Shalom Cherian- #7

13 04 2010

This week’s article “when Carolina Indians went on the Warpath: The Media, the Klan, and the Lumbees of North Carolina” by Christopher Oakley, recounts the successful 1958 routing of the KKK by the Lumbees , and focuses on the report and news about this widely publicized event, which showed the media’s ignorance about cultural, social, and historical knowledge of the Indians of Robeson County.

The article begins with a brief introduction of the Lumbee of Robeson County. Oakley introduces the tri-racial Robeson county of the late 1800’s. According to Oakley, the World War 2 marked an important time of change for these Indians. Many Indians from Robeson County served in integrated units during WW2, and the returning vets were key players in the political and social activism that was soon to come about.

The Battle of Hayes pond widely publicized as the “Maxton Riot” and the media’s reaction to it is the main focus of Oakley’s article. After the 1954 Brown vs. Board ruling, the KKK had a resurgence and was intent on preventing miscegenation that would occur if schools were desegregated. In 1958, Rev. James “Catfish” Cole, the NC KKK head, came into Robeson County and burned a couple of crosses within the County as sign against the Lumbees. A few days later, a Klan rally was held at Hayes Pond, just outside Maxton. The author elaborately details the events that followed, resulting in the KKK members fleeing due to huge turn out of determined and unified members of the Lumbee community who wanted to dissolve this  outside threat to their community and families. Though the “event/riot” happened in a brief time period( 2 hours?) it captured the hearts, minds and imaginations ( and assumptions) of the Sate and nation.

To the Lumbees who took part in the KKK routing and the community, their actions were seen as natural, obvious, necessary, and spontaneous. In the face of threat from KKK, the Lumbees just had to make sure that group got the clear message that it did not belong (and was not welcome) in Robeson County. From the interviews and eyewitness accounts, and local news paper coverage, Oakley shows us that the “Maxton riot” was a day of great celebration for the Lumbee, as it reconfirmed the importance of group unity, community, and the power of social action. However, the Lumbee community and the local media (the Robesonian, Scottish Chief) did not over-exaggerate events or try to make their “name” known nationally.

But the State and National media caught on to the event and sensationalized it, what resulted in Oakley stating that the headlines were “insensitive at best and insulting at worst.” Though these headlines and articles were pro-Indian( and showed the Robesonian Indians as brave, and favored them over the KKK), the portrayal of the Lumbee Indian was way off target. The general assumption that the National and State newspapers took was that the Indians of Robeson County had the same historical and cultural themes as that of the Plain Indians. The news paper articles were aflood with dramatic versions of the actual event and stereotyped images of Native Americans. Oakley says “wampum boys”, “warpaths” and “yelling war cries” were not accurate identifiers of the Lumbee community. Assuming that the experience of the Plain Indian was the general experience of Indians everywhere, was a generalization that stripped the identity, history, and uniqueness of the Indians of the South, like the Lumbee.

I found the article interesting, because before getting to know about Native Americans, my exposure from cartoons, stories and movies was exactly that of the Plain Indians….war cries, tribal dances and all! A few thoughts/ponderings I have:

– As discussed in Class earlier, ‘southern History’ should include the history of the original inhabitants of the south, like the Robesonian Indians. I feel that in the past, much work has been done on the Plane tribes, while Southern Indians have been neglected.

-it was surprising to see that a State paper, the News and Observer, printed such inaccurate information, in some of their articles which reported the Maxton Riots, because prior to the 1958 event, this newspaper did report on the Indians. For example, in 1926 an in-depth ( semi accurate, given the time period in which it was written)3 part essay was written on the Lumbee Indians and who they are.

-How did the Robesonian Indians react to Brown vs. Board hearing?

-Why did “Maxton riots” gain so much popularity? Was it because of the larger historical events taking place in the late 1950’s? (like getting tired of the government, the increased awareness of the racial and ethinic diversities of America, and realization of injustices done against the Indians). I feel that also the notion of “mysticism  and intrigue” that surrounded being Indian, further highlighted the news.

-Most articles credit the Lumbee for the routing, were the Tuscarora involved, Or did the term Lumbee encompass everyone?

Walker’s Family History

6 04 2010


In her book Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South, Dr. Lowery briefly addresses the issue of those wandering Croatan turpentiners who never returned to Robeson County. “Today,” she writes, “their descendents are not Lumbee” (66). Because her main narrative focuses on the development of the modern Lumbee identity, Lowery moves on to more relevant topics. But this brief allusion raises an interesting question: if the descendents of these people are not Lumbee, then what exactly are they? Are they Indian? White? Colored? Something else entirely?

This question is of particular importance to me because I myself am one of these descendents. Given my limited timeframe, I cannot hope to address such a broad issue in any definitive way. Instead, I would like to offer myself and my family’s history as a case study or primary source of this phenomenon.

I am descended from diasporic Croatan turpentiners through my mother’s side of the family.  Her people were Marlboro County Indians who migrated to York, Chester, and Union Counties in South Carolina. Excluding the Catawba Reservation in York County, this region of the state is a very black-and-white racial environment. And unlike the Lumbee communities in Bulloch County or Baltimore, my mother’s people had no Indian community as a support network.  This unique situation engendered a sort of two-fold response. Over several generations, my family racially assimilated into the white working-class community but also retained many distinctively Indian ethnic traits that persist to this day. On the one hand, they adopted racist attitudes, took white spouses, and identified themselves as white to outsiders; on the other hand, they maintained certain Indian healing practices, foodways, and kinship ideas. Among themselves, members of my family also acknowledge their “mixed-up” ancestry.

