Dr. Maynor’s article People and Place: Croatan Indians in Jim Crow Georgia, 1890-1920 emphasizes the importance and meaning of Indian identity through a close examination of the Croatan communities in Bulloch County. First and foremost this article opened my eyes to new information about the Croatan Indians of the Southeast. I was not previously aware of the migration to Georgia by the Indians from Bulloch County but this information shines some light on the concept of kinship and its relation to Indians who have left their original communities. Professor Maynor quotes different members of the Indian community with their statements and situations illuminating the importance of kinship to the community. As Professor Maynor speaks on Indian identity she relates it to that of the blacks and whites during the time of the Jim Crow laws. “Rather than claiming that an unbroken connection to a place sustained their Indian identity, Croatans used the segregation of the Jim Crow South to build social institutions- a school and a church- to distinguish themselves from non-Indians and reinforce their community tie.” (Maynor pg. 37) This particular quote outlines the main concept of the article. Professor Maynor ties the importance of Indian identity to that of place and racial ancestry as well as other important markers such as kinship identification, control of labor, and the construction of social institutions independent of place that facilitated exchange between dispersed Croatan communities. Well before the Civil War Indians were left without an identity in a biracial society. Identity was normally based on kinship until the interaction with Europeans and the concept of race was established. As the social concept of race came about Indians worked to form their own identity which separated them from whites and blacks. Through this formation of identity the Croatan Indians married other Indians, worked in the labor force either with turpentine or cotton, maintained close ties with their Robeson county communities, and established schools and other institutions to better their own people.
Professor Maynor’s source, Sarah Oxendine and her letter to her brother is of great importance in explaining the importance of kinship ties to the Indian community. Sarah explains to her brother that the family is ill, one of the neighbors has died, and they are in need of money. Community ties are very important as the letter marks a great amount of sadness and worry for the future of the family. Sarah believes the family is in need of help and so she reaches out to her brother and others for assistance. This story shows strong bonds of kinship and I can directly relate to. Many times in my own family we have reached out to each other for help and assistance in dire times. We reach out to each because we understand that the benefit of the entire community is more important than the individual. We also know that the idea of reciprocity is prevalent in our community. Another important source that emphasizes the importance of kinship is that of the Indian preacher from Robeson County who articulated the Indian attachment to community by referring any place outside of “native country” or Robeson County as a “foreign” place. This is a very interesting thought because is symbolizes the strength and closeness of the community and refers to anything not of that Indian community as foreign. Professor Maynor’s article highlights the importance of people and place to the Indian community with kinship as the backbone. This article makes me wonder if there were Croatan (Lumbee) groups who migrated to different places and were able to maintain such close kinship ties. If these groups were able to model a new community based on their original homes? Also, if they did maintain their original kinship ties to what extent did they influence their neighbors or surrounding communities?
The Obituary of Nations: Ethnic Cleansing, Memory, and the Origins of the Old South” by James Taylor Carson was an interesting explanation of the political and social movements of the government and states that led to the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Carson has a great deal of sources reinforcing his information presented about the removal period. From U.S. Representatives to state officials such as Governors many different ideas and opinions are expressed in relation to the betterment of the state and union with the Indians out of the way. The expulsion of the South’s First Peoples is how Carson categorizes the removal. Carson opens his article reflecting on the many accomplishments or characteristics of the first southerner’s maybe to show that even though most tribes were removed their descendants are alive and surviving or to show that because of the removal act this is the predicament tribes are in now. Either reason American Indian tribes in the South received all the negativities of removal. States such as Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi played a major role it the expulsion of native tribes. The reasons were all the same: more land, more economic and political opportunities, and separation from the “savages”. Andrew Jackson even said that Removal was for the good of the Indians. He wanted to save them from their “immediate extinction”. The movement would allow Indians to “raise up an interesting commonwealth, destined to perpetuate race.” Why couldn’t Indians do this at their current settlement? And why must the issues of race and inferiority become a determining factor in the forced movement of thousands of people? It’s ironic how the people of a foreign nation could remove an indigenous people from their lands. Carson continues to talk about the political policies associated with the removal process as thousands of people were made to migrate to a distant land. The removal period was a devastating time for many Indian tribes in the South. This was a period of death, destruction, loss of land/homeland.
Wiljanen, Ursula. “Lumbee celebrate a rare heritage.” Tampa Tribune (Florida) 26 April 1993: Heartland section, page 1.
O’Mara, Richard. “Lumbee Indians seek end to a century of questions about identity.” Baltimore Sun (Maryland) Tuesday, 12 October 1993: 1A.
Jenkins, Venita. “Separate Lumbee group exists online.” Fayetteville Observer Sunday, 20 May 2001.