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Museum of the Southeast American Indian

Never That Far: Lumbee Men and World War II

Lumbee men and women served this nation honorable during World War II. The very people who picked cotton and tobacco for 50 cents a day, attended Indian-only schools, and existed in a segregated society offered all they had to their country. And though they helped win a war that "made the world safe for democracy," they returned home to the Ku Klux Klan and separate restrooms. They had tasted equality, now they were determined to fully liberate themselves and their people. They defeated the Klan, kept the legislature from closing their college, gained entry to the state's universities for their children, and overcame 200 years of suppression and separation. Five Lumbee elders tell us about their experiences at home and abroad over the past 50 plus years--fifty of the most formative years in our nation's history.

James Locklear James Locklear: My brother went in in 41 before Pearl Harbor. He went over seas in 42, February 42, and it went for months you see, he hadn't written home and my mother was very depressed. My father came from the field one day and I remember, good as yesterday, about ten o'clock, and he told my mother not to worry about my brother anymore because the Lord had assured him he would come home. Two weeks and she gained her health back. She had that much faith in my father's prayer. Well, the night that I went to leave to go overseas, forty people would testify to what I'm telling you, my father, I'm gonna just take it short, my father asked me to come around. I was gonna slip away; I didn't want no tears and junk, but in honor of my father I went around and he said "Son, we have to pray", and he prayed, and when I started to go to the door to leave to catch the train, he said, "Son, you'll come back home."

Milford Oxendine Milford Oxendine: And when I came back from World War II, I gave a kiss to my mama, and she said she prayed many a night, all night for me and said "Didn't I tell you you'd come back like you left." And my first cousin and the man right up here, he cussed his mama and daddy anyway. He was killed in that battle I told you about. And that boy up here, killed two of his daddy's mules...he didn't come back.

William Sampson William Sampson: When I got that draft notice I read that thing, me, my mother, my father...we sat down and talked about it. I really didn't understand why I had to go in the service, my mother explained to me that this is a job that all young men have to do.

Curt Locklear Curt Locklear: I went to college and somewhere in the first quarter, we were on the quarter system, and uh, the first quarter there came some fellows by to uh to uh give us a test, and four or five of us boys passed the test, so we were enlisted in the enlisted reserve. [We were] put in the enlisted reserve corps, which means that they said at the time we would finish three years before we went in the service but that was all a joke.

James Locklear James Locklear: I volunteered to serve. My father still could have kept me out of the service, he had kept me out one year. Um, we had what you call enough of land. Each so many acres of land represented a point, and I had enough of point or my father had enough of points, due to farming to keep his sons out of service.

William Sampson I'm William Stansen Sampson. I was born December the fourth, 1924. I am the son of Newton Sampson and Vilene Sampson. We were farmers here in Robeson County. My father was a share farmer. He farmed in Robeson County and Scotland County. I was raised on a farm until I was 18.

Milford Oxendine I'm Milford, Oxendine, Sr. I was raised about a mile and a half north of here [Pembroke, North Carolina] on a farm.

Curt Locklear I'm Curt Locklear, I was born in Robeson County [North Carolina]. I am 72 years old. I've lived here all my life except for three years, I was overseas during the war...World War II.

James Locklear I'm James B. Locklear, Pembroke, North Carolina. Present day route is Rt. 1 Box 322-A. I was born and reared approximately three mile from Pembroke, uh on highway 72 east. Um, my father was a farmer, I grew up on a farm. When I was a young boy, I didn't know anything else I'd have the opportunity to do but to farm. My father had made his success as a farmer, and I was asked when I was in the fifth grade, what would I prefer to do in life...I said a farmer. I knew but three things I would do in life at the time. I could farm, become a school teacher or a minister.

William Sampson William Sampson: We didn't own the land. When you share crop with someone, they own the land and you work the land. They furnished the house you stayed in...they furnished the land that you stayed in...also they furnished the mules that you worked the land with. We furnished the labor. At the end of the year, sometimes we would get half of the crop, sometimes we would get one third of the crop. This means every three dollars we made, we got one, the landowner got two.