A Note on Sources

I remember most of this information from stories I heard as a child from my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. I have also had more recent conversations with them and members of my (huge) extended family, and I have nosed through old documents and photos, some which I reproduce here. Please note, however, that this is not an analytical or academic history. Rather, my attempt here is to produce a primary account of my own understanding of my family and ethnic identity, which I hope will be of use to others.


My narrative will get a bit confusing. Here is a county map of South Carolina and a chart of my direct line of descendents, which hopefully will help the reader understand relationship among the most important people and places.




My great-great-great grandfather was an Indian named Malcolm L. Sweatt. I believe it is appropriate to begin my narrative with him, since my mother’s people generally think of “Grandpa Sweatt” as the family patriarch (almost in the biblical sense—he is rumored to have fathered twenty-one children with six or more women). According to my mother, Malcolm was born in the 1850s or ’60s in Opp, Alabama, the child of an itinerant Croatan turpentiner. (Please note that other accounts give his place of birth as Marlboro County, SC). His parents were probably Aaron Sweatt and Nancy Peavy, both originally from the South Carolina portion of the Lumbee settlement area. It is unclear why they would have moved to Alabama so long before the main wave of Indian migrants in the 1890s, but oral tradition has it that they constantly moved around in search of work “dipping turpentine.” They are said to have moved throughout Alabama, north Florida, Georgia, parts of South Carolina, and southeastern North Carolina. It certainly appears, however, that they were based in Marlboro County and were careful to maintain that connection, much like most migrant Indian families. 




Malcolm Sweatt is the tall man in the center. Lessie McCloud is the woman on the left, and her husband Jim is on the right. The other people pictured are Lessie’s children.

Little is known about Malcolm’s youth. There is, however, a strong tradition that he was “declared an outlaw” in Alabama after robbing a bank and had to return to his home area of Marlboro County. (In his old age, Malcolm was known to hide out in the woods for days at a time, perhaps to elude phantom Alabaman lawmen. Whatever his motivation, my great-great grandmother would prepare food for him and place it in a predetermined spot at the edge of the trees).

During his return to Marlboro County, Malcolm met a woman named Julia Grant and fathered my great-great grandmother, Lessie Sweatt. She was born in Bennettsville, probably at some point in the 1880s. My family knows almost nothing about Julia Grant—it does not appear that she ever married Malcolm, and she died when Lessie was very young. (To further complicate matters, Malcolm was married to and had many children by another Marlboro County woman whose surname was Alsford.) We are therefore unsure of whether Julia Grant was an Indian, though I believe she was listed as “mulatto” on one census record. Because of her mother’s early death (and her father’s ever-changing marital status), Lessie was raised almost entirely by her father Malcolm, who is remembered in family lore as a controlling, patriarchal, and mean-spirited individual.

Malcolm, Lessie, and his numerous other children seem to have lived quasi-nomadic lives throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. My mother, who was close to Lessie, remembers hearing that she and her family “dipped turpentine” and picked cotton in several different states—a lifestyle not unlike that of Malcolm’s own childhood. This arrangement gradually changed, however, as Malcolm’s children began to get married. Malcolm’s children usually took white spouses, though my mother has had some contact with a group of African Americans from coastal Texas who trace their ancestry to Malcolm Sweatt. These married children began to form familial clusters or enclaves in various towns in the Southeastern United States, particularly in Florida and South Carolina. As he grew older, Malcolm regularly circulated among these family groups, spending several months at a time with each. My great grandmother and her siblings sometimes visited Grandpa Sweatt’s people in Florida as well, and this process maintained some level of loose contact among the widely dispersed groups.

Malcolm Sweatt died in the mid-1950s at over one hundred years of age. My grandmother’s generation was the last to know him directly, and he has now become something of a legendary figure. He is best remembered as a bank robber, but the other two most-repeated stories about him both involve acts of violence. The first happened when some of his children (or grandchildren—I can’t remember) were young. In order to get to work—probably picking cotton or something similar—they had to cross through a white man’s pasture. One day, the man’s bull got after them, and Malcolm threatened the owner and told him to put the animal up. The man didn’t listen, and the bull got after the children again, so Malcolm walked into the pasture and shot it dead. In the other story, Malcolm shot a black man (his race is always noted) simply for crossing through his yard in a cart. Other stories about Malcolm emphasize his insatiable sexual appetite or his absolute authority over his family.

At some point during the nineteen-teens or twenties, my great-great grandmother Lessie met and married a white mill operative named Jim McCloud. They had ten children together, nine of whom survived to adulthood. In 1948, after she had raised them, Lessie followed her husband into the textile industry, as did her children. Among this second generation of mill hands was my great grandmother Viola, who helped raise me and was one of the most important figures in my childhood. It was at this point that my family’s racial status became extremely complicated.



