Sunday, July 1, 2012

15 Minutes of Fame - There You Go!


Wayne Winkler has been speaking out lately on his opinions of Melungeon history.  He was interviewed by Travis Loller of the AP and contributed to the recently published article on the Melungeons. He states;
"It's sometimes embarrassing to see the lengths your ancestors went to hide their African heritage, but look at the consequences" said Wayne Winkler, past president of the Melungeon Heritage Association. "They suffered anyway because of the suspicion."

In 1848 a journalist found his way to Newmans Ridge where he was the overnight visitor of a spa owned by Vardy Collins who was known as the head and source of the Melungeons.  This journalist wrote the Melungeons gave him the legend of their history; "they were Portuguese who mixed with the Indians, the negros and the whites."  Were they lying?   What does Mr. Winkler suppose they were hiding from this journalist?  

In 1890 they told Dromgoole of the 'four branches' the white, the Negro, the Portuguese and the Indian, were they lying?  How does Mr. Winkler explain these two interviews, 40 years apart saying the same thing, they were Portuguese, Indian, white and black?  In 1897 they told C. H. Humble basically the same story, there were Indians, Portuguese, Negro and white, were they lying then? These are the only interviews that have been found to date, there are no other newspaper articles where these people said they were 'Portuguese, Indian and white' so when did they lie?  To whom did they lie to?

This article printed in 1848 was just two years after Vardy Collins and others had been charged with illegal voting, a charge that if found guilty they may have lost their land. If there was ever a time and place to *lie* about their ancestry it would have been then and there, yet they tell this man that some had mixed with the 'Negros'.  How does Mr. Winkler explain this?

In another recent public statement Mr. Winkler says;

''that while the study does not conclusively rule out any possible ancestries for the Melungeons, it suggests areas of study. “I think future Melungeon researchers would do better to search for our ancestors among the free African-American populations of Virginia and the Carolinas,''
 I can take this no other way than Mr. Winkler believes that every single one of the families who were dubbed Melungeons, whether they were European, Native American, or Portuguese,  will be found only in the 'free African communities'? 

Let me suggest to any Melungeon researcher the last place you want to look is in the 'free African-American populations'. There are a number of places known as Indian settlements or Portuguese settlements these people can be traced back to.  For Mr. Winkler to suggest looking elsewhere for Melungeon ancestors  will no doubt confuse and confound Melungeon descendants looking for their ancestors for years to come. 

The Bolton, Perkins, Shoemake, Goins, Gibsons, Collins, and others can be found in the Portuguese Indian community along the Pee Dee River. Roberta Estes has connected some 6-8 of these Melungeon study participants to the Lumbee Indians [from the Pee Dee River]  and Jack Goins has pointed out his DNA also matches the Lumbee Indians and the Rockingham County Indians where you will also find the Melungeon Gibson family.  

There is another "Portuguese community" reported by credible witnesses in Lebanon, Wilson County, Tennessee as early as 1850, known as Malungeon town.  Gideon Gibson who descends from the same ancestors as the Melungeon Gibsons is found living among the Indian trading community on Occaneechi Neck as well as along the Pee Dee River in the early to mid 1700s.

In 1754 there were reported living on the lands of William Eaton the Indian trader in Granville County some Saponi Indians.  Listed in Eaton's militia at this time were the William Chavis family whose wife was as sister to Gilbert Gibson of Louisa County, the Chavis being associated with the Indian Gibson family as early as the mid 1660s on Chippoakes Creek in Virginia.  Also found living there at this time, listed as 'mulatto' (mulatto commonly used for identifying Indians) was the Goins families of Louisa County.

Fincastle County was formed from Botetourt in 1772, 1773 tax list includes: David Collins (Indian Lands), Ambrose Collins, John Collins, John Collins Jr., Charles Collins (Indian Land), Elisha Collins, Samuel Collins (Indian Land), Lewis Collins, George Collins (Indian Land), Micajer Bunch (Indian Land)  This is NOT a free African American Community! 

Why would Mr. Winkler tell these descendants to look for their families in free African American communities?

Wayne was asked these questions on the Melungeon DNA list but still has not responded.  He wrote that anyone upset because he called 'our ancestors liars' should realize that if your ancestor had been honest we probably wouldn't be here talking about this. 

In a radio interview last week Mr. Winkler continues with the 'they were Africans' and the Portuguese was just a ''cover story'' made up to hide their African ancestry.  In 1848 if you had African OR Indian blood you had the same rights, they were 'free people of color' period. There were no special rights for Indians that the Africans didn't have, they were the same.

Why would they say they were Indians to protect their *rights* - what rights would they have retained by claiming Indian heritage and denying the African?  
Furthermore WHY would they make up a lie and say 'we are Portuguese adventurers' to hide their African ancestry and then in the same sentence say we mixed with the Negros? This absolutely makes no sense whatsoever.

At the end of this interview Mr. Winkler was asked about his quote in the AP article by Mr. Court Lewis who then says "15 minutes of fame" and chuckles which Mr. Winkler responds; "there you go"!


Portuguese -- James Mooney (Ethnologist)
Portuguese in America
Melungeon Indians  "Search this Site" at bottom of page will bring up a number of historical newspaper on the Portuguese and Indian ancestors of the Melungeons.

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