Sunday, October 30, 2011

Celtic-Indians of Warrior Mountains/Freedom Hills


       Between the 1700's and early1800's, many of the Southeastern Indians intermingled by marriage with Celtic traders of Irish and Scot-Irish ancestry and became mixed blood members of the Indian nations.  The Celtic traders were contracted by the English subjects loyal to the Crown because a proclamation of 1736 prohibited the English from crossing the Appalachians; therefore, Scots-Irish traders came in contact with Indian people and married their maidens. By the early 1800's, these mixed bloods became the leaders of the Creek, Chickasaw, and Cherokee tribes of the Southeast.  Alexander McGillivary  became Chief of the Creek Nation.  John Watts, Jr. and John Ross became Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation; and, George and Levi Colbert became the Chiefs of the Chickasaw Nation.  

       Many of these mixed Celtic-Indian people were eventually forced into hiding or denial of their Indian ancestry because of their fear of removal to the west by the United States Government.  The newly established southern states, still in their infancy in the early 1800’s, refused the right of the Cherokee, Creek, or Chickasaw to establish Indian nations within the newly recognized sovereign states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

       The “Documents on United States Indian Policy” written by Francis P. Prucha gives a quote on December 8, 1829, from President Andrew Jackson as, “the Southern tribes, having mingled much with the whites and made some progress in the arts of civilized life, have lately attempted to erect an independent government within the limits of Georgia and Alabama.  These States, claiming to be the only sovereigns within their territories, extended their laws over the Indians, which induced the latter to call upon the United States for protections.”  Jackson went on the say, “It seems to me visionary to suppose that in this state of things claims can be allowed on tracts of country on which they have neither dwelt nor made improvements, merely because they have seen them from the mountain or passed them in the chase.”  Jackson, the great Indian fighter of the Southeast, believed in the spoils system, “To the victor belongs the spoils of war.”  After the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814 and on November 22, 1816, Jackson laid claim to the Celtic-Cherokee Indian farmland at Melton’s Bluff in Lawrence County, Alabama.  The land Jackson took had been farmed by Irishman John Melton who had married Doublehead's youngest sister Ocuma.  The son of John and Ocuma, David Melton signed the deed with Jackson.  As he took from the local Celtic-Indian people at Melton’s Bluff prior to the time that any legal land claims could be made, Jackson had no reservations about eliminating all Indian lands east of the Mississippi River after becoming President of the United States in 1828.

       During the turbulent times in the early history of the Southeastern United States, Celtic people, who have always been somewhat rebellious freedom seekers, migrated into the Indian homelands, mingled with the native people, and married into their tribes.  As the Federal Government forced the Indian removal issue during the 1830’s under Jackson’s administration, mixed-blood Celtic-Indians began moving from the Cherokee Nation in Alabama, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee into the Warrior Mountains or Freedom Hills of northern Alabama.  The hills and mountains provided isolation and protection as long as they denied their Indian backgrounds.  The Celtic-Indians, who were of dark complexion, would many times claim to be Black Dutch or Black Irish and deny their rightful Indian descent in order to stay in their aboriginal lands.

       Those who question the idea of intermarriage of Celtic and Indian people, who settled primarily on the poor isolated lands found in the Warrior Mountains of north Alabama as well as other isolated areas, are merely misinformed.  After looking into their eyes and examining the features of those who make efforts to reclaim links to their Indian past, many common threads appear which not only strengthen but confirm that the vast majority of these people are truly Celtic-Indians afflicted with over 150 years of denial.  Isolationism and intermarriage forced their complexions fairer through the genetic sieve of the Scots-Irish which transcends nearly two centuries.  However, from within their hearts they speak with a straight tongue of their Indian ancestors who survived in the Warrior Mountains or Freedom Hills of North Alabama.

       One of the most common characteristics of the true Warrior Mountains Celtic-Indians is the direct line of descent from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, or Creek originating around the 1830’s just prior to the Great Removal.  Another common occurrence was the intermarriage within family units, where cousins married cousins, sisters of one family married brothers of another family, two different families intermarried over several years, and children from the same mother and different fathers took the mother’s last name.  One would be amazed at the number of mixed Indian people having the same great-grandparents on two sides of their family.  An original Warrior Mountains Celtic-Indian, who is at least a quarter blood Indian, will many times have the same great-grandparents on more than one side of their family.  Another common thread is the migration of their Celtic ancestors from the Carolinas and Georgia to Tennessee and Alabama.  Intermarriage between Celtic and Indian people most often occurred in the Carolinas, East Tennessee, North Georgia, and Northeast Alabama which made up the Cherokee Nation until 1838.  The remnants of the Warrior Mountains Celtic-Indian mixed-bloods still survive in the Southeastern United States under common Celtic family names.

       A famous mixed-blood Cherokee by the name of John Ridge stated in 1832,"Cherokee blood, if not destroyed,will win its course in beings of fair complexions, who will read that their ancestors became civilized under the frowns of misfortune, and the causes of their enemies."    Today, remnants of the Celtic-Indian people of the Warrior Mountains or Freedom Hills of north Alabama have read about their mixed ancestors in this blog.


  1. I knew my Gilbreath family roots included both Irish and Cherokee ancestry. I have never heard the term Celtic Indians. Very interesting.

  2. I have done research on the "Melungeons", also known to be of inter-racial and/or inter-cultural decent. Theories concerning the possibility of European, Native American, and African ancestors have swirled around these mountain people for well over a century. They also appear to have originated in the Carolinas, and perhaps Virginia, migrated to the mountains of Tennessee (for the most part), and eventually to all regions of the United States.

    For the Melungeons the major effort was not at denying Native American ancestry, but more to establish their "white" ethnicity and not be classified as "Negro", which stripped them of rights of citizenship until after the Civil War.

    Melungeons maintain a strong group identity, are deeply involved in genealogy, and most importantly are conducting a major DNA study to, hopefully, and finally, determine their true "white" ancestry.

    I see many similarities with your story of the "Celtic Indians", though, like Jeff, that term is new to me. Do you know if the Celtic Indian descendants are conducting DNA and other research to more accurately determine ancestry?

    Your post is very enlightening and raises new (for me) inquiries. Thank you.

  3. Post script: I did not mean to imply that the Melungeons are only searching for their "white" ancestry, as if they deny their Native American or African heritage, and I apologize if it appeared that way. To the contrary they embrace all their ancestry; but, there has always been a running controversy as to who the original immigrant ancestors were: from lost colonies of Spain or England, to Turkish Moors, many others - and yes, Scotch Irish. The DNA study will, hopefully, settle that quandary... Kate