Payroll stub from Lessie McCloud’s first paycheck

In South Carolina, textile mill work was a “white” occupation according to custom and a 1915 segregation statute. Like most forms of legal segregation, however, the goal was mainly to disadvantage blacks, not to grant poor whites exclusive privileges, and Indians existed somewhere outside this binary system. Catawba Indians, for example, often worked in the state’s textile industry, though their white co-workers viewed them as a threat and treated them accordingly. It was in this environment that my great-great grandmother Lessie McCloud managed to become legally white—which is the race listed on her Social Security registration form. I am not sure how the registration process worked, but I understand how she could have passed. Although she had a brownish complexion and two non-white parents, she had a white husband, had no official birth certificate, and was not a member of any state-recognized tribal group.

It is important to note, however, that she always described herself as Indian in non-official contexts and was particularly careful to tell this to her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. When some of my family members later attempted to claim Cherokee ancestry—no doubt to concoct a “legitimate,” socially-palatable tribal affiliation—she became irritated and told them that she was “just a plain old swamp Indian,” the term she most consistently used.

Lessie and Jim McCloud outside a mill village house.

Her children developed a more complicated racial self-conception. Like their mother, they almost always presented themselves as white to outsiders, identifying as “Indian” only to explain their unusually dark skin tone. Among family, they acknowledged their Indian heritage, but tended to play up their white ancestry and describe themselves as “mixed.” To my knowledge, all of them took white spouses, usually very fair-skinned ones, and many members of my mother’s generation describe themselves as white. (This was not an unusual strategy among Indians at that time–see Lowery, page 52). My mother herself, however, continues to describe herself as “mixed” or “Indian” and presses me to do the same.

Well into their adulthood, Lessie McCloud’s nine children (and their countless children) lived in separate households on the same street. This doubtless took serious coordination, since they moved several times among York, Union, and Chester Counties. After Grandpa Sweatt began circulating among his dispersed descendant clusters, Grandmama McCloud became the matriarchal keystone in the arch and the clear head of household. When she left the workforce, however, her children began to form small kinship clusters, each headed by one of Lessie’s children. According to my mother, the largest cluster (three or four household) was in Chester, and the smallest (a single household) was in Lockhart. Ours—mine and my mother’s—was in Clover, a mill town in York County. It consisted of two smallish family groups, one headed by my great grandmother Viola and the other headed by her sister Lorene. Lorene’s household included her son J.B. (who never had children of his own) and her husband (who died young). Viola’s included her common-law husband (not blood-related to me), my grandmother Betty Turner (whose real father is unknown), my mother Lisa, and my aunt Rhonda. At times it also included my grandfather, Jim Boheler.



My great grandmother Viola (right) and my grandmother Betty (left). Tellingly, they are pictured with one of the white boyfriends that Lorene took after the death of her husband. Lorene was Viola’s sister and lived across the street from her all her life. Her son J.B. still lives in the same house, right across from my grandmother.

These three clusters were quasi-separate but tied together by Lessie McCloud, who divided her time among them (she always spent her summers in Clover). Interestingly, almost every individual family-household identified very strongly with Lessie’s side of the family, but had a cooler relationship with the spouse’s family. According to my mother, this pattern was by design. She frequently heard very negative stories about the extended families of those who had married in. This created an in-group/out-group dynamic that strengthened the bond within and among the clusters. This dynamic also had a more positive side. Among her children and their families, Gramama McCloud was seen as a matriarch and a figure of immense importance. My mother remembers, for example, that Mother’s Day was structured entirely around Lessie, and that she was the only one who received gifts.

This arrangement had a very pronounced effect on family identification. My mother, for example, can name every one of her eight great aunts and uncles, as well as most of their children and grandchildren. On the other hand, she sometimes struggles to remember even her father’s siblings. I myself remember having Christmas with Lorene and J.B. and a few of the Chester people, but I’ve only ever met Grandmama Boheler once, even though she is still alive. I find this dynamic particularly interesting given how most members of my family self-identified racially. Although they emphasized their white racial heritage, they tied their kinship identity most strongly to a woman with two Indian parents. In this way, Lumbee-like kinship values survive in a modified form even in my generation.

Grandmama McCloud, 1970s. She is pictured with two of her sons, D.A. (left) and Harold (right). The woman on the far left is D.A.’s wife. If I’m not mistaken, they all lived in Chester.

My mother’s family also maintained Indian ethnic traits through a continued use of traditional healing practices. Grandmama McCloud was adept at making poultices and herbal remedies, and virtually every person in my family who knew her has at least one story about an effective treatment she administered. My grandmother also clearly remembers that Lessie believed in blowing or talking fire. Though she could not talk fire herself,  she apparently knew an Indian man in Chester who could do so, and she routinely took her children to him to have their burns treated. And when my aunt Rhonda got the thrush as a toddler, Lessie had “Mr. Justice” — a white double amputee who had never seen his father — blow in her mouth. According to my grandmother, Rhonda had not been able to eat or drink for days on end, but within 48 hours after the treatment, she drank an entire bottle of Coca-Cola and eventually made a full recovery. Incidentally, my mother had a very different reaction: because Mr. Justice had no legs, she found the event to be highly traumatizing, and she laughingly notes that she “still isn’t right” after the experience.  



