Over spring break, I interviewed two ladies who contained a wealth of knowledge about Lumbee History. First, I interviewed Ms. Ruth Locklear who is employed by The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. I also interviewed Ms. Cynthia Hunt Locklear who … Continued
Author Archives: Autumn Locklear
During this year’s powwow, I volunteered at the t-shirt table. This gave me the opportunity to sit back and observe as opposed to interacting as much as I usually do. It was apparent that the main purpose of a powwow … Continued
I’ve heard my parents, grandparents, and professors speak over and over about how the Lumbees ran the KKK out of Maxton. However, “When Carolina Indians Went on the Warpath” presents a completely different angle of this same event. In the … Continued
Malinda Maynor Lowery’s Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation takes a very different approach from the other sources to explain the identity of Indians in Robeson County. Instead of giving a … Continued
Full Blood, Mixed Blood, Generic, and Ersatz: The Problem of Indian Identity All three of these articles detail miscegenation amongst Indian groups. Johnson’s Personality in a White-Indian-Negro community describes the Croatan Indians of Robeson County, which according to him are … Continued
Relationship Violence by Women: Issues and Implications “The Obituary of Nations” Ethnic Cleansing, Memory, and the Origins of the Old South discusses how the expulsion of Native Americans played such an integral role in Southern History, yet many Americans choose … Continued
Knowing the origin of the Lumbee is very important for both solidarity of their Indian identity, and recognition purposes. Although their origin is very ambiguous, Karen Blu’s The Lumbee Problem, presents several theories.
There aren’t many historical records that reveal information about the information about the Lumbees, however Blu did find a few. First she describes an account by George Hamilton which places the Lumbee ancestors in Robeson County as early as 1750, although they were living in the domesticated “white” manner. She also describes a 1754 report from Bladen County to the colonial governor of North Carolina, in which the citizens of the swamps shot a surveyor that came to investigate the lands. They were referred to as a “mixt crew” and there was no mention of Indians. Another letter, from the last royal governor, refers to the Lumbees as “freed Negroes” and “mulattos”. Even the 1790 census refers to them as “freed Negroes”.
Blu then cites several theories of Lumbee origin such as inter-marriage with Tuscarora, the Lost Colony, Siouan, and Cherokee Descent. She also mentions that they could be a mixture of tribes who were seeking refuge from the White’s wars and diseases. Or even a mixture of whites, black and Indians who settled here to avoid organized government.
The biggest question that this article raised for me is about the Cherokee descent theory. I am familiar with the other theories, but this one caused me to raise my brow because it contradicts the current political faction between the Cherokee and Lumbee. According to Hamilton, the Lumbee have historically referred to themselves as Cherokee. I am aware that the Lumbee were once known as the Cherokee Indians of Robeson County, but I’ve never heard a Lumbee claim that term. Therefore I want to know if there is any more evidence of this Cherokee migration story.
Since there is a lack of historical documentation, the best way to find out if this theory has any weight is to interview Lumbee elders. You could ask them if they have any recollection of their parents mentioning Cherokee ancestry.
The preface of Sider’s Living Indian Histories describes the Lumbees struggle for recognition, the obstacles that they need to overcome in order to obtain it, and how it affects their identity. There have often been times when the Lumbee were told that they were “not Indian enough” to obtain recognition. However one trip through Robeson County makes it obvious that the Lumbee are not part of the surrounding White or Black communities. Snider also describes each of the communities in Robeson county such as Lumberton, Red Springs, Fairmont, and St Pauls and how the racial landscape has changed over the past few decades.
In part two, Snider describes six events within a four week period that were specific to the Lumbee community. For example, Lumbee Bank was opened, Old Main Burned down, and a truckload of documentation was found in a Tuscarora home. These events illustrate the social, cultural, and political division between the Tuscarora and Lumbee communities, but they also demonstrate that these communities have their own distinct tribal identities.
This book mentions the divide between the Lumbee and Tuscarora; however, I believe they have more in common than they claim. In terms of migration, my question for this article is, “Do the Tuscarora and Lumbee share ancestry?”
In order to address this question, you could research the scholarly material in existence; however, Lumbee and Tuscarora records are poorly documented. Once again, the best way to answer this is interview elders to keep if they keep ancestral records. If it turns out that both Lumbees and Tuscarora have record of their ancestors migrating from the same areas, chances are, they share ancestry.
In Where do you Stay At?, Blu begins by drawing parallels between the Lumbee and Apache because both tribes place emphasis on place when it comes to identity. For example, when giving directions in the Lumbee community, people often describe the directions in terms of places that individuals are familiar with as opposed cardinal directions.
Blu then gives an example of a man in an Indian restaurant who asked an Indian woman who her people were. She uses this to show how the communities that Lumbees identify with such as, Scuffletown, Saddletree, and Prospect can reveal information about kinship. She also mentions that Lumbees are very reluctant to out-migrate because rootedness is very important for identity.
As a Lumbee, I have noticed the examples that Blu cites about place as it pertains to Indian identity. I have relatives who live away from Robeson County, but they make frequent visits home in order to maintain the family ties. Therefore, this article raised questions about the Lumbees who have migrated away from Robeson County. I want to know more about how living away from the Lumbee communities has affected their identity.
In order to answer this, you could simply interview the Lumbees living in other areas of the country and ask them if they still feel included in the Lumbee culture.
In Many ways, Christopher Oakley’s article The Legend of Henry Berry Lowry: Strike at the Wind and the Lumbee Indians of North Carolina parallels the same story that was narrated by Rhoda Strong in Nowhere Else on Earth. Oakley’s account coincides with historical the that the Lumbee are descendants of the Lost Colony. However, it mentions nothing about how or why the colonists would have migrated to the swamplands of Robeson County. It also places emphasis on the fact that the Indians in this area were already speaking English and had English surnames when the Scottish arrived, which was mentioned in Nowhere Else on Earth. As far as the civil war is concerned, both documents give an account of how avoidance of the war efforts affected the settlement patterns of Lumbee.
Naturally the article goes on to describe the story of Henry Berry Lowry and how he served as a Robin Hood figure for the Lumbee Indians in Robeson County. It then describes why this legend was adapted into an outdoor drama. During the 1960’s the Lumbee felt as if their identity was threatened due to school desegregation. Also, the civil rights movement drew a new attention to Native Americans. Because Native Americans were historically the quintessential picture of government oppression, their culture suddenly became glamorous. Therefore, this was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of this trend, and preserve a piece of Lumbee history by dramatizing the Henry Berry Lowry legend. Consequently, this legend was able to transcend time as the outdoor drama Strike at the Wind with continues to run up until this day.