Milford Oxendine Milford Oxendine: The plow...you hold your plow about like that [hands turned to the side] and you got a wing and it would cover up all that grass and stuff as it go along. The first mule my father had, uh, her name was Pat, and they said he gave $475.75 for that mule. And they never did have to put a muzzle on that mull to keep it from eating anything and you could just "gee" and "haw" and that was it. You didn't have to put no stakes to lay off your rows ev'n if you was putting in rows from here to out there at the college.

Curt Locklear Curt Locklear: We started plowing with an Ox. Yes, and he did as good a job as a mule would do, and he was plowed day after day. I can remember that ox now. When you say "gee" he went to the right, when you say "haw" he went to the left.

William Sampson William Sampson: I was about six years old when I first went to plowing. I was so small I couldn't hold the plow handles. I...there was a little round inside of the plow handles that kept the plow handles together, and I used that round to guide the plow with because I wasn't high enough to reach the handles.

Milford Oxendine Milford Oxendine: Didn't have no trouble with that mule, just gee or haw and that was it. And if the plow had hit something and stops... the pointed end would sometimes hit you in the ribs and knock you out. You'd lay there three or four hours before you could get up you'd be knocked out so hard laying on the ground.

Jesse Oxendine Jesse Oxendine: I was drafted of course and I went in and took my basic training in Arkansas. Of course that was a long way off for me. I'd never been across the Mississippi. But after about 12 weeks of basic training I got a furlough home, and sailed out of Boston and was assigned to the 82nd.

William SampsonWilliam Sampson: We just left, we got on the train and we rode for a long period of time. After awhile the train come to a stop. The man said, "You get off here". So we got off. Went down a long ramp. I don't know how long the ramp was, but it seemed like maybe a mile long. And we went into a place and he said "here's where you will be staying for awhile". We put our bags up and we found our bed. Then we went back into a place that was the mess hall. So we stayed around there for awhile, so that night when we went to bed I noticed that seemed like the place where I was at, the thing was moving. Couldn't figure out why it kept moving. Then I come to find out we were on a ship on the ocean. I had never seen the ocean in my whole life. I looked out the port hole and there was nothing but water everywhere. I wondered what in the world will I do here.

Curt Locklear Curt Locklear: Well, I tell you what... I guess it was the first time I'd just as soon've been. It took six days, you know, because only one or two ships could go the northern route around Greenland because of the rough weather and everything. It took six days to land in Glasgow, Scotland, and I could have you guess how many days I was sick and I bet you'd be right on top of it. I was dead sick for six days I would have given anything for a foot of land. If you wanna know about the trip on Queen Elizabeth... I was dead sick for six days all the way across... well there wasn't... wasn't much to see. I tell you this, you could sometimes look at the ocean and it would be two miles below you and in ten minutes it would be under your neck.

James Locklear James Locklear: So I went overseas...Uh, I landed overseas the third day of March 1945. I was in combat in two days just right after the bulge and when we started I was right in Belgium right at the where you might say they extended the line of the German borders. And I went, we went, and after cleaning up a little part in Belgium, Luxemburg, we kept on marching. At that time Hitler was pulling his troops out of Norway and Sweden. I remember that good and we was informed that when we was gonna cross the Rhine River that one of the expert divisions from Norway was gonna be our opponents. Three days before we had crossed the Rhine River, we had lost our B-A-R man. And I being what we call a good soldier I learned to put a B-A-R together so fast and I volunteered not realizing that was the most dangerous thing I could do having an automatic weapon. I weren't looking at that, I was just looking at being a good soldier. Also, in the meantime, in the day following that I was issued a B-A-R we lost our squad leader, and I was fortunate-- if you look at it that way--I looked at it that way today especially. I was the first person in my outfit across the Rhine River.

Jesse Oxendine Jesse Oxendine: That was really a shock I had never heard of concentration camp. In fact, I don't think any of our officers had, and to walk in a place like that and see people, skeletons you might say, who wouldn't stand and could hardly walk, my first question was "Who are these people?" They had on these funny looking striped outfits and I knew they wasn't soldiers, I know they wasn't prisoners of war, but my first question was "who are these people and what's the situation here?"