My great grandmother’s oldest brother, Malcolm “Mac” McCloud. I just sort of like this picture and regret that Mac died before I was born. He was apparently a very sweet man, unlike his grandfather and namesake.  I also believe his phenotype is fairly typical of his generation—their brownish complexion sometimes caused them trouble.

Clearly, then, many Indian ethnic traits have proven highly “sticky” and have endured in modified form despite my family’s racial assimilation. To better illustrate how these identity markers have been passed down, I will now describe my own feelings about my racial and ethnic identity. For reasons that will be made clear, this topic is somewhat uncomfortable for me, and I therefore hope that readers proceed with respect and sensitivity.

Let me begin by noting that my ancestry is overwhelmingly European, and for that reason, I always list my race as “white.” This is not because I am ashamed of my Amerindian and African ancestors–on the contrary, I am incredibly proud of them. Yet as a person who, with a few exceptions, has enjoyed the privileges of whiteness, I feel it is inappropriate to lay claim to non-whiteness in official contexts.

Yet when I am asked about my ethnicity (which I separate from race entirely), I invariably respond that I come from a mixed ethnic background, and I tend to emphasize my Indian cultural traits. One reason I do so is out of respect for my mother, who identifies strongly with her Indian heritage and has always urged me to do the same. Once when I was about five or six years old, I remember that I was playing “Cowboys and Indians” with my brother. My mother came in the room, watched us for a minute, and then asked what we were playing. When we told her, she asked which of the two I was. “I’m a cowboy,” I said, “because they’re the good guys.” I’m not sure I remember a time when my mother has expressed more disappointment in me. She took me aside and explained that my great-great grandmother Viola (who I was very close to) was an Indian and that, in a certain way, I was too. She also made a point of taking me and my siblings to powwows. It is worth noting that my mother views herself as ethnically Indian, but not as a member of any Indian group. Though she has had Lumbee friends and acquaintances with whom she felt a certain cultural affinity, I don’t believe she thinks of herself as linked to them in any formal way. But neither is she much of a subscriber to pan-Indianism. She owns some Southwestern jewelry and admires Chief Joseph, but she doesn’t see herself in that light either.

My relationship to my Indian heritage is not nearly so comfortable or self-assured. In fact, I’ve had something of a tortured relationship with it. On the one hand, I don’t want to come across as a poseur or a “Cherokee Princess”-type figure. On the other hand, I was partially raised by my grandmother and great-grandmother, and I strongly identify with that side of my family. And like the generations before me, I have not gotten a lot of positive feedback from the outside world. For example, when I was in middle school, my great grandmother died after a year-long battle with lung cancer. Lord knows, she wasn’t without her flaws, but I genuinely loved her, and her death was a huge blow to me and the rest of my family. I coped by taking an increased interest in my Indian heritage, which made me feel closer to her. But when I started talking about it at school, I faced an unexpected amount of criticism and resentment. I went to a very mixed-race, inner city middle school in Winston-Salem, but it seems like almost all the negativity came from my white peers. I was repeatedly asked “how much Indian blood” I had and “what tribe” I belonged to —  issues that I had never contemplated or particularly associated with Indianness. When I couldn’t come up with concrete answers, I was teased pretty badly. I developed a reputation as “the fake Indian,” which really stung.

Being an impressionable and self-conscious 14-year-old kid, I took a lot of that to heart, and for the next six or seven years, I identified strongly as white. In looking back on it, I believe I may have overcompensated by making incessant, self-deprecating white jokes. I only talked about my Indian relatives with my very closest friends, and even then, I would invariably introduce the topic with the phrase, “Well, I’m white, but…” 

For me, the change came when I began studying Lumbee history. Though I certainly don’t see myself as a Lumbee, I was immediately struck by the cultural values I shared with my Indian classmates. Many things that I thought of as family idiosyncrasies turned out to be Indian ethnic hold-outs, and it seems I run into some such revelation almost every week. There are too many to name here, but one illustrative example was the realization that my belief in “totens” was an Indian trait. When I was about thirteen, for instance, a hummingbird flew into my living room. It hovered around for a while before repeatedly slamming itself into the window in an attempt to get out. My mother let it out, but  I remember that she was a wreck for days afterwards. She kept saying that that meant someone was about to die, and I began to share her anxiety. Within the week, my great-grandmother was diagnosed with the lung cancer that would eventually kill her. About a year later, another bird flew right into her window, to which she said, “Well, that’s not good.” She died in her sleep a few days later, and no one will ever convince me that her death wasn’t foreshadowed by those two birds. (Incidentally, my mother had given her a butterfly bush three or four years before her death, but she had never been able to make it grow, and I remember the thing looked like a little twig stuck in the ground. The very summer after her death, that bush shot up and bloomed beautifully).

Essentially, this class and the contact I’ve had with Indian people have allowed me to understand intellectually things I had never previously conteplated. And because of the kindness and respect my classmates have shown me, I’m growing more comfortable in embracing the Indian part of my ethnic identity. I still see myself as racially white, and to a large extent, I view myself as ethnically white as well. But I’ve come to believe that my Indian values make up a big part of who I am, and I don’t believe I’ll hide or ignore them again.


(Thanks so much to all my wonderful classmates and to my professor, Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery, for all the things y’all have taught me).

Shalom Cherian-#6

23 03 2010

Today’s reading was from Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery’s Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South. The selected readings were the preface and the introduction.

