Written Out of History: The Untold Legacy of Native American Slavery

by September 4, 2011

Written Out of History blends historical facts with accounts of the forgotten legacy of Native American slavery as told by indigenous scholars and anthropologists.

Originally shot on location in North America, Europe, and the Caribbean, this documentary film by Max Carocci and Simona Piantieri reconstructs for the first time on camera the events that led to the erasure of indigenous forced labour from the annals of history.

For more on the legacy of Native American slavery, please see Max Carocci's 2009 article, Written out of history: Contemporary Native American narratives of enslavement.

Here's an excerpt:

"It has been estimated that before 1715, 51,000 Native Americans were sent by the British from North and South Carolina to the newly established colonies of the Caribbean (Gallay 2002). To these numbers, we should add all the Native slaves shipped from the northern Atlantic states such as Connecticut and Rhode Island, as well as those sent by the French, Dutch and Spanish from their territories to various parts of their colonial domains. Although these numbers are comparatively less than the millions of slaves deported from Africa, we will not have totals of Native American slaves until we systematically put together the scattered documentation concerning slavery and practices related to involuntary forms of servitude applied to them. Data concerning Native American slavery in all its multiple forms is contained in shipping records, legal documents, and the correspondence of government officials and slavers such as the notorious Thomas Nairne (Moore 1988).

"The pre-African commerce in human beings in and from North America was gradually superseded by the importation of Africans, but full slavery and other forms of un-free labour were imposed on many North American indigenous peoples throughout the 19th century both in the northeast (Herndon and Sekatau 1997, 2005) and in the Spanish domains of California, New Mexico and Texas (Barr 2005, Brooks 2002), a fact that challenges hitherto received views about North American slavery. For over 300 years after the arrival of the first Europeans, Native Americans continued to be sold, bartered, exchanged and forced to work for all colonial powers in a variety of ways and contexts. As a consequence, slavery and various forms of servitude affected Native Americans on a significantly larger scale than approximate numbers at hand may suggest (Magnaghi 1998)."

Continue Reading: Written out of history: Contemporary Native American narratives of enslavement.

  • Anonymous
    September 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for these very interestinfacts I knew there was some slave trade using natives but didn't know it was that ictinsive


  • Eliza Olson
    September 5, 2011 at 11:33 am

    This is unfortunately very enlightening. I am a descendent of the Cherokee nation through my Great Grandfather on my mother's side.

    It was one of my goals in retirement to trace my native American roots. I have been too busy trying to save the environment to do so.

    We so often think our native ancestors didn't leave buildings and monuments as part of their history. We keep getting told all our history is oral.

    This documentary makes this a lie--the buildings, monuments were destroyed by invading Europeans.

    No one ever told me that the native Americans who crossed the Atlantic were actually "slaves."


  • Eliza Olson
    September 5, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    I thought it was only my mother who told her relatives in the USA not to tell her Canadian children they were part native American! It was an innocent comment by myself when visiting my grandmother that convinced my grandmother to write an affidavite that my mother was German!

    It was years after my mother's death that overheard comments began to make sense.

    I couldn't understand why my birth was not registered where I was born for example. Well, if you looked at my father who was Hungarian and German, you wouldn't question him putting down on my birth certificate that my mother was German as well.

    Keep up the good work. These stories need to be told and become part of our history.


  • Ahni
    September 5, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    @Anonymous: Yeah, there's a lot of history here that's been kicked out of the books: the "native american" slave trade mentioned here, the relationships between Africans and Indigenous Peoples in the Americas; the fact that some Indigenous Nations kept slaves - it's all slowly coming out of the woodwork now.

    Here's a couple resources that you might be interested in:

    Video: Dancing on John Wayne's Head, https://intercontinentalcry.org/dancing-on-john-waynes-head/
    Book, Black Indians,

    Trailer: American Red & Black. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bpdvus0twTY

    Website, Aframerindian Slave Narratives, http://patrickminges.info/afram/

    On a related note, a friend of mine is doing a documentary on another untold legacy: slavery in Canada https://intercontinentalcry.org/the-invisible-history-of-slavery-in-canada/


  • Ahni
    September 8, 2011 at 11:48 am

    @Eliza: thanks for commenting. Sadly, even now, there are thousands of people here (in Canada) who continue to deny their identity. Residential schools were a big part of that, but even television and public school played a role, not to mention all the racist laws and polices the government has used over the years. They're still trying to get us to abandon ourselves.

    And Speaking of identity, here's a short film I think you'll appreciate, by Lorne Olson :) https://intercontinentalcry.org/apples-and-indians/


Leave a Response