These are excerpts from "Transgressions in Race and Place" by Darlene Wilson and Patricia D. Beaver, from a Women's Studies collection of essays entitled Neither Separate Nor Equal :
"A word portrait of the Melungeon or mountain 'native granny' may be gleaned from legends and documents. We define 'Melungeon' as a label given to the first true American culture fusion and diffusion, the result of native women's embrace of different 'male offshore others,' be they Ottomans, Englishmen, Portugese, Spanish, fleeing African laborers, shipwrecked gold-seekers, or willing castaways. Pocahontas's rescue of John Smith is the popularized, romanticized version of the relationship. However, historians and anthropologists have indeed confirmed that, in many native groups in the Southeast, women had primary responsibility for community-keeping, food production, and resource allocation; thus, they enjoyed considerable autonomy throughout the colonial period in deciding whether these male offshore others would be allowed to live, remain as 'visitors,' or become a permanent part of their community.
"For the first century of so after Contact, Native Americans did not differentiate between 'pale-skinned' and darker-skinned newcomers; in effect, they had to learn about Eurocentric racism over the next century through firsthand experiences. Beginning in the mid-senenteenth century, English-speaking travelers in the southern Appalachian region encountered communities of ethnically mixed peoples who defied easy categorization. When later waves of of European migrant families flowed into the area and [eventually]came to dominate the cultural landscape, their very survival in outlying places [at first] depended upon the hospitality of thse more-native-than-not women and their mixed-ancestry offspring who retained local, on-the-ground power via kinship and clan-oriented networks. Throughout the colonial period, social and genetic intermingling was not uncommon. Indeed, various imperial authorities sought to encourage European-Indian intermarriage." [examples are given] (pp.39-40)