Curt Locklear Curt Locklear: When I came out of service we had to report up to Maxton [North Carolina]. We had ten days to sign off something that had to do with our service and, uh, while I was waiting for the bus to come I figured I might go get a haircut. I had forgotten about ...you know ...being gone for three years and living with white boys and dealing with white boys, I'd sort of forgotten where I'd come from or something. I went to the barber shop to get a haircut and the fellow put his cloth around my neck and go "Whoa, aren't you and Indian?" and I was like "I sure am", so he goes "I'm sorry I can't cut your hair." And he explained why he couldn't, and I accepted it. The man had a job and that's the way he fed his family. Oh, we talked about 30 minutes later and I came out, caught the bus, came back, I doubt he ever thought of it since.

William Sampson William Sampson: Every time that you went to a place in Lumberton [North Carolina], they had a sign there that said "White only." Nobody could go in there but white people. You,couldn't use a bathroom, you couldn't go in their restaurants to eat. At the bus station, you couldn't go in the bus station to buy a ticket, you had to buy a ticket from a little window over there that said colored. Now that's where Indians and where colored people bought their tickets. White people went inside, but we could not go inside. When you went into the store, not like you can now, you weren't allowed to put your hands on it. If you wanted anything, the white man would show it to you and get it for you. You couldn't go in there and just pick it up and look at it. You weren't allowed to do that.

James Locklear James Locklear: If I would've come back and things wouldn't have changed, I would've changed myself, I would've left. I anticipated going to Detroit to work more than one time when I first came back from service. And I still say if things wouldn't have, I would've change within myself. It was hard...after you go to the service and I was with whites, um and I had heard them talk about their opportunities, opportunities I didn't have. I had seen em but of course when a person tell you their opportunities. We discussed those things, me and them boys got very close to each other. How I live and how they lived and it was a very hard thing, mentally, to cope with. KKK

James Locklear James Locklear: Well, I couldn't see myself being a second class citizen. I had tasted... us boys that went in the service had tasted what it was like to be a first class citizen. Well, I could go there with you, I could eat in restaurants with you. So I was one of the first one's that said I'm going, so I went. I had a P38 that I brought from overseas...a pistol, a German pistol that I brought from overseas. That was my weapon that night. And I was within 40 feet of the main set where the light was that was shot out. So I was there and I was going there right in the inner circle...but the light was shot out and that's what we call the stopping of it, that's when everybody started scattering. But I still say these two things are why I went out there that night I couldn't see myself being a second class citizen.

William Sampson William Sampson: The Ku Klux Klan set up their rally in Maxton. They personally advertised that they were setting this rally up for the Indians. To show us just what, how much power they had or what they could really do and they said they were going to educate the Indians and uh...so the night that they got ready to set their rally, most of the Indians decided to go up there and stop this thing. My father and the other men, they got their guns, most of the veterans they got their guns, and they started for Maxton. When we got in Pembroke, the law began to talk to us, to tell us says "You can't do that." And we had our mule, our wagons, our shotguns, our rifles, pistols, we rode on through Pembroke and rode on into Maxton.

Curt Locklear Curt Locklear: It was supposed to have happened on a Friday night but it didn't happen on a Friday night. It happened the next night and my wife was gonna make sure I didn't go, but I had a friend and we pulled a deal on her and I got to go anyway. When I entered the place ...in just a few seconds or minutes or so after I entered the shots went off, and it was scary. It was like something in a movie of course. After that everyone cleared out and I came back home. I worried about that until the next day when I found out nobody got injured in the daily newspaper. That was my only fear...it was a mob, it was really a mob. It was something that you would hope would never happen again. It was nonsense, but uh, it was scary. Just like all those, I had my gun there. I shot up in the air a few times just to make a racket.

Curt Locklear Curt Lockear: Just loads of the boys and the girls, as soon as they got discharged, they went to Baltimore and went to Detroit and got those jobs. Of course I've never been to Baltimore, never been to Detroit. My brother and I was just about loners in town, so many people had gone. So what we did, we just fished every evening, we farmed and fished every evening. Day after day and I had no desire to go to Detroit nor to Baltimore. Uh I wanted to stay with my grandad and my grandmother, my mother, my uncle Edward. I was right where I was born and that's where I'd been the whole time. It, uh, this was a beautiful place, still is. This is the only place, still is.