In the preface, Lowery begins with an introduction to the geographical location, and goes on to introduce the Indians of Robeson County, NC. I think the geographical introduction was a good way to emphasize the importance of place to the Robeson county Indians. The book focuses on how these Indians have toiled to create an identity as a People, a race, a tribe, a nation-these the main aspects of Indian identity that the book focuses on.  Lowery points out that the markers of Indian Identity have been/are fluid and has changed/may change over time depending on various circumstances. Notions of Indian identity may have two very different perspectives- one, for those inside the community (they Know they are Indian), and the other for outsiders who may have specific ideas of what qualities may constitute being called ‘Indian.’ An example that the author gives is the various name changes that the Robeson County Indians underwent from 1885 to 1956.

Inspite of segregation, disempowerment, and factionalism, Robeson County Indians have maintained their identity as a people held together by the bonds of place and kinship. According to Lowery, Kinship and place is the main foundation of identity for these Indians. Factionalism among the Indians, and how it has been used as a strategic response to political conditions, and its effect on Indian Identity is a big topic that Lowery covers in the book. Lowery explains why having an Indian perspective on the historical events surrounding them is vital. Also, she reminds us that the Robeson county Indians are not only Indians, but also Americans, and southerners, and that their oral traditions and history are integral pieces of American Histories.

In the introduction, Lowery begins with the narrative of the 1936 visit of the OIA members to Robeson County. This visit was meant to help the Indians gain federal recognition. But, the OIA’s criteria for proving the ‘Indianess’ of Robeson County Indians was through testing ancestry and physical features. However, this undertaking harmed, more than helped the Indians efforts for recognition. The OIA failed to recognize the history of the coalescence of these Indians, and the kinship and identification within the community.

Lowery explains how and why Robeson county Indians are a “nation of nations” (p. 5). Te present day Lumbees and Tuscaroras are the results of mass migrations, intermarriage, and cultural exchange between various tribes like the Cheraw, Peedee, Tuscarora that lived in/settled in and around Robeson county during the 16th and 17th century.  The roles of women in the community are explained and the importance of ancestors to group identity is shown. One thing that I was surprised by, is when Lowery points out that ancestry and kinship can be distinct aspects of identity for the Lumbee Indian. Personally, I have never had to think of them as separate.

The historical events that impacted the Indians during the 18th and 19th century are mentioned. For example, how the Robeson County Indians lost their right to vote in 1835. The White supremacist landscape of the south, is against which the Indians suffered segregation and disempowerment. Lowery uses the events of Henry Berry Lowry as an example of how Indians reacted to increasing amounts of restrictions set on them. The Lowry war had integral effects on the South and on the community. The event gave Robeson county Indians a social identity and a drive to be politically active and achieve autonomy.

I never understood Why the Henry Berry Lowry story was tied in closed to the identity of the people. But on reading the last few paragraphs of the introduction, I think I understand better. Question I would like to know more about:

1. Would Henry Berry Lowry consider himself a Lumbee?

2. Do the Tuscarora hold Henry Berry Lowry in the same light as the Lumbee do?

Source: An Interview with a Tuscarora. Finding who/what Henery Berry Lowry means to them?

Coty Brayboy Reponse #6

23 03 2010

In Malinda Maynor Lowerys’ new book Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation: Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South, she examines how the Indians of Robeson County (Lumbee and Tuscarora today) react both within the community and with “outsiders” while crafting identity as a People, a race, a tribe, and a nation. These terms overlap and show how Lumbee identity evolves in relation to non-Indians (whites held the power in Robeson County politics), the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) which became the BIA, and within the tribe itself. Maynor Lowery discusses how one of the defining characteristics of being Lumbee and Tuscarora is discord within the community. Indians in Robeson County firmly identify as a People, so the different tribal names put upon them by outsiders or chosen by the Indians themselves do not contradict their Indian claim as an Indian People of Robeson County.

Maynor Lowery describes kinship and place as the foundational layer of Indian Identity in Robeson County. Since the 1880s, people outside of the North Carolina Indian community have tried to make Indians in Robeson County fit into an inaccurate, confined box. However, the box itself undermines Indian identity in Robeson County. Maynor Lowery uses her position as both an insider and outsider to describe what she and other community members feel represents their heritage, identity and place within Native America. Maynor Lowery does this by a methodology called autoethnography. Authoethnography allows Maynor Lowery to situate herself as a Lumbee in the text, and this perspective is lacking in Lumbee research. Maynor Lowery argues that it is important to include the Lumbee way of seeing in academic scholarship in order to really understand how Lumbee identity formation and contestation can exist side by side. Otherwise, if someone approaches Lumbee scholarship without this understanding, it makes no sense how an Indian People can have five different names in about 130 years. Once one realizes that being Indian in Robeson County almost automatically includes disagreement and contestation, it makes sense that Indians do not have a uniform agreement on tribal origins.

