An Untold Story

Introduction:

".....the North American public remains ignorant about Native American religions. And this, despite the fact that hundreds of books and articles have been published by anthropologists, religionists and others about native beliefs......Little of this scholarly literature has found its way into popular books about Native American religion..."

A quote from Native American Religions by Arlene Hirschfelder and Paulette Molin (Facts on File, New York, 1992, ISBN 0-8160-2017-5)

On July 31, 1502 Christopher Columbus recorded his encounter with strange people on a strange ship off the island of Jamaica. Unlike the Jamaican Indians, these people wore clothing: sleeveless shirts and with showy colors and designs, and their women covered their faces like those Columbus had seen in Muslim Granada.

In 1527, the first land crossing of the US by an non-Native American most likely was achieved by Azemmouri, a Moroccan Berber, a Muslim.

In 1654, the English explorers reported a colony of bearded people wearing European clothing, living in cabins smelting silver and dropping to their knees to pray many times daily, wherever they might be. The early 17th Century Powhatan Indians description of Heaven is nearly word for word the description found in the Holy Qur'an. Tennessee Governor John Sevier records a 1784 encounter in what is now Western North Carolina with a dark-skinned, reddish-brown complexioned people supposed to be of Moorish descent who claim to be Portuguese. In east Tennessee in late 1700's Jonathan Swift, an Englishman, employed dark-skinned men who were known as "Mecca Indians."

The Melungeons, pushed off their lands, denied their rights, often murdered, always mistreated, became an embittered and nearly defeated people. Over the ensuing decades, in a vain effort to fit in with their Anglo neighbors, they lost their heritage, their culture, the names and their original religion but not their genetic structure. The descendants of the Melungeon people are everywhere, especially those who have ancestors from the South-East US, of any race with the following surnames: Adams, Adkins, Bell, Bennett, Berry, Bowling, Chavis, Coleman, Collins, Gibson, Goins, Hall, Jackson, Lopes, Moore, Mullins, Nash, Robinson, Sexton and Williams. The Melungeons, though most today are Christian, are the living legacy of Islam's first wave of immigration to the New World.

The Melungeons  An Untold Story of Ethnic cleansing in America By Brent Kennedy

Perhaps Nancy Hanks, the mother of Abraham Lincoln, was Melungeon. It somehow seems fitting that one of Americaís greatest Presidents should be of mixed race and probably Muslim heritage. But who are the Melungeons?

Historical records document that from 1492 through the early 1600ís an estimated 500,000 Jews and Muslims were exiled from Spain and Portugal through a religious witch-hunt known as the Spanish Inquisition.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslim exiles escaped to their ancestral homelands of Morocco, algeria, Libya nd Tunisia.  In fact, the well-known Barbary Coast Pirates of  North Africa sprang from this group. They, along with their Turkish compatriots, were renowned for their seagoing exploits as they sought revenge against the Spanish and Portuguese in ferocious Mediterranean sea battles.

Of course, they didnít always win: those pirates unfortunate enough to lose at sea often ended up as galley slaves beneath the creaking decks of Spanish and Portuguese ships bound for the New World. Ironically, slaves of the Christians once again.

Other Muslims-Berber in particular-Moriscos they were called made their way to the Canary Islands, India, France and other countries. And interestingly enough wherever these exiled Berbers went, they identified themselves as ĎPortuguese," even if they had originated in Spain.  In fact, the term "portuguese," became almost synonymous for both the Muslims and the Jews who had been exiled during the Inquisition.

Finally, as the Inquisitions grew in Power and severity, even Christianized Moors and Jews were forced in exile.  these "Conversos" the name given to both Muslim and Jewish coverts were not trusted by either the Church or the government, and probably with good reason, since most had converted Catholicism only to avoid the death sentence.

The Spanish Inquisition, horrible as it was accomplished something of great historical value for Islam.  Even though Western historians have generally ignored the evidence, there is little doubt that Muslims played an early-and perhaps the earliest- role in the permanent settlement of this Nation.  And there is little doubt that the Inquisition-with all it agonies-drove Spanish and Portuguese Muslims toward the New World.

While American school children learn of columbusís role in the discovery of the New World, they arenít told the entire story.  For example, Columbus employed both Moorish and Spanish sailors, and himself may have been Jewish.  On his fourth voyage in 1502 he records two important discoveries:

First, on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, he discovered an iron pot and an old shipís mast preserved in an Indian hut.  He and his crew determined these artifacts had come from the Canary Islands.  The Canaries, a Portuguese possession, had been a favorite dumping ground for Conversos of Muslim Berber origin.

Second, on July 31, 1502, came an even more extraordinary discovery.  Off the island of Jamaica, Columbus encountered strange people on a strange ship that western historians have generally considered to be Mayan Indians. This ship was forty feet ling with a diameter of eight feet, and had a shaded pavilion in the center.  From a distance, Columbus thought it to be uncannily like the Moorish galleys he and so often seen the the Mediterranean.  There were approximately forty men and women on thie galley and unlike the Jamaican Indians, these people wore clothing: sleeveless shirts and with showy colors and designs like those Columbus had seen, in his own , in Muslim Granada.

These so-called Mayan Indians carried a cargo of tools, copper implements, and forges for working copper.  But perhaps Columbusís striking observation was that the women aboard this galley "covered their faces like the women of Granada."  Were these truly Mayan Indians? Or simply one more case of biased historians refusing to accept the fact that Muslims could have reached the New World before Columbus? Columbus certainly considered the possibility.

In 1527, the first land crossing of the US by an non-Native American most likely was achieved by Azemmouri, a Moroccan Berber- a muslim.  Originally a member of an expedition of 300 Spaniards, only Azemmouri and three of his comrades survived this eleven yr, 5,000 mile trek from Florida to the West Coast and back to Texas.  He was the first explorer to enter a Pueblo Indian Village, and the story of his daring exploits make for fascinating reading.  Curiously, Azemmouri is never mentioned in the American history books.

The establishment of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 was indeed an important event in American history.  Bit is was by no means the first European settlement in the New World.  The Spanish established the Santa Elena, South Carolina, colony in 1566, forty yrs before Jamestown.  The colony thrived for more than twenty yrs until it was overrun by the English in 1587.  But since the English won the battle for this Nation, Santa Elena was conveniently left out of American history books.

What happened to the survivors of Santa Elena, and who were they?

Their identity is important to understanding the hidden role played by Islam in the shaping  of the American nation.  Many of the Santa Elena colonists were converted Muslims and Jews or Conversos.  In Spain the Muslims were known as Mudajjan a word probably related to the term Melungeon. Ethnically, many of the Santa Elena colonists were Berber Muslims and Sephardic Jews, recruited by the Portuguese Captain Joao Pardo from the heavily Berber Galician Mountains of northern Portugal in 1567-less than one year before the Inquisition kicked into high gear against the Muslims.

When Santa Elena fell, its inhabitants-including its converted Jews and Muslims-escaped into the mountains of North Carolina.  And there they survived, intermarrying to some degree with Native Americans, eventually merging with a second group arriving on American shores in, ironically, 1587, the same yr. Santa Elena fell.

North African Berbers and Turks captured in the Mediterranean by the Spanish and Portuguese were regularly used as galley slaves in ships crossing the Atlantic.  Once in the New World, these Muslim captives were assigned to slave labor on sugar plantations and in the mining operations of among other places, Cuba and Brazil.

In 1586,  English pirate, Sir Francis Drake, commanding thirty English ships, made a daring raid against his Spanish and Portuguese enemies on  coast of Brazil.  During this raid, Drake liberated some 400 Portuguese and Spanish held prisoners, including an estimated 300 Moorish and Turkish galley slaves Muslims captured in  Mediterranean sea battles as well as several dozen South American Indians, a smaller number of West African Muslims, and a few Portuguese soldiers.  Drake had planned to arm and release  Turks an  Africans on Cuba, to serve as a stronghold against Spanish but heavy storms force him to continue up the coast of North Carolina.

There on Roanoke Island he was sieged by stranded English settlers pleading for a ride home to England. The English colony of Ralph B Lane had enough of the New World and wanted to go home. To fulfill their wish, Drake had to make room for them on his already crowded ships.  According to English records, only 100 Turks were taken back to England where they were ransomed to the Turkish Dominions," Thereís no further mention of the remaining 200 Moors, Turks, West Africans, Portuguese Soldiers or the South American Indians by Drake, and records show that Sir Walter Raleigh who visited the Island two weeks later found no trace of them.  Where did they go?

Research indicates that Drake left them behind, assuring that he or someone would be back for them.  But that was no guarantee of safety from the pursuing Spanish of Portuguese.  On Roanoke Island they were little more than sitting ducks.  There is little doubt they  made their way the short distance e to the mainland, probably utilizing the small boats left behind by the English, and then traveled steadily inland. Along the  way  too intermarried with Native Americans, mostly Powhatan, Pamunkey, Nansemond and Hatters.