William Sampson William Sampson: I would come home. I would stay maybe a week or two weeks then I would leave again. I first went to Baltimore then I left Baltimore and went to Detroit. I left Detroit and went to Ohio. Everywhere I went I wasn't happy so I finally come back to Robeson County. Got me a job, started construction work...I really didn't know. I was searching for something that I couldn't find.

James Locklear James Locklear: We came back, I'd say we done quite a bit of change. First thing I wanted to do was get involved in politics. I never missed a vote. In 1950 in particular I was one of twelve people that formed an organization to get the blacks and the Indians to vote. See, very few people voted and that was our intentions, but we knew education and the ballot...the ballot box was the way to change things. And I was defiantly for that. I was kept out of school [Locklear was a teacher] for three years by, we might say, going against the grain. But I said... well someone says...would you change? I said no, but I knew it would change, I knew numbers would change.

Milford Oxendine Milford Oxendine: And growing up as a child...they should a done what I done. Be'a studying what you plan to do...don't drink...go to church-first, be saved...find you a good woman, and try to be somebody. Too many of them you can't tell them anything. They think they know it all. And a lot of them you talk to, they're listening, but they're not a'hearing.

 

Return to Memories

Because It Is Right

BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT
by
Stanley Knick, Ph.D.
The Museum of the Southeast American Indian
(formerly the Native American Resource Center)
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Pembroke, North Carolina 28372
Not to be reproduced in any manner without written permission from the author.

 

Why should the Lumbee be recognized by the federal government?  There are several possible answers to this question, based on various lines of evidence and reasoning.  Here I want to reflect upon an anthropological perspective which points to the interpretation that the Lumbee should be afforded full recognition by the U.S. government.

The archaeological record in the land of the Lumbee appears to be a very rich record indeed, although it has just begun to be read.  Judging from the series of projectile point types found in sites in Robeson County (from Clovis-like through Clarksville), Native American occupation of the county seems to extend back, and come into the present, as far here as anywhere else in North Carolina (Knick 1988).  There are no obvious gaps in the artifact collection from Paleo-Indian times through early, middle and late Archaic, early, middle and late Woodland times, and into the Historic period.  Indian people have always been here.

Review of this archaeological record reveals several important things in addition to the apparently consistent occupation.  One of these is the presence of diverse cultural influences.  This is especially important given that arguments against Lumbee recognition have frequently been based on the assertion that the Lumbee represent a post-Columbian amalgamation of Indian people from various sources (including Siouan, Iroquoian and Algonkian people).  However, archaeological evidence collected here suggests that diverse cultural influences have been fairly common for a much longer time.

Beginning in the middle Archaic period (ca. 6,000 to 8,000 years ago), relatively unusual artifacts (i.e., the Eva-like basal notched projectile point) began to appear among the more predictable local artifact assemblages.  The presence of stone (and later, ceramic) artifacts which suggest cultural exchange from elsewhere continued through the archaeological record.  Artifacts more commonly found in Florida, Tennessee and Virginia, on the outer Coastal Plain as well as in the Piedmont and the mountains, have been found alongside the more expected artifacts here in Robeson County.  This suggests that this region has for thousands of years been a zone of cultural interaction (Mathis and Gardner 1986; Knick 1992).

Thus we should not be surprised to find that Native American people living here at the time of European contact would be joined by remnants of other tribes seeking to avoid the onslaught of European culture and epidemic diseases.  But the archaeological record indicates that there were already indigenous people living in the land of the Lumbee.

Another important thing revealed in the local archaeological record is the presence of contact period sites, where late  prehistoric artifacts are found alongside early Historic artifacts.  These sites suggest that Native Americans lived here during the transition from prehistoric times to Historic times.  The descendants of those Native American people, today's Lumbee, trace their historical and genealogical records back to those same early Historic times (before 1750 A.D.) in the same locations (Pierce et al 1987).  Again, there is no apparent gap in the record.

Yet another significant thing revealed in the archaeological record here concerns the number of sites, and what that suggests about the size of the pre-Columbian Native American population.  In the Phase I reconnaissance, although less than one percent of the county was examined, three hundred and fourteen previously-unrecorded archaeological sites were documented.  Thus, sites were encountered at a density rate of one site per eleven acres sampled, a very dense distribution.  Even though that reconnaissance was conducted from an intuitive sampling approach, this still suggests that Robeson County was widely utilized by Native Americans and that the pre-Columbian population could have been sizable.  Not only have Indians always been here, enjoying cultural influences from elsewhere in an apparently consistent occupation, but there was also a substantial population.

