".....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
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
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
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
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
First, on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, he
discovered an iron pot and an old shipís mast preserved in an Indian hut. He
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
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
Azemmouri is never mentioned in the American history
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
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
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
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.
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
There on Roanoke Island he was sieged by stranded English
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
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
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
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"
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,
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
His dark-skinned companions were known as "Mecca
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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