Maynor Lowery uses coalescence to explain why Indians in Robeson County disagree about historical origins. The People in Robeson County today descend from numerous tribal groups: from 3 linguistic groups—Iroquoian, Siouan, and Algonkian, and 10 tribes, including Algonkian, Cheraw, Waccamaw, Peedee, Tuscarora, Saponi, Hatteras, Yeopim, Potoskite, Nansemond and the Weanoke. This vast diversity of peoples coming together meant that Indians used English as a common language. Then, kinship became the primary way to measure interrelation. Tribal names were not important compared to surnames. The main Indian surnames in 18th Century Robeson County include Chavis, Locklear, Lowry, Brooks and Oxendine. Having these and other related Indian surnames indicated that a person or a family belonged to the larger Indian community. Thus, Maynor Lowery argues that tribe and race overlap, because both signifiers used kinship as the primary unit of analysis.

This kinship system made sense to Lumbees, but it did not fit within the Office of Indian Affairs’ method of quantifying Indianness—anthropometry, or the study of the geometry of the human body. Although now discredited, anthropometry was considered to be a scientific study that proved Indian blood quantum based on stereotypical racial factors such as hair and skin color, facial features, hair texture and other physical measurements. In the 1930s, anthropologists from the OIA led by Carl Seltzer came to Robeson County to determine what people possessed half or more Indian blood using anthropometry. This study was a disaster, because they met with several hundred and only determined that 22 were half or more Indian. Seltzer only looked at phenotype, ignoring cultural factors, and concluded that the Indians in Robeson County in fact did not have a clear understanding of what it meant to be Indian. With regard to my research topic, these anthropologists completely ignored any traditional healing practices that undoubtedly would have proven an Indian identity that was different from surrounding black and white communities. Unfortunately, they did not take the time to understand what it meant to be a Robeson County Indian based on a variety of factors, instead trying to fit the people into a narrow box of Indianness based on physical appearance.

For questions, I am interested in how traditional healing practices may or may not vary depending on what tribal origin people claim. For instance, some people claim a Cheraw identity while others insist they descend from Indians that always lived in the Robeson County area. Because there were 3 linguistic groups and up to 10 tribal groups of ancestry, there probably was a diversity of healing practices being brought to Robeson County during the 18th Century coalescence. Have different practices survived? Are they identified as tribally specific? I know that practices vary by family. Do families try to align with particular tribal groups of origin?

To research these questions, I would need to look at historical coalescence and determine if communities today align with historical migration. Then, I would compare healing practices within today’s communities. I remember reading that some healing practices are common among all communities, especially when they involve plants or products that are readily available. However, other remedies are specific to families and communities. Some possible sources include:
1) Migration Patterns of Coastal NC Indians (paper with some historical documents and maps included on the website)
2) Rountree, Helen and Davidson: Eastern Shore Indians of Virginia and Maryland. 1997, The University Press of Virginia
3) I could look at several sources here:

Kristen Gnau #6

23 03 2010

This week’s reading was from Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery’s (newly released!) Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South.  In the preface, she introduces the book as a look at how Lumbee Identity has been formed over time.  This formation of Lumbee identity, she says, has been one shaped by change rather than one implemented then held constant.  In fact, very little about the Lumbee has been constant. Rather, the Lumbee have a heterogeneous history of conflict and change while also holding a firm belief in their “nation” about what it means to be Indian.  According to Lowery, the Lumbee have conflict with both “outsiders” and within themselves—it is a debate centered around point of view.  Unlike most other scholars, however, she argues that their conflict is strategic—a “creative way of dealing” with their situation.  Furthermore, with a history of displacement, change, and acculturation, conflict is seemingly inevitable.  For Lowery though, these changes are a part of Lumbee identity, which is most securely bound by kinship and place.  National identity as both southerners and Americans is not forgotten for Lowery.

The book’s introduction uses the coalescence of Robeson County Indians to explain the misunderstood idea of Lumbee “Indianness.”  In the 1930’s, the OIA (now the BIA) was sent to Robeson County to determine Lumbee identity on the basis of colonial requirements such as physical features and language, an act that could have helped the Lumbee gain recognition but instead promoted colonized ideas about what it meant to be Indian—ideas that already ran rampant in the Jim Crow era.  The truth is, the Lumbee cannot be identified by such standards because they are a coalescence of different tribes (such as Cheraw, Tuscarora, and Waccamaw) due to migration and cultural mixing and coming together.  Furthermore, with the mixing of so many tribes—ones that possibly belonged to Siouan, Iroquoian, and Algonkian language families—communication would be difficult without a common language, English.  Instead of defining themselves based on the standards of the OIA, the Lumbee identify based on kinship and place.  The five main families in Robeson County—Locklears, Chavis, Lowrys, Brooks, Oxendines—held land because they occupied it before the arrival of English settlers (other ways to hold land were grants or purchases).  These common family names still exist today in Robeson County and are used to help further identify individuals within the community.  Dr. Lowery discusses intermarriage within the community, saying it is perhaps exaggerated by those outside the community and underestimated by those within the community.  Lumbees struggled to identify themselves in the Jim Crow south, but ultimately embraced segregation as a means to separate their identity from black (or simply “colored”) or white.