One of the greatest controversies about the Lumbee centers around who lived where, and when.  There is a widespread idea among some Indian and non-Indian people that Native Americans moved into what is now Robeson County and settled here along the Lumbee (Lumber) River sometime after Columbus.  To a certain extent, that is true.

Historical references indicate that some Indian people did move in from other locations (for a summary, see Pierce et al 1987; also Dial and Eliades 1975).  These references point to movements of people from the Siouan language family (i.e., Cheraw), Algonkian language family (Hatteras) and Iroquoian language family (Tuscarora).  These movements into the region happened between the time of John White's "Lost Colony" (1580s) and the Civil War (1860s), and apparently consisted of fairly small numbers of people.  The problem arises if one stops thinking at that point.

One shortcoming of this "Indians-moved-in-and-settled" theory is that it overlooks important evidence.  The theory implies, and some people seem now to believe, that the land of the Lumbee was a vacuum, that no one was here until Indian folks from elsewhere "moved-in-and-settled."  This is simply not consistent with the archaeological evidence.

Archaeological research shows that this area was already occupied by Native Americans before the reported movements of Cheraw, Hatteras and Tuscarora (and possibly others).  In addition to the presence of Indian people during all the other named periods of prehistory, there was clearly a late prehistoric occupation here along the Lumbee River.  This is illustrated by the presence of at least thirty-one archaeological sites with late Woodland artifacts.  Artifacts at these sites suggest Indian occupation of the county during the time period between 1200 and 1750 A.D.

Thus there must have been Native Americans here before anybody else could have "moved-in-and-settled."  So why have those indigenous occupants so often been overlooked?

One reason is that the necessary archaeological research had not been done until relatively recently.  Another reason is that, in the absence of knowledge of the archaeology of the region, it was easy to rely on historical references as the only explanation for a large Native American population here in the twentieth century.  But we must not forget those original late prehistoric Native American inhabitants, because their descendants, along with those of the Cheraw, Hatteras and Tuscarora, are almost certainly still with us.

As more archaeological investigations are conducted in the land of the Lumbee it is possible that we will encounter an undisturbed site, or sites, which will tell us more about the connections between those late Woodland inhabitants and the living Lumbee people.  This is an excellent reason to do more archaeology here, as well as a reason to strive to keep sites from being destroyed by development and construction.  Someday it may be possible to conduct controlled scientific excavation at an undisturbed late Woodland village site here in the land of the Lumbee.

One argument used against Lumbee recognition has been based on the assertion that the word "Lumbee" is an invented word, that it comes from the word "lumber" (as in "Lumberton").  Some people take this assumption from the belief that the U.S. government first formally accepted the word in 1956.  Opponents of federal recognition for the Lumbee have used this line of thought as one of their main arguments.  They seem to use it to mean that the word "Lumbee" didn't really exist before the 1950s, and thus that the Lumbee people didn't either.  But this is far from the whole story.  What is the truth about the word "Lumbee?"

The earliest written reference I have been able to find to the word "Lumbee" is in the 1888 work of Hamilton Macmillan.  Did he invent the word?  What he wrote (in a discussion of the geographical extent of Indians in North Carolina in the 1730s) was this:  "These Indians [had] roads connecting the distant settlements with their principal seat on the Lumbee, as the Lumber River was then called."

Why would Macmillan say this?  Was he trying to convince the world that the Indians of Robeson County ought to be called Lumbee?  If that had been his intention, then we might expect him to lean heavily on the word "Lumbee" as the original name of the river in order to strengthen his case that the people should also be called Lumbee.  But that is not what Macmillan was trying to do.

Macmillan wanted to convince the world that the Indians of Robeson County ought to be called Croatan.  The bill he drafted for the North Carolina General Assembly called for establishment of the Croatan Indian Normal School (which would eventually become The University of North Carolina at Pembroke).  In his statement about the ancient name of the Lumbee River, he was only repeating what he was told by Indian elders of the day.  These elders in the 1880s had probably been taught when they were young  that the original word was Lumbee, which suggests that the word had been in use earlier than anybody in the 1880s could remember.   This would seem to make "Lumbee" a very old word.