Within the next decade or so they encountered the remanent of the Santa Elena colony, many of whom shared their Muslim heritage.  And there thousands of miles away from their homelands, these two surviving groups became on people.  Christians, Jews and Muslims- literally the people of the book- living and worshipping the God of Abraham together.  In 1654, the English explorers learned from southeastern Indians of a colony of bearded people wearing european clothing, living in cabins smelting silver and dropping to their knees to pray many times daily, wherever they might be.  A people who did not speak English, but claimed to "Portyghee"

In the mid 1600íso there were people living among the Powhatans and related tribes of eastern Virginia and North Carolina who were described as dark like Indians, but called "Portugals"  A similar people in South Carolina called themselves "Turks"  The early 17th Century Powhatan Indians description of Heaven is nearly word for word the description found in the Holy Quran.

In the 1690ís, French explorers reported finding "Christianized Moors" in the Carolina mountains.  When the first English arrived in the mid- 1700ís, large colonies of so called "Melungeons" were already well established in the Tennessee and Carolina Mountains. And, in broken Elizabethan English they called themselves "Portyghee," or by the more mysterious term "Melungeon".

Tennessee Governor John Sevier records a 1784 encounter in what is now Western North Carolina with a dark-skinned, reddish-brown complexioned people supposed to be of Moorish descent who claim to be Portuguese.

In east Tennessee in  late 1700íso Jonathan Swift, an Englishman married to a Melungeon woman utilized Melungeon men in his own silver mining operations.  His dark-skinned companions were known as "Mecca Indians."

Over  years, as growing numbers of Anglo settlers swept upon them and around them, Melungeons were pushed higher and higher into the mountains.  And their claims of Portuguese and Melungeon heritage were increasingly ridiculed.  Even the word Melungeon became a most disparaging term.  In fact, to be legally classified as a Melungeon meant in the words of one journalist, to "nobody at all".

The Melungeons, pushed off their lands, denied their rights, often murdered, always mistreated, became an imbittered and nearly defeated people.  Over the ensuing decades- in a vain effort to fit in with their Anglo neighbors, they lost their heritage, their culture, the names and thier original religion but not their genetic structure.

Perhaps the most stunning evidence is the gene frequency research conducted in 1990 by Dr. James Guthrie, who performed a reanalysis of 177 Melungeon blood samples taken in 1969, in east Tennessee and SW Virginia.

Dr Guthrie compared the frequency of certain genes within the Melungion sample to the know genetic make-up of nearly 200 other world population groups.  His findings indicated no significant differences between the Melungeon people of east Tennessee and SW Virginia, and the people of North Africa and especially  Morocco, Algeria and Libya and the Galician mountains of Spain and Portugal, Iraq, Cyprus, Malta, the Canary Islands and extreme southern Italy, and most interesting certain south American Indians and last but not least, the Turks.

Can it be pure coincidence that these gene frequency comparisons match up so perfectly with those populations theorized to be the source of the Melungeons?  Can this sort of coincidence truly exist?  There as also a number of medical conditions associated with the Melungeon people, e.g.  sarcoidosis, a dibilitating and sometimes fatal disease which is primarily a disease of Arabic, North African and Portuguese people with links to the Canary Islands, In this country itís most common among Caucasian-Americans of Melungeon decent and AfricanAmericans with SE roots.  Both groups undoubtedly share the same Mediterranean and Middle Eastern gene pool.

There is strong evidence that Christopher Columbus himself suffered from sarcoidosis.  And there are other genetically related illnesses as well.  Familial Mediterranean Fever, thallasemia and Machado Joseph Disease (also know as Azorean Disease) are all strong indicators that Melungeons are indeed of mixed Mediterranean, Middle Eastern North African and African descent.

Even if historians never took seriously the Melungeon claim to be Portuguese or Moorish, the medical and genetic work cannot be so easily dismissed.

What can the long-standing mystery word Melungeon possibly mean? It was used by Spanish and Portuguese Berbers to describe themselves. But now there is yet another hint, further substantiating a Muslim origin.  there are two Turkish words; "melun" meaning cursed or damned and  "can" meaning  "life" or "soul" used together these words-Pronounced Melungeon" translate as "one whose life or soul has been cursed."  Which would seem quite appropriate for 200 Muslim Turks an Ocean away from their loved ones and their country.

