ethnology: a science that deals with the division of human beings into races and their origin, distribution, relations and characteristics.
People exaggerate, misrepresent, amplify, embellish, misquote, fabricate, misreport, embroider, misinterpret, concoct, and lie. No where is this more evident than in the written word. Talk to a person face to face and there is a limit to what he will tell you because he understands that you might interrupt him, question him, or look him in the eye and just call his bluff. Talk to him on the phone and he has a little more leeway to improve upon his story. Let him write it down, especially in a book, and the limits of his story are bound only by his willingness to go to jail for plagiary or slander. Some lie for fame, some for fortune, others for power. We’ve all seen this backfire in recent times. You may even have the mistaken idea that lying is more prevalent in our time- that our ancestors were decent, honest, law abiding citizens and that history, especially really old history, is fact. Well, guess again. My relentless digging into Caddo’s past has turned up yet another mystery: the Zambo village. Fact? Fiction? or Lie? You be the judge.
In 1876 a book titled “White Conquest” was published by Chatto, and Windus, Piccadilly, London. It was written by William Hepworth Dixon (1821-1879), an English author and traveler. He was only in his twenties when he decided on a life of literature and became published. He wrote on social and prison reform for the London Daily News. He traveled in Spain, Switzerland, the East, Russia and America and went on to become well-known for his travel books and a few works of fiction. However, Wikipedia makes this statement: “Though a diligent student of original authorities, and sometimes successful in throwing fresh light on his subjects, Dixon was not always accurate, and thus laid himself open to criticism;” Indeed. Remember that statement as you read these excerpts from the two chapters he wrote about Caddo…
“Chapter XXVII, A Zambo Village- Caddo, a village in the Choctaw district, thirty-two miles north of Red River, thirty-seven miles south of Limestone Gap, is a Zambo settlement, one of the most singular hamlets in a country full of enthnoligical surprises. A scatter of log-cabins, standing in fenced fields, surrounds a little town, with school and prison, chapel and masonic lodge, main street and market-place, billiard –room and drinking-bar…These people of Caddo are the sight of sights; these cabins in the fields and nearly all these shanties in the town being tenanted by the new race of mixed bloods known to science as Zambos- the offspring of Negro bucks and Indian squaws…Indian blood appears to mix imperfectly with Black…A breed so droll in figure and complexion as the Zambo imps who sprawl and wallow in these ruts is hardly to be matched on earth. Yet these ugly creatures are said to be prolific. Every cabin in Caddo shows a brood of imps; and if the new school of ethnologists are right, they may increase more rapidly than the ordinary Blacks. What sort of mongrels shall we find at Caddo in a hundred years?”
He goes on to compare the Indian culture to the hierarchy found in ant colonies. He talks about the Negro slaves of several tribes. He discusses the lower status of dark races in other countries. I don’t think you have to read much more to understand his attitude.
"Chapter XXIX, In Caddo"- (This chapter opens with a discussion of what it was like for freed slaves, raised in servitude, to cope with suddenly being self-sufficient.) “A life of servitude unfits a man for independent arts. Helpless as a pony or a papoose, the Negro was now cut adrift…To many fugitives from Choctaw lodges and Chickasaw tents, Caddo has become a home. The site on which these outcasts have squatted is a piece of ground abandoned by the Caddoes, a small and wandering tribelet, who in former days whipt these creeks for fish and raked these woods for game. Reduced in numbers, the Caddoes have moved into the Washita region, leaving their ancient hunting fields to the coyotes and wolves. In theory the district lies in Choctaw country, but the Choctaws never occupied this valley, and the coming in of railway men, with teams and tools, induced the nearer families to move their lodges farther back. Caddo, abandoned to the iron horse and liberated slave, became a town. (Here he goes on to talk about Granville McPherson putting out the Oklahoma Star once a week, Granville’s marriage to Lydia Star Hunter, and the fact that he should have “taken himself a squaw” instead.) Caddo, as might be expected from her origin, is radical, not to say revolutionary, in her politics. The Negroes and their Zambo offspring not being Indians, and having no part in the Indian system, the people of Caddo wish to change the whole existing order of things…”
Jump forward with me to the work of Dutch ethnologist, Herman Fredrick Carel Ten Kate who was a scholar and world traveler, son of the painter Herman Ten Kate. Herman, Jr. studied anthropology, earned a PhD in zoology, and also an MD. “The primary aim of Ten Kate's first fieldwork in North America was to get a firsthand and representative impression of aboriginal tribal cultures and their current status under white political and cultural domination.”(Journal of the Southwest, Sept. 2004)
In 1883 he traveled to America, specifically to Caddo, to see the Zambos spoken of in Dixon’s work. However, he says “On closer examination, though, I found that not a single zambo was present in Caddo and that zambos had never even dwelled there. I found only whites, blacks, and Indians numbering 350, who made up the entire population. I had even less luck finding the ‘billiard rooms’ and ‘drinking bars’ of which the aforementioned author speaks. The Indian Territory maintains not a single establishment of this kind.” Mr. Ten Kate stayed with one of the members of the Odd Fellows lodge and mentions meeting: the former riding master of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a deserter from Kassel, a Swiss ex-cavalryman, a pastor, and Mr. Folsom-“a totally civilized Choctaw Indian, whose grandfather was white”. He reports on the circus arriving in town and several hundred Indians arriving from the area to see the circus. Among the crowds he at last saw some Negroes and “occasional zambos”.
I’ll report more on the findings of Mr. Ten Kate and his emergency medical treatment of the circus “doctor” in another post. For now I will leave you with the idea that “history” is not always what it seems. For more examples you might want to read “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” by James. W. Loewen.