This reading brought up questions for me about the classification of Indians as non-Indian.  Although it is probable that few census forms were filled out in such a rural area at the time of the OIA visit, it might be interesting to search for names in the census to see if they are listed as Indian.  It could also be interesting to track the different number of people listed as Indian, as I’m sure they have grown as more people identify themselves based on kinship and place and less on the colonized ideas of “indianness.”  Also, an interesting article on the issue

Considering my topic of racial classification, it is of great interest to me how the Lumbee used educational segregation to retain an Indian identity as opposed to a “colored” one.
An interview with Jim Chavis in which he discusses the history of Lumbee education before 1835 and after Reconstruction

An article about miscegenation laws for Indians, “a questionable fourth race”

Jackson #2

16 03 2010

“Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South” is available

8 03 2010

Students: You can now pick up your copy of “Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South” at the UNC Bookstore!! It’s finally here! Also, see my website, for more info and updates on the book!

Kristen Gnau #5

23 02 2010

            James Taylor Carson frames his article, “The Obituary of Nations’: Ethnic Cleansing, Memory, and the Origins of the Old South,” around the 1830 Indian Removal Bill.  He begins by quoting Richard H. Wilde of Georgia who believed that progress requires the disappearance of peoples.  Carson argues that Indians have not disappeared necessarily, but have been forgotten in southern history.  He goes on to say, however, that “what has been forgotten has shaped history as much as what has been remembered.”
            Carson calls American Indian policy “ethnic cleansing,” a term he uses to note that Indians have not been given a place in contemporary Indian society.  Like many of the other articles we have read, he describes American society as biracial.  In fact, he cites the 1840 Census that did not give Indians a category, only white and black.  In this biracial society, he argues, Indians would be fixed in a middle status and would ultimately sink to the status given to black men of the time.
            Carson describes Andrew Jackson’s Indian policy in his article.  Jackson, and many others, was a proponent of state control over Indian nations because if the federal government was given control over Indian policy then they could easily say that black people were no longer slaves.  In his article, Carson gives an estimate that 1/3 Choctaws and ¼ Cherokee died on the Trail of Tears during the Jackson administration.  As a result of the removal, American society began to view the Indian in terms of a dying race.  Writers characterized Indians as archetypes—doomed and “out of time and place.”  This perception of the “inevitable fate of the Indian” persisted even until the late 1980’s (and still does today) when people still saw removal as a final victory over Indians.
            Carson combats this idea by saying that colonists did not conquer a savage land, but instead destroyed a community of people that they perceived to be savage.  He concludes his article by saying that Indians are neighbors.  In the end, his article is an act to humanize Indians—to make them people instead of merely parts of the wildlife.  Regardless of their otherness, he says, it would have been hard to differentiate Indian life from the life of others on the frontier.  Carson wants Indians to be considered a part of Southern history because Indians were the first southerners.  He argues that this fact is forgotten and overshadowed by a commitment in American culture to racial identity.
            In Malinda Maynor’s “People and Place,” she explains how Indians used place and manipulated racism to maintain a distinct Indian identity.  She uses the example of the Croatan Indians (now Lumbee) who moved from Robeson County in the 1890’s to Georgia to follow the terpentine trade to show the value of place for the Lumbee.  Much like in Carson’s article, Georgia wanted to force Indians into a black or white identity.  When their vote was taken away in 1835, whites began viewing Indians as inferior, not as Indian but as “nonwhite.”  Scholars believed that Lumbees claimed to be Indian to not be recognized as black.  Maynor, however, argues that “racial ancestry is not intrinsic to identity.”  She recognizes that the Lumbee are a conglomerate of Indian tribes who associate identity with kinship rather than blood.  In fact, according to Maynor, Indian identity was not an issue until the removal era when whites needed a means to feel justified in expansion.
            In her article, Maynor claims that Indians, too, used racism for their own agenda.  She believes that segregation was a way for Indians to maintain identity through Indian-only schooling and churches.  Marriage was primarily between two Indians, arguably to retain ties to Indian identity.  Although Indians in Georgia were not in Robeson County, place remained an important part of Lumbee identity, which can be seen by their eventual return in 1920.
            Maynor disagrees that Lumbees are not a distinct racial classification.  Employment trends and gender roles were different for Indians than white and black people of the same time in the same area.  Maynor argues that racial classification fluctuated with economic and social status, such that when the terpentine trade migrated (taking many black workers with it and leaving Indians to the marketing industry), Indians were viewed as distinctly “Indian,” whereas before they had been “nonwhites.”

            This week’s articles raised questions for me about the desegregation of Indian-only schools and the impact it had on Indian identity.
Christopher Arris Oakley. “”When Carolina Indians Went on the Warpath”: The Media, the Klan, and the Lumbees of North Carolina.” Southern Cultures 14.4 (2008): 55-84. Project MUSE. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 18 Nov. 2009 <>.

Jones, James Arthur. and Maynor, Malinda M. “What is Progress?: Desegregating an Indian School in Robeson County, North Carolina.” Southern Cultures 10.2 (2004): 87-93. Project MUSE. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 18 Nov. 2009 <>.

Malinda Maynor Lowery. “Indians, Southerners, and Americans: Race, Tribe, and Nation during “Jim Crow”.” Native South 2 (2009): 1-22. Project MUSE. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 5 Feb. 2010 <>.

            Maynor’s article also shows women as the backbone of maintaining an Indian identity.  Given that Walker and I are considering exploring the impact of the eugenics movement, I found an article: Ralstin-Lewis, D. Marie. “The Continuing Struggle against Genocide: Indigenous Women’s Reproductive Rights.” Wicazo Sa Review 20.1 (2005): 71-95. Project MUSE. [Library name], [City], [State abbreviation]. 18 Nov. 2009 <>. The article does not explicitly mention Lumbees but does mention other indigenous tribes.

