For African-Native American people, there is more than one path to family, identity, and belonging.
In earlier times, Native communities sometimes adopted outsiders, and some African-Native American people were readily accepted into Native tribes as members of the family. Many African-Native American people who grew up in African American communities learn of their Native identity through family stories and traditions.
Claiming the Native part of African-Native American heritage may require research, determination, and much paperwork. The search for connections can sometimes lead to disappointment if tribal enrollment can’t be gained.
Kitty Cloud and John Taylor—acceptance
As a child, Kitty was adopted by Utes when her starving Hispanic parents insisted on exchanging her for food. Her Ute parents called her “Little Woman,” but the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) required English names. She became Kitty, of the Cloud family.
John Taylor, a Buffalo Soldier, married her when she was 18. Their descendants, who carry the name of Valdez, also given by the BIA, were first removed from Ute tribal rolls but were later re-enrolled.
Courtesy Center of South West Studies, Fort Lewis College