)


One thing to consider in this definition of chattel is that in New Jersey where I am doing almost all my research, black slaves were often emancipated at some point in their adulthood. One man writing his will mentions it as a matter of protocol or "ethics" if you can say that about norms of black slave ownership. I have found that somewhere around half the slaves mentioned in NJ wills were emancipated, sometimes in very early adulthood, meaning they would have had children in freedom. It could also be that slaves were less likely to be named if they remained slaves and were just lumped under "property".
+3 votes

The Yamasee War, Yamasee, Apalachee, New London, Willtown, Okatie, Chechesee, Pocotaligo, Huspah Creek River, Native_Americans. Slave Owners, Black_Heritage, Slaves, Slave_Owners 

I can find no mention of the Yamasee War on Wikitree.

Per this document, 

The Yamasee were major players in the colonial history of South Carolina. 

The Yamasee settled on the South Carolina coast in 1683 following their flight from the Spanish coastal Georgia Guale missions. The newly arrived Yamasee first settled on the islands around Port Royal Sound including St. Helena, Parris, and Hilton Head Islands. 

Historians found that at the outbreak of the Yamasee War (1715 - 1717), approximately 25% of all slaves held by South Carolinians were Indians. 

One researcher believed that a large percentage of the trade in Indian slaves was purposefully left undocumented in order to keep secret "an important commodity that was regulated and taxed by the mother country when obtained from Africa."

After the Yamasee War the Yamasee fled back to Florida. The only indication that the Yamasee ever resided on the lower South Carolina coast is found in the rivers and creeks named after them - Okatie, Chechesee, Pocotaligo, and Huspah.

The Yamasee Indians, Chester B. DePratter Ph.D.,
South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology,
University of South Carolina,
by Richard J G2G6 (6.6k points)
Enslavement of Native Americans in the colonies was largely ended by the 1720's, supplanted by enslaved people brought from Africa.  The Native American population had been decimated by diseases imported by the colonists so there were simply fewer people to enslave, and those who had been enslaved frequently died quickly. Some were also able to simply walk away and return to live in a Native community.  In addition, the colonial governments wanted to be rid of troublesome Native populations that objected to theft of their land.  For those reasons most Native Americans who were captured and enslaved in the 1700's were shipped to the Caribbean Islands and lost to history.  There are few, if any, records which include information on enslaved Native Americans in the southern colonies.
There are some records related to chattel slavery among the southeastern tribes during the period between the Revolutionary War and Removal.   Documents related to sales, loss, and inheritance can be found, and some censuses and rolls from the first part of the 19th century enumerated enslaved people.

William L. Ramsey, ''The Yamasee War: A Study of Culture, Economy, and Conflict in the Colonial South (Indians of the Southeast)'', January 1, 2010.

+6 votes
This is an old post, but I have a new answer. The slavery categories for the USA are acceptable to be used for any slaves in the USA regardless of race. (county, state, slaves and county, state slave owners for instance)

This does not necessarily mean they are part of the USBH Project. I recommend adding the Native American sticker and adding additional information to their biographies regarding their heritage to prevent any confusion.

One thing to note, there were slaves of mixed heritage--such as both Native American and Black. We do our best to highlight both (or all) in USBH if we have documentation.
by Emma MacBeath G2G Astronaut (1.0m points)
Thanks for the update, Emma.

I continue to be in awe of the work you are doing with USBH.
In addition could you provide guidance on how to update and include information on the profile of someone or a family who enslaved a Native American?
Hi @Anonymous Paulien, the same system we use in the US Black Heritage Project works for Native Americans as well. We use the <county, state> slaves category and we put a link on their profile for the slave owner's profile if it's known. See this help page for more info


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