Jane E. Dysart


In historical accounts of the old South, Indians are customarily treated as participants only in the frontier phase of colonial rivalry and during the era of territorial expansion. With the removal of the Indians to lands west of the Mississippi, southern history becomes the story of a white-dominated society composed almost exclusively of whites and blacks. The diversity of Indian-white and Indian-black relationships during the early years of the antebellum era is rarely part of the story, nor is the account of the Indians who remained behind included in the traditional narratives. Yet Indians constituted a third ethnic group in the South before removal, and they interacted with both races. After removal, those who did not isolate themselves into inaccessible or undesirable land, such as the Seminoles in the Florida Everglades and the Cherokees of western North Carolina, were forced to adjust to a biracial society. Many lost their identity as Indians altogether, and their descendants kept alive only vague memories of their ancestry. The story of this experience sheds light on another aspect of the “disappearance” of the southeastern Indians. It is perhaps best understood by examining a single community—Pensacola, Florida— and the surrounding area, which has a long history of interaction with Indians but has only recently rediscovered the Indians in its midst.