The descendants of the Melungeon people are everywhere, especially those who have ancestors from the SE US, of any race with the following surnames: Adams, Adkins, Bell, Bennett, Berry, Bowling, Chavis, Coleman, Collins, Gibson, Goins, Hall, Jackson, Lopes, Moore, Mullins, Nash, Robinson, Sexton and Williams.  As a result of continuning research, several American celebrities have recently discovered their Melungeon roots.

The Melungeon researchers are supported by grants from the governments of Portugal, Morocco and especially Turkey. The Turkish are providing Arabic-reading scholars to translate records from the Ottoman Empire. Among the other competent scholars assisting in this research are Dr. Ahmad al-Hassan, author of  "An Illustrated History of Islamic Science and Technology"  published by Cambridge University Press. Research grants have also come from the humanities councils of South Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and Georgia.

Many Melungeons are excited to learn that, though they themselves are Christians, their ancestors were Muslims, and what they accomplished. This realization put into better focus the prejudices that their people have suffered, not only the older members of their families, but still living ones. A Melungeon lady suffering because of the dark color of her skin, or a Melungeon male being attacked by tow men in Blacksburg VA in 1980 because they thought he was Iranian, or another being detained as a suspected Palestinian at an Israeli border crossing while visiting the Holy Land with his family.  All these things have impact, and point out the insanity of prejudice based on oneís physical characteristics.  The Melungeons were Americans, and Christians as well and even thought they were Scots irish.  Bit it didnít matter, because the rest of World was caught up in its preset prejudices.

The Melungeons experience shows that even if kinship may not be seen on the surface, itís there. The Melungeons victims of an early form of ethnic cleansing-are the ancestors of a significan number of present day Americans. Americans who may not know they are descended from Muslims and Jews, Arabs, and Berbers, Africans and Native Americans, Portuguese and Spanish.  And when people maliciously target any religious, racial or ethnic group that is different from what they perceive themselves to be, they are truly hurting themselves.  Racial and religious prejudice is nothing more than self mutilation.  Humankind are all not just figuratively-but literally-brothers and sisters.  Not just in Godís eyes but in true family kinship as well.

The Melungeons, though most today are Christian, are the living legacy of Islamís first wavy of immigration to the New World.

This article is just a piece of the book:

An Untold Story of Ethnic cleansing in America "The Melungeons" written by N.Brent Kennedy and Robyn Vaughan Kennedy published by Mercer University press Macon Georgia 31207 copyright1994

ISBN 0-86554-445-X : Covers the story of the Muslims in the Americaís prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus.

Article taken from: MESSAGE, July 1996 By: Mahir Abdal-Razzaaq El

Meet A Muslim Native American:

"My name is Mahir Abdal-Razzaaq El and I am a Cherokee Blackfoot American Indian who is Muslim. I am known as Eagle Sun Walker. I serve as a Pipe Carrier Warrior for the Northeastern Band of Cherokee Indians in New York City.

There are other Muslims in our group. For the most part, not many people are aware of the Native American contact with Islam that began over one thousand years ago by some of the early Muslim travelers who visited us. Some of these Muslim travelers ended up living among our people.

For most Muslims and non-Muslims of today, this type of information is unknown and has never been mentioned in any of the history books. There are many documents, treaties, legislation and resolutions that were passed between 1600s and 1800s that show that Muslims were in fact here and were very active in the communities in which they lived. Treaties such as Peace and Friendship that was signed on the Delaware River in the year 1787 bear the signatures of Abdel-Khak and Muhammad Ibn Abdullah. This treaty details our continued right to exist as a community in the areas of commerce, maritime shipping, current form of government at that time which was in accordance with Islam.

According to a federal court case from the Continental Congress, we help put the breath of life in to the newly framed constitution. All of the documents are presently in the National Archives as well as the Library of Congress.

If you have access to records in the state of South Carolina, read the Moors Sundry Act of 1790... Almost all of the tribes vocabulary include the word Allah. The traditional dress code for Indian women includes the kimah and long dresses. For men, standard fare is turbans and long tops that come down to the knees. If you were to look at any of the old books on Cherokee clothing up until the time of 1832, you will see the men wearing turbans and the women wearing longhead coverings. The last Cherokee chief who had a Muslim name was Ramadhan Ibn Wati of the Cherokees in 1866.

Cities across the United States and Canada bear names that are of Indian and Islamic derivation. Have you ever wondered what the name Tallahassee means? It means that He Allah will deliver you sometime in the future."

Article taken from: MESSAGE, July 1996, By: Mahir Abdal-Razzaaq El

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