Robeson County Native Writes Book on Lumbee Indians

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2011-07-17 17:51Z by Steven

Robeson County Native Writes Book on Lumbee Indians

The Pilot
Southern Pines, North Carolina

Kay Grismer

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

The Native Americans who have lived along the Lumber River in Robeson County for generations may have been given names to identify their “tribe”— “Croatan,” “Cherokee,” “Siouan” and “Lumbee” — but their collective identity as a “People” does not come from the “outside.”

“The word ‘People’ acknowledges that Indians have a history and a sense of self that goes back to before the colonial relationships that labeled us as Indian, Native American or Indigenous,” says Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery, assistant professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and a Lumbee Indian. “Growing up, I knew first and foremost that I was part of a People, that I had a family and that my family connected to other families; and that all of these families lived in a place, what for us was a sacred homeland: the land along the Lumber River in Robeson County. Kinship and place are the foundational layer of Indian identity in Robeson County.”

This identity as a People has been tested repeatedly over time.

“Indian people are burdened with defending their identity more often and more extensively than any other ethnic group in America,” says historian Alexandra Harmon.

This is especially true for the 50,000 Lumbees, the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River, who have had to struggle for recognition and acceptance.

During the years between 1885 and 1956, Robeson County Indians adopted different names, “not because they didn’t know who they were or what constituted their identity,” Lowery says, “but because federal and state officials kept changing their criteria for authenticity.”

Lowery will discuss the evolution of the Lumbee Indians Thursday, June 17, at 4 p.m. at The Country Bookshop in downtown Southern Pines, when she presents her book, “Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity and the Making of a Nation.”…

…In a segregated society where white supremacists had the power to reclassify Indians as “colored,” Indians began to distance themselves from both blacks and whites. White supremacy demanded that Indians avoid blacks both politically and socially and deny inclusion to community members who might possess African ancestry.

“Excluding blacks from their community may have preserved some autonomy, but it sometimes required Indian leaders to forswear their own kin ties and the value they placed on family,” Lowery adds. “This process of adopting segregation to affirm their distinctiveness results in an additional layer of identity for Indians who had previously thought of themselves as a People. They began to express their intentions as a race and as a tribe.”…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , , ,