Shane Locklear #7

20 04 2010

The readings for this week are from Christopher Arris Oakley’s “When Carolina Indians Went on the Warpath” The Media, the Klan, and the Lumbees of North Carolina. This essay describes the riot in Maxton after the KKK attempted to gather for a rally near Hayes pond. Led by the Grand Dragon James “Catfish” Cole and accompanied by 50 other members, the Klan organized to protest the “mongrelization” of whites and Lumbee Indians in Robeson. Before the rally could even begin hundreds of Lumbees came and chased the Klansmen from Maxton. Although no one was killed, hundreds of Indians fired on the gathered Klansmen. This historical event received a great amount of media coverage that has survived up to the 21st century.

The essay uses many different sources that ultimately reinforce the organization and validity of Oakley’s argument. One strong point of the essay is that it gives various firsthand accounts from Indians of Robeson County and the things that they witnessed at the rally. Having these testimonies adds to the validity of the essay because they are from actual Indians who lived in the area. A great deal of history involving American Indians is from the outsider/white man’s perspective and the information is usually biased. Various pictures of Indian individuals and families from Robeson County and of the incident are used throughout the essay. This imagery gives readers a chance to see the incident and some of the people involved. As the media spread the news of the incident, the people outside of North Carolina began to romanticize the issue. The pictures on pages 58 and 80 show how people began to see the incident from a stereotypical point of view. As wrote in a caption below the picture on page 58 “the news coverage of the clash demonstrated ignorance of Indian history and culture in the South.” Ultimately the media is to blame for these stereotypical viewpoints.

This incident involving a clash between the Lumbee Indians and the KKK represents a sense of unity and kinship. After feeling that their home, people, and way of life were threatened by the Klan, the Indians came together for a common cause. This idea of unity makes me wonder if/what part the community played in this incident. In what way/if any did these outsiders view the Indians idea of kinship? Was this gathering of Indians automatically expected?

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?

Chris Burris #7

13 04 2010

In his 2008 article “When Carolina Indians Went on the Warpath: The Media, the Klan, and the Lumbees of North Carolina”, published in Southern Cultures, Christopher Arris Oakley discusses the infamous “Maxton Riot” near Hayes Pond in Maxton.  This incident took place in January 1958 and garnered heavy national media coverage as several hundred Lumbees, many of them armed, dispersed a Ku Klux Klan riot in a confrontation.

The riot was organized by James “Catfish” Cole, a North Carolina KKK leader.  Cole and his men came to Robeson County in order to protest white-Indian relations and deter miscegenation.  After stirring up the county with a couple of cross burnings, Cole announced a planned KKK rally in the county.  He rented a small cornfield outside of Maxton, near Hayes Pond, to hold the rally.  The armed Klansmen set up a public address system and a light and numbered about fifty strong, plus their families.  To counter the event, hundreds of angry Lumbees who had heard or read about the Klan and their attempts to stir up racial unrest in the county showed up, many of them also armed.  They advanced on the Klansmen, firing into the air for effect, and before long they retreated in the face of vastly superior numbers.  When Robeson County police and Highway Patrol officers managed to restore order, nobody had been killed or injured, and the KKK had all either fled to the woods or to their cars and left.

News of the Lumbee victory spread quickly, and the event attracted coverage not only from regional North Carolina newspapers but also from national media outlets.  While local newspapers such as the Robesonian got the story correct, the further away from Robeson County you got, the more romanticized and misleading the coverage became.  National papers portrayed the riot as the last noble savages fiercely and defiantly standing up against racism.  Articles and pictures were studded with imagery most often associated with the Plains Indians, calling to mind events like Custer’s last stand.  The media exaggerated the events, describing Indians on horses, daubed in war paint, letting out war whoops and cries as they charged the Klansmen.  While these highly romanticized articles generally were in support of the Lumbee for their actions, their misleading nature was indicative of broader social issues.  The conflation of Plains Indian culture with southern Indian culture that took place in the coverage is representative of an alarming tendency for non-Indians to homogenize their view of native culture, despite the vast differences between the two Indian cultures in question.  This homogenization continues to affect the Lumbee and other Indian populations in their efforts to seek federal acknowledgement.

While reading, the question that came into mind for me was of local white involvement in the affair.  As my group is covering the topic of migrations and coalescence in the 18th century, when the tri-racial nature of the county first began to really take form, I am curious as to the role that the white population of Robeson County played in the events of the Maxton Riot.  Were there local whites present on the Klan side of the rally?  What about in the “horde” of Lumbees that met and resisted it?  Did they stay out of it because they wanted to avoid conflict, or because they disagreed strongly with the Klansmen and their purpose (even if not strongly enough to show up in protest of the rally)?