Extinction by Reclassification: The MOWA Choctaws of South Alabama and Their Struggle for Federal Recognition
Carmer’s story provoked a flurry of interest in the “Cajans,” when in reality they were not Cajun at all. Instead, they were descendants of the indigenous Choctaw Indians of southwest Alabama. Cajun is a nickname given to Acadians, French-speaking immigrants and deportees from Acadia, Canada, who live in Louisiana. Nonetheless, Carmer’s exotic description was an early example of a deluge of articles,
papers, theses, and dissertations on southwest Alabama’s so-called Cajuns that appeared between 1930 and 1972. Many of these writings were on the theme of “tri-racial isolates,” an outdated anthropological term used to describe interracial populations that existed outside mainstream society.3 Anthropologists now consider such a designation unscientific and invalid, although some genealogists are still using it.4
3 Laura Frances Murphy, “Among the Cajans of Alabama,” Missionary Voice, November 1930, 22; Laura Frances Murphy, “Mobile County Cajans,” Alabama Historical Quarterly 1 (Spring 1930): 76–86; Laura Frances Murphy, “The Cajans at Home,” Alabama Historical Quarterly 2 (Winter 1940): 416–27; Laura Frances Murphy, “The
Cajans of Mobile County, Alabama” (master’s thesis, Scarritt College, 1935); Horace Mann Bond, “Two Racial Islands in Alabama,” American Journal of Sociology 36 (January 1931): 552–67; R. Clay Bailey, “The Strange Case of the Cajuns,” Alabama School Journal 48 (April 1931): 8; Clatis Green, “Some Factors Influencing Cajun Education in Washington County, Alabama,” (master’s thesis, University of Alabama, 1941); Edward T. Price Jr., “Mixed-Blood
Populations of Eastern United States as to Origins, Localizations, and Persistence” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1950); Bibb Bowles Huffstutler, “Oral Anomalies in School Children of an American Triracial Isolate: A Frequency Study” (master’s thesis, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1965); Richard Severo, “The Lost Tribe of Alabama,” Scanlan’s Monthly, March 1970, 81–88; B. Eugene Griessman, “The American Isolates,” American
Anthropologist n.s. 74 (June 1972): 693–94; B. Eugene Griessman and Curtis T. Henson Jr., “The History and Social Topography of an Ethnic Island in Alabama” (paper, annual meeting of the Southern Sociological Society, Atlanta, Georgia, 1974), copy in possession of author; Gary Minton and B. Eugene Griessman, “The Formation and Development of an Ethnic Group: The ‘Cajans’ of Alabama” (paper, annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Mexico
City, November 19, 1974), available though the Education Resources Information Center, ERIC No. ED133119; George Harry Stopp Jr., “The Impact of the 1964 Civil Rights Act on an Isolated ‘Tri-Racial’ Group” (master’s thesis, University of Alabama, 1971); Calvin L. Beale, “An Overview of the Phenomenon of Mixed Racial Isolates in the United States,” American Anthropologist 74 (June 1972): 704–10.
The Alabama Review 59 (July 2006): 163-204.
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