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?