Other writers around the turn of the century tell us of this same oral history.  Angus McLean wrote in the 1880s (published in McPherson 1915) that when "...white settlers first arrived they found located on the waters of the Lumbee, as Lumber River was then called, a tribe of Indians speaking broken English...."  Like Macmillan, McLean had nothing to gain from the use of the word "Lumbee."  O. M. McPherson, an Indian Agent for the U.S. government, wrote that "...the Lumber River was anciently called the Lumbee....  The Lumbee River is a branch of the Pedee and the similarity of the names would suggest the same origin.  All these small Siouan tribes were originally parts of, or confederated with, the Cheraws (1915: 23)."

McPherson concluded that the Indians of Robeson County were of predominantly Siouan origins.  This now seems to come much closer to the truth than McLean's conclusion (he thought they were Cherokee).  But neither Macmillan, McLean nor McPherson had any special investment in the word "Lumbee."  They were just repeating what they had been told  --  not that the word "Lumbee" was recently derived from the word "lumber" as some people nowadays want us to believe, but that the original name of the river was Lumbee.

Another example of use of the word "Lumbee" before the federal government recognized the name in 1956 comes from the "Lumbee Tattler."  This was a yearbook produced at Pembroke State College (another former name of The University).  Were the local Native American students who wrote the "Lumbee Tattler"  and gave it that name in 1941 trying in some way to force the name Lumbee on the people?  Could it be true that "Lumbee" was a word from within the Indian community, not one planted on it by outsiders such as "Croatan" and "Cherokee" had been?

If it is true that Lumbee is the original name of the river along which the people lived, then it might be reasonable to conclude that Lumbee was also the original name of the indigenous people of this place.  This seems especially true in light of the fact that several other Eastern Siouan tribes who lived in the general region also shared their names with the rivers along which they lived (i.e., Santee, Wateree, Catawba and others; cf. Powell 1966 and Taukchiray and Kasakoff 1992).  Whatever the ultimate truth may be about the word "Lumbee," one thing is certain  --  we seldom arrive at the truth by looking at only a part of the evidence.

As the effects of European colonization swept across the Carolinas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, almost everything in Robeson County changed.  Population changed, drastically reduced by epidemics.  Language changed, whole lexicons disappearing as Indian tribes merged and/or vanished.  Culture changed, overwhelmed by contact with the outside world.  But some things did not change  --  one was the will of the people to hold onto their Indian identity.  Another was the word, sometimes unspoken but never forgotten, Lumbee.

Population changed.  Before the coming of Europeans there were  a great many Native American people living in the Carolinas, as is indicated by the number of late prehistoric archaeological sites which have already been documented in every county.  But European diseases such as smallpox quickly moved in epidemic fashion across the land.

In the 1580s, when he and his comrades traveled to villages near the soon-to-be "Lost Colony" at Roanoke Island, Thomas Harriot recorded that many Native people died immediately after his visit.  He wrote: "...within a few days after our departure...the people began to die very fast, and many in short space; in some towns about twenty, in some forty, in some sixty, and in one six score [one hundred and twenty], which in truth was very many in respect of their numbers...; the disease [was] also so strange, that they neither knew what it was, nor how to cure it... (Harriot 1972:28)."

John Lawson, who traveled extensively among the Indians of the Carolinas, estimated that by 1705 the Indian population had already been reduced in epidemics by five-sixths (83%) everywhere within two hundred miles of white settlements (Lawson 1967).  This would encompass all Indians between the Charleston and Jamestown colonies, including those in the Robeson County area.  By 1738, similar population decimation by epidemics had reached all the way to the Cherokee in the mountains (Adair 1775).

As the conquest of America continued, one last resort of many declining tribes was to coalesce with remnants of other tribes in isolated areas.  One such geographically isolated area was the land of the Lumbee, in what came to be known to the Indians of the early 1800s as "the Settlement (Evans 1971)."

