Dr. Olivia Oxendine, assistant professor in the School of Education at UNC Pembroke, has received a grant from the North Carolina Humanities Council to explore the context of Lumbee education during the period of segregation in Robeson County.
Titled the Elder Teachers Project, Dr. Oxendine wrote the successful proposal for the purpose of collecting, recording, and preserving the stories and experiences of six retired Lumbee teachers who spent most of their teaching years in “all-Indian” public schools.
Based on video-recorded interviews with each teacher, Dr. Oxendine hopes to deepen her understanding of teaching and learning during the era of segregation in Robeson County. In particular, she anticipates learning about classroom culture; the role of Indian families, communities, and churches; and the aspirations and motivations of Lumbee children as well as the teachers who taught them.
As part of the interview, she will probe the issue of segregation in terms of gains and losses. Framed in the following manner, ‘Looking back 50 years, tell me about the pros and cons of all-Indian schools. What have we gained, and what have we lost’? Dr. Oxendine states that such a question is sure to spark a range of opinions and sentiments.
Dr. Oxendine, who is in her third year at UNCP, after a distinguished career in public school education said, “Teaching in today’s classroom is driven by standards and accountability.
“I want to know what guided teaching and learning in all-Indian schools; what made Lumbee classrooms different,” she continued. “What I learn might surprise me. I’ve had an interest in this topic for several years. Now, I can pursue it.”
As part of the grant, the teachers will present their stories at several public venues: Indian Education parent councils; Native American Student Organizations (NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC Pembroke); UNC Pembroke Teaching Fellows: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction; Lumbee Homecoming events; and the Wake Forest University Humanities Department.
Representing a cross section of former Indian school communities, the teachers participating in this project are Lillian Harris (Prospect), Maitland Hunt (Fairmont), Tessie Hunt (Magnolia and West Lumberton), James Arthur Jones (Prospect), Stacy Locklear (Magnolia and Pembroke) and Mabel Oxendine (Pembroke).
Serving on the project advisory panel are the following: Dr. Brenda Deese, Public Schools of Robeson; Dr. Mary Ann Jacobs, chair of UNCP’s American Indian Studies Department; Lawrence T. Locklear, University and Community Relations; Rita Locklear, Public Schools of Robeson County; Dr. Malinda Maynor, Harvard University; Dr. Linda Oxendine, professor in American Indian Studies; Dr. Reginald Oxendine, School of Education; Tasha Oxendine, Givens Performing Arts Center; Dr. Stan Knick, Curator, Native American Resource Center and Dr. Ulrike Weithaus, Wake Forest University.
The North Carolina Humanities Council (NCNH), a 36-year-old nonprofit foundation and an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, awards more than $230,000 to groups across North Carolina. In November, the Council awarded $56,000 to eight cultural and educational organizations to conduct public humanities programs. To support the Elder Teachers Project, NCNH awarded approximately $6,100. An additional $3,000 in shared costs brings the total award to $9,100.