Kinship and Adoption
The idea of kinship amongst Native Americans across the country is extremely prevalent and differs from traditional Western kin relations. Many times, kinship is the means by which communities, tribes, and Nations are established. The Lumbee Tribe is no different.
Below we have attempted to do some digging in our very own families to find how kinship and adoption have played a role in our lives. In doing so we see similarities between the Lumbee and Navajo people.
Felton Shane Locklear
Kinship and adoption play an important part in my family. When you normally think of a family you think of the immediate family as the most important. You characterize the cousins more by number than name. Your extended family is exactly that, “extended”. Well my family is completely different. The terms immediate and extended have no power and my cousins are my cousins no matter how distant. Numbers are also irrelevant because a lot of times I’m closer to a distant cousin than to a first cousin. My kinship derives from my community. I consider everyone in my community that I grew up with to be a part of my family. These are the people I have known all my life and the bond I share with them has been strong and stable since I was young. My mother has 2 brothers (one deceased) and 1 sister, all of who I am close to. The grandmother has over 8 brothers and sisters (over 4 are deceased). From all these relatives I have numerous cousins “by blood”. I classify those relatives around my age as my cousins. The people around my mother and father’s age are my aunts and uncles because they are my elders. I also classify my great-aunts and uncles as my aunts and uncles because distance has no place in my family tree. These statements are all true of the people on my mother’s side. My Father has over 14 brothers and sisters and I only communicate with maybe one or two of them. They have never really played a part in my life or my community. Although I still claim them as my relatives they hold no permanent place in my kinship system. Then there are the people in my neighborhood that I’m not related to by blood but they are still my family. My Aunt Tammy who stays in front of me is not my aunt by blood but by kinship. I was raised with her 3 children who I call my cousins. Tammy has always been like a second mother to me. She has guided me through life with talks, advice, and love. I also consider people in her family to be a part of mine. This is easily seen in the manner in which I spend my Christmas holidays. On Christmas morning after eating and opening presents at home. I go to my cousin Millie’s grandmother’s house. Millie is Tammy’s daughter. I eat again over there and we have a game in which we pull presents from the table.
Through my kinship ties I have reached out to other families and made them apart of my own. These people are my family for life. Overall I would say that blood plays no part in my kinship ties. I don’t think blood should be a deciding factor in whether someone is classified as a member of your family. The kinship ties in my community are strong but also different. As Blu said in her book “We Lumbees stick together”. That’s exactly what my family does. We are a team and when you mess with one of us you have to deal with the entire family. This brings up another concept I have noticed about my family. You can’t just argue or fight one of us. When you start with someone in our family the other family members are determined to get involved no matter the situation.
Adoption also has a role in my family. I recently discovered that my Great-grandfather Archie Cummings was adopted at the age of 6 months. I’m 22 years old and I have never known this. Maybe because my people never thought it was important. After finding out my mother told me, “It doesn’t matter if he was adopted or not Shane, that doesn’t change who he is”. I completely agree with this quote because it doesn’t change my opinion about him or his family. Although I would like to know who the Ransoms are that he was adopted from that doesn’t make them my family. They are not a part of my kinship community. I also have two cousins that were adopted at a very young age.
My biological mother was a full-blooded Navajo woman from Fort Defiance, Arizona and my biological father was one-half Mescalero Apache and one-half Zuni Pueblo from Gallup, New Mexico, thus making me one-half Navajo, one-fourth Mescalero Apache and one-fourth Zuni Pueblo. Growing up in a Navajo household and knowing little to nothing about the cultural traditions of the Zuni Pueblos and Mescalero Apaches, I only identify myself as being Navajo today.
The Navajo people have an intricate clan system that ties Navajos together from the farthest corners of the Navajo Nation, which spans over 26,000 square miles making it about the size of West Virginia. There are 9 clan groups and within each are clans which Navajos identify by. I’ve always identified as being from the Water Edge Clan born for the Mescalero Apache Clan, my maternal grandfather’s clan as the Salt Clan and my paternal grandfather’s clan as the Zuni Pueblo Clan. These were the clans I was given from the social worker but after years, I’ve come to find it only half true, being my father’s side and deeming my maternal clans- the most important in a matriarchal society, possibly inaccurate and thus putting me in a predicament.
My adoptive mother, the only mother I have ever known is Mary Badonnih. She is a strong lady and I’ve come to admire her over the years. Despite her inability to speak the English language and lack of a formal education she remains one of the strongest and wisest people I know and love. My mother is from the Many Goats Clan born for the Salt People Clan, her maternal grandfather’s is of the Chiricahua Apache people and her paternal grandfather is of the Charcoal-Streaked People Clan. People often question why our (my mother and I) clans differ and as time progresses I’ve leaned towards adopting my mother’s clans.
The Navajo clan system laids the foundation for kinship with in the Navajo society. Because they are only so many clans chances and so many Navajos, the chances of finding a clan relative is very likely. In my personal experiences kinship for the Navajo stems even beyond clans, it seems that regardless of who or where you come from Navajos always find a to make you kin.
(Comment on Monnoca’s autoethnography) From reading Monnoca’s autoethnography I think it’s interesting how the clan system laid the foundation for the Navajo kinship system. We, the Lumbee people, tie our kinship through people and place. It seems as though this is one primary function of the clan system, to tie people to a particular place. Although void of a clan system, the Lumbee people seem have already adopted it’s central purpose.
-Felton Shane Locklear
(Comment on Shane’s autoethnography) It is apparent through both of our ethnographies that kinship plays an unparalleled role in both the Lumbee and Navajo communities. While there are similarities beyond what we have covered, the most important we have found is that kinship in both communities go further that immediate family and even beyond blood relatives, instead kinship is the means through which the communities come together to identify as people. This leads to kinship being the basis of social and political structures of these tribes. The only obvious difference is the fact that, we, the Navajo people have an intricate clan system by which we identify, while this clan system is held in high regards, even those whom are unrelated by clan can always find ways to make kinship connections- this essentially makes the Navajo and Lumbee kinship system identical.
Explore the idea of Race vs. Kinship within the Lumbee community through the anthropometric study conducted in 1936 by anthropologists Carl Seltzer. The study questioned several hundred self-indentified Indians in Robeson County and through it we are able to see the percentage of “Indian-ness” within in Robeson County Indians according to Federal Government standards. The study includes personal biographies, family trees, and interviews which allude to the idea of Race vs. Kinship.
Case No. 4
Person A, age 36 applied for recognition as an Indian for himself and his family through the United States Department of the Interior: Office of Indian Affairs Washington. Person A claimed to possess ¾ Indian blood and claimed descent from the Siouan Indians of Robeson County. He is from the Burnt Swamp Township of Robeson County. He has resided in Robeson County all his life except from years 1920 to 1930 where he stayed in Hoke County. His spouse also claimed ¾ Indian blood and they have 7 children together. Person A was asked to record their basis for claiming ¾ Indian blood. He responded with a description of his ancestral line and their claims to Indian blood. His father and mother were both full bloods and they claimed to be full bloods. He states that his claim of ¾ is just in case his parents were of lesser Indian blood than they claimed. Person A then refers to his aunts, uncles, and grand parents and their supposed degree of Indian blood. In this interview person A was also asked if they had any proof behind their claims of ¾ Indian blood in which they responded no. As the interview progressed, person A was also asked if they had any claims to an Indian language or specific tribal customs. He responded to these questions with a no. Overall it seems that person A attempted to tie their Indian identity to his ancestors and the degree of Indian blood to which they claimed.
The racial diagnosis was as follows:
Person A was diagnosed to be less than ½ Indian blood. This diagnosis was ultimatley made in regards to his phenotypical features. His hair was said to be of non-Indian blood as it was described as “low wave variety with a frizzly feeling to the touch” and was probably negroidal. Person A was also found to have a profusion of moles which were said to be a “white” strain. Certain aspects of his upper body and face are considered either black or white traits. His skin color and slight development of the malar projection are suggestive of “white” influence while the upper lip is considered a “black” trait. “The general composite picture viewing all the physical features as a whole is that of an individual with approximately equal parts of white and negro with a dash of Indian blood.”
Despite the diagnosis it is apparent that the Lumbee people identity through kinship/ancestral lines.
Adoption through the Odum Home
The Odum Home is an orphanage in Pembroke, North Carolina that housed Indian orphans in Robeson County. The Odum Home was established in the 1930’s. The Odum home relates directly to our primary source of adoption. We plan to interview administrators of the home so that we may get an understanding of how the home helped American Indian children for so many years. Through historical facts and these interviews we hope to relate the idea of adoption to the significance of the Lumbee kinship system.
It was E.L. Odum’s dream to establish an Indian orphanage on the same track of land that the Indian training school had been completed. As one of his original goals this assignment was put off until the training school was completed. Rev. C.E. Locklear was one of many Lumbee advocates for the orphanage. Miss Mary Livermore in the following written observation spoke of the efforts to get an Indian orphanage established:
Interview with Panthia Locklear, a teacher at the Odum Home.
- Can you give us some history of the Odum Home?
- The Odum Home was originally meant for all kids that didn’t have parents.
- Now its for kids who have problems or family problems (mainly for orphans)
- It is to mainly aid the kids: celebrate their birthdays, different activities for Christmas, Easter and other holidays.
- The Odum home is bout 65 years old right now
- It was started by the Baptists
- I have been working at the Odum Home since 1992.
- How has working at the Odum Home affected your own life?
- Working at the Odum home makes me appreciate family more. It makes me realize the ultimate importance of morals and values.
- How does the Odum home relate to the idea of Lumbee kinship?
- The Odum Home affected the lives of the Lumbee people a great deal. Grandparents began to take a more parental role to raise the kids themselves than to drop them on people they didn’t know.
As seen in the exhibit above, we (Shane and Monnoca) have discussed three specific sub-topics: autoethnographies, genealogy, and the Odum home and their relation to kinship and adoption. Our autoethnographies show that we have a personal relationship with kinship and adoption. These two concepts have played a major part in each of our lives. Monnoca, being a member of the Navajo Nation shows us that the ties of kinship cross tribal and cultural boundaries. The results of our genealogy excavation reveal that each person documented has strong kinship values. It also shows that during the Seltzer anthropometric studies the Lumbee people tied their existence and blood quantum to that of their families. Through these sub-topics we have shown how and why kinship and adoption are the core values of Lumbee culture. The Odum home is considered to be our primary example of kinship and adoption in the Lumbee community. For many years, the Odum home has been taking in and watching over orphan children. Kinship was the reason for taking the children in and their adoption into Lumbee culture was the ultimate outcome. Overall, we hope to have analyzed and expressed the importance of kinship and adoption to the Lumbee people of North Carolina.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.