Language changed.  Situated as it was near the geographical interface of three language families (Algonkian, Iroquoian and Siouan; Phelps 1983), "the Settlement" was a place where Indian people speaking different languages came together.  As small remnant groups, sometimes as few as a single extended family, joined the pre-existing Lumbee community at the Settlement, old language barriers began to melt away.  With only a few members of these groups left after the massive epidemics, whole languages disappeared.

Encouraged by the desire not to have to learn the language of a traditional opponent (such as a Siouan speaker learning an Iroquoian language); encouraged by missionaries who promised the Indians an English-speaking God who would protect the people from epidemic diseases; and encouraged by an increasing need to trade with Europeans for products only available in English, the Indian people of the Settlement quickly adopted English.  It became, as they say in West Africa, the lingua franca, the common language of trade.

In the process, all that would remain of the Lumbee language was the word itself: Lumbee.  This would be true of many other Carolina Native languages (i.e., Machapunga, Coree, etc.)  By the mid-1700s when non-Indians began to establish permanent settlements in Robeson County, the Indians were already speaking a kind of broken English (at least they spoke it to their new European neighbors) (Dial and Eliades 1975).

Culture changed.  A part of the acculturation process for Native Americans all over the Eastern U.S. was the disappearance  (or at least submergence) of externally visible elements of culture.  Many of these things are what Americans think of as being "all there is" to Indian culture: clothing, dance, language, architecture and so on.  In the land of the Lumbee during the early Historic period, many of these outward cultural elements vanished from sight because it was safer to get along with the dominant culture without those elements.

Especially following the Tuscarora and Cheraw Wars (1711 - 1715), and the other Indian wars preceding the American Revolution (Lee 1968), simply being an Indian in North Carolina was dangerous.  Indians were killed or driven off their lands just for being non-white; for being in the way of "progress."  Thus finding a place where other Indian people were  --  a geographically isolated place where there was a sense of community, of togetherness, of Indian culture  --  was very important.  And there is much more to culture than its external elements.  Culture is at its core a system of learned and shared meanings  --  ways of thinking, ways of relating to people and the universe.

When the Scots and Irish came to Robeson County to stay, the Indians already had many European trade goods, including metal tools, and were getting on with the business of making a living for their families as farmers.  They had been farmers before the white men came, and they could farm a living right along if given the chance.  Some elements of the old culture did not change much.

One of the traditional elements of culture that did not change is that sense of personal and community identity to which Lumbee people have so fiercely held.  They have always known they were Indians.  Whenever people from the outside world came to visit or to stay, it was always with the knowledge that these people were Indians in their hearts and in their outlook.  The elders knew.  They taught the children.

Another element of traditional Indian culture that survived is the great importance of kinship.  It is very common to find several generations of Lumbee people living in close proximity, on the same land or "home place."  Within this extended family, there is a network of sharing, a support base.  Extremely few Lumbee people go hungry or homeless for long, because there is always someone to whom they can turn, some part of the kinship network on which they can depend.  One of the first things Lumbees who don't know each other ask is: "Who are your people?"  This is a way to situate folks in a known network of families and clans (commonly called "sets" among modern Lumbees).

Another surviving element of traditional culture is the central role of spirituality.  One of the first things noticed by European travelers in the "New World" was the great importance of religion.  This traditional Indian kind of spirituality cannot easily be separated from the other, more commonplace, elements of culture.  Church is not only pervasive among the Lumbee as a spiritual matter; it defines social and economic matters, and influences political matters.  Despite the fact that Christianity generally replaced traditional Indian religion during European conquest, spirituality itself continues to be an integral part of  the Lumbee universe, and a more broadly experienced phenomenon than the common religion of mainstream society.

Yet another element of traditional Indian culture that survives today is found in the realm of health.  There are still a number of Lumbee people, especially elders, who have knowledge of herbal remedies passed down for generations.  Arthur Barlowe in the late sixteenth century, and John Lawson in the early eighteenth century, noted that sassafras was a common treatment among the Indians of the Carolinas (Corbett 1953; Lawson 1967).  A study in the mid-1980s of health among a large sample of Lumbee people revealed that sassafras was still the most commonly used herbal remedy (Knick 1986).  There are and always have been specialists in traditional healing in the Lumbee community (for example, one elder who passed away recently was widely known for his ability to treat effectively an extensive list of ailments, from hypertension to arthritis to cancer; see Croom 1983; Wall and Arden 1990).

