Alabama John Cherokee (Hugill places this to be from the days of slavery) is probably not far off from the story/song. For sailors of color the late 1700's into the earlier half of the 1800's was a far better & easier time for the Black & Indian seafarer. As the Civil was approched & after when Jim Crow went to sea their numbers went down while their treatment got worse.
Many slaves in New England lived with the Mashpee Indians of Cape Cod & other places like Chappequiddick, Gay Head & Christentown, Martha's Vinyard & end up intermarrying. Captain Paul Cuff of Nantucket, a wealthy merchant & shipowner was of African & Indian backround. His son commandered the Rising Star & skippered an all black crew. Paul's 2 son-in-laws & nephews were also sea captains. Captain Absolom S Boston, Skipper of the whaler Industry 1822, (also crewed by all blacks) was the son of Captain Prince Boston (of African decent) also came from a prominent Nantucket maritime family, he married a women of of Indian/African decent, Paul Cuff's granddaughter. Crispus Attucks (see Boston Massacre) of African/Natick Indian decent, sailed as harpooner aboard a whaler. The well known (in his time) Captain Samson Occan was also of African/Indian decent. Captain Moses Vose, of African decent) married a Mustee indian women, their children 'followed the sea'. The Indian sailor had it a bit better than the Black, if they carried Indian id's, they did not fall under the same laws as slaves or freemen though without proof of being an Indian or of Indian decent they could land in the same hell as the slave. Although the canoe is thought of as having Native American origins it's origins are in Africa.
I guess I thread creeped this one.