Monnoca Badonnih–#5

23 02 2010

In the article, People and Place: Croatan Indians in Jim Crow Georgia, 1890-1920, Malinda Maynor discusses the effects of the Indian Removal Policy, which relocated the vast majority of large Southern Indian tribes west of the Mississippi River and the remaining smaller tribes to coalescence. At first surrounding white communities paid little attention to the Croatan Indian community, but over time the Indian community began to encounter a different type of removal- one that attempted to destroy their identity. When North Carolina passed a new constitution in 1835 that declared that “free Negros, free mulattos, and free persons of mixed blood” could not vote”, issues of racial discrimination against Croatans arose. Indians were no longer seen as a distinct group of people and were discriminated against for simply being non-white.  Furthermore, as discrimination became prevalent, the Croatan’s Indian identity also came under scrutiny. Many scholars believed that Croatan Indians were not Indians because they did not possess phenotypic Indian traits, pure Indian blood, racial ancestry and a connection to land. However, many counter-argued with the belief that such ideas were social constructions and that “historical memories, cultural expressions, lived experience, a shared place, or religious belief” could be just as prominent in the identity of Indian group. Additionally, the reinforcement and preservation of kinship as a marker of identity allowed the Croatans to remain as an Indian community.

Around the 1890’s a group of Croatan Indians migrated to Bulloch County, Georgia in search for a friendlier economic environment. Upon settling in Bulloch County the Croatan Indians were seen as a distinct race and thus were not subjected to the black experience. As Bulloch County transformed from a turpentine industry to cotton agriculture, the Croatan further solidified their Indian identity. Croatans separated themselves from both the whites and blacks and in doing so established their community boundaries within Bulloch County known as the Sinkholde and proceeded to build their own churches, schools, and cemeteries. Despite establishing their own community, the Croatans rented land knowing their home was always in Robeson County. The Croatans also strongly held onto the idea of kinship and married only with their own and continually maintained connections with their families in Robeson County. In conclusion, the small group of Croatans Indians who moved to Georgia greatly illustrates the strength and perpetualness of the Croatan/ Lumbee identity through the employment of racism and segregation.

In the Obituary of Nation: Ethnic Cleansing, Memory, and the Origins, of the Old South,” James Taylor Carson discusses the history of relations between Southern Indian tribes, whom were eventually relocated west of the Mississippi River, and the state and federal governments’ motivations for implementing the removal policy. Southern Tribes Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws have a historical presence in the Southern US, however, it is apparent throughout history this presence has been neglected and nearly abolished which laid grounds for what Carson calls ethnic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing began around the 1830’s as state and federal governments deemed Indian tribes in the South as a roadblock to their idea of progression. Their idea of progression, both socially and economically would multiply as they gained access to Indian lands, which would open ways for more white settlements and economic opportunities.  Despite their visible assimilation into modern white society, Indians were still recognized as distinct and separate racial group, which consequently uprooted them from their homelands to a foreign place known today as Oklahoma.

The People and Place: Croatan Indian in Jim Crow Georgia article was a great source for the reinforcing the idea of kinship amongst Southern Indians and more specifically the Croatan Indians and present-day Lumbees. Maynor consistently stressed the importance of kinship throughout and recognized it as an “identitiy marker” for the Croatan Indians.

Many of the readings we have done suggested a number of ways the Lumbee tribe came to be, the most popular theory is the coalescence of various Southern tribes. Do the Lumbee people accept this idea today? or is the idea seen as an outsiders view? and if so what would be the more common theory of the origination of the Lumbee people amongst the Lumbee people themselves?

-After searching for sources to answer this question I’ve come to concluded the  way to answer this question would be through various interviews conducted amongst the Lumbee community.

Nirav Lakhani-#5

23 02 2010

Malinda Maynor’s article, “People and Place: Croatan Indians in Jim Crow Georgia, 1890-1920,” is an essay on Lumbee identity. Maynor addresses Lumbee identity in the context of a migrant Lumbee community that settled in Bulloch County, Georgia after moving away from Robeson County in the early 20th century. The essay provides excellent commentary on racial classification in the United States by using the common criteria for “real” Indians and breaking them down into subjective social constructs. Perhaps most powerful, is Maynor’s upright acceptance that “For scholars who define tribal Indian identity by “blood,” “land,” and “community,” the Lumbee are not “real” Indians. Most important from this article, Maynor refuses to allow Lumbee’s to become victims of circumstance and lose their federal claim to Indian classification.

            This week’s readings on migration have prompted my interested in a specific Indian belief in unseen intangible things. Whether it is Lumbee identity, belief in fire talking and healing, or the general Native American belief in spirits, faith is ubiquitous in Native American ideals. The second source I selected was chosen in particular due to its discussion of fire breathing, a topic that we hope to research further and present in our presentation of healing practices at the end of the semester.

“The evidence of things not seen” : faith  and tradition in a  Lumbee healing practice. Steedly, Mary Margaret, 1946-. Published 1979.

“Herbal and magical medicine [electronic resource] : traditional healing today” Kirkland et al, Duke University Press, 1992