As the conquest of America advanced from 1524 to the American Revolution, Carolina's Indian people were expelled from their homes, sometimes enslaved, frequently abused (Evans 1971).  The tendency of Indian people to coalesce into new communities  --  to adopt Indian people from other decimated tribes, to hold onto their identity as Indians and not to surrender it even though they had to speak English and dress in the European style to survive  --  this tendency resulted in the presence of the Lumbee community today.  Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Lumbee is that they are still here at all.  Given all that they have been subjected to by the forces of history, it is a miracle that there are any Lumbee people left.

Why should the Lumbee be recognized by the federal government?  There are many reasons.  They should be recognized because this is their ancestral land; they have always been here.  They should be recognized because their occupation of this land has been consistent, as is shown in the archaeological, historical and genealogical records.  They should be recognized because their name is as old as the river's name.  They should be recognized because despite epidemics and wars, disenfranchisement and oppression, they are still here.  They should be recognized because they have held onto their Indian identity, their sense of who they are, when it would have been easier to leave all that behind.  They should be recognized because even though they no longer speak their core ancestral language, they still remember its name.  They should be recognized because they have persisted in the culture of the heart, in holding onto what it means to be Lumbee.  And there are many other reasons.

But in the final analysis, and in view of all the evidence, they should be recognized because it is right.

 

References Cited

Adair, J.   1775  The History of the American Indians... Edward & Charles Dilly; London.

Corbett, D.L.   1953  Explorations, Descriptions and Attempted Settlements of Carolina, 1584-   1590.  State Department of Archives and History; Raleigh.

Croom, E.   1983  Medicinal Plants of the Lumbee Indians.  University Microfilms International;    Ann Arbor.

Dial, A. and D. Eliades   1975  The Only Land I Know.  Indian Historian Press; San Francisco.

Evans, W.M.   1971  To Die Game. Louisiana State University Press; Baton Rouge.

Harriot, T.   1972  A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia.  Dover     Publications; New York.

Knick, S.   1986  Growing Up Down Home: Health and Growth in the Lumbee Nation. Pembroke    Community Workshop Press; also University Microfilms International; Ann Arbor.

 1988  Robeson Trails Archaeological Survey: Reconnaissance in  Robeson County.     Pembroke State University Printing Office;  Pembroke.

 1992  Along The Trail: A Reader About Native Americans.  Pembroke State University    Printing Office;  Pembroke.

Lawson, J.   1967  A New Voyage to Carolina. Edited by H. Lefler; University of North Carolina    Press; Chapel Hill.

Lee, L.   1968  Indian Wars in North Carolina, 1663 - 1763.  NC Division of Archives and    History; Raleigh.

Macmillan, H.  1888  Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony.  Advance Press;  Wilson.

Mathis, M. and P. Gardner  1986  Archaeological survey of the proposed North Carolina Indian    Cultural Center, Robeson County, NC.  Ms on file at Office of State Archaeology.

McPherson, O.  1915  Indians of North Carolina. 63rd U.S. Congress, Document 677; U.S.    Government Printing Office; Washington.

Phelps, D.   1983  Archaeology of the North Carolina coast and Coastal Plain: problems and    hypotheses.  In, The Prehistory of North Carolina: An Archaeological Symposium (M. Mathis and J. Crow, eds.); NC Division of Archives and History;  Raleigh.

Pierce, J., C. Hunt-Locklear, W. White and J. Campisi   1987   Lumbee Federal Recognition Petition.  Lumbee River Legal Services; Pembroke.

Powell, J.W.   1966  Indian Linguistic Families of America North of Mexico (P. Holder, ed.).    University of Nebraska Press; Lincoln.

Taukchiray, W. and A. Kasakoff   1992  Contemporary Native Americans in South Carolina. In,    Indians of the Southeastern United States in the Late 20th Century (A. Paredes, ed.). University of Alabama Press; Tuscaloosa.

Wall, S. and H. Arden   1990  Wisdomkeepers. Beyond Words Publishing; Hillsboro, Oregon.

 

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