Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation by Malinda Maynor Lowery (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2013-03-07 22:23Z by Steven

Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation by Malinda Maynor Lowery (review)

Journal of American Folklore
Volume 126, Number 499, Winter 2013
pages 95-96
DOI: 10.1353/jaf.2013.0006

David Steven Cohen

This book from the University of North Carolina Press raises important questions about which groups are and are not recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs as American Indian tribes. The book”€™s author, Dr. Malinda Maynor Lowery, is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and holds a BA in History and Literature from Harvard University, an MA in Documentary Film Production from Stanford, and a PhD in History from UNC-Chapel Hill. She also happens to be a Lumbee Indian.

Professor Lowery claims that the Lumbees, numbering about 50,000, are the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River. She acknowledges, however, they have no reservation, no treaties with the federal government, and no survivals of Indian language, customs, or beliefs. Her book purports to show how the Lumbee Indians “€œhave crafted an identity as a People, a race, a tribe, and a nation”€ (p. xii) in a dialogue between insiders and outsiders. Lowery”€™s argument is based on her extensive knowledge of the history of Native American relations with federal and state authorities and a sophisticated understanding of the concepts of the terms “€œrace,”€ “€œtribe,”€ and “€œnation.”€ She notes that these terms were imposed upon Native Americans by Europeans, and they must be viewed in the context of changing times. She frankly admits that both Lumbees and outsiders have used these terms to achieve certain goals in various contestations involving identity politics.

During the colonial period, the ancestors of the Lumbees were considered free Negroes or mulattoes. In the federal censuses from 1790 to 1830, Lumbee ancestors were listed as “€œfree persons of color,”€ a vague term that was used to describe people of racially mixed ancestry. Under the North Carolina Constitution of 1776, they were eligible to vote if they met the property qualification. The Lumbee ancestors were willing to accept free black identity, rather than be disqualified from voting as were American Indians, who were considered at that time to be members of foreign nations. During the Civil War, the Lumbees were assigned fortification duty, a job normally reserved for slaves and free blacks. In March 1865, Allen Lowery and his son William were murdered by the White Home Guard on suspicion that they deserted from fortification duty in Wilmington and aided escaped Union prisoners. Henry Berry Lowery, another son of Allen Lowery, led a band that took revenge on the murderers of his father and brother. From that day to the present, the Lowery Gang has been celebrated as legendary heroes.

North Carolina’s 1868 Constitution, passed under Republican rule during Reconstruction, allowed non-whites, including the Lumbees, the right to vote. When the Democrats regained control of the state legislature in 1875, they instituted a system of segregated schools. The so-called “€œRedeemers”€ sought the support of the Lumbees, who had voted up until then as Republicans. In 1885, a state legislator from Robeson County named Hamilton Macmillan introduced a bill to recognize the Lumbees as the “€œCroatan”€ Indian tribe, based on a folk legend that they were descended from the Lost Colony of Roanoke whose only remnant was the name “€œCroatan”€ carved on a palisade. Two years after the recognition of the Croatan Indians, the legislature provided public funds for an Indian normal school, later renamed Pembroke College, which is today the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Lowery acknowledges that the Lumbees assumed the identity as Indians as part of a political deal to vote Republican so that they could establish their own segregated schools. Lowery rationalizes this deal as the Lumbees”€™s “€œadopting (and adapting to) racial segregation and creating political and social institutions that protected their distinct identity”€ (p. xii).

Federal recognition required descent from a known tribe, and there was some doubt whether the name “€œCroatan”€ referred to a place or a people. In 1913, the Lumbees petitioned the state of North Carolina to designate them as “€œthe Cherokee Indians of Robeson County.”€ The federal Office…

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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.

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Telling Our Own Stories: Lumbee History and the Federal Acknowledgment Process

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2011-01-04 04:19Z by Steven

Telling Our Own Stories: Lumbee History and the Federal Acknowledgment Process

The American Indian Quarterly
Volume 33, Number 4, Fall 2009
pages 499-522
E-ISSN: 1534-1828, Print ISSN: 0095-182X

Malinda Maynor Lowery, Assistant Professor of History
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Being part of and writing about the Lumbee community means that history always emerges into the present, offering both opportunities and challenges for my scholarship and my sense of belonging. I was born in Robeson County, North Carolina, a place that Lumbees refer to as “the Holy Land,” “God’s Country,” or, mostly, “home,” regardless of where they actually reside. My parents raised me two hours away in the city of Durham, making me an “urban Indian” (or as my cousins used to say, a “Durham rat”). I have a Lumbee family; both of my parents are Lumbees, and all of my relatives are Lumbees—I’m just a Lum, I’m Indian. This is how I talk about myself, using terms and categories of knowledge (like “home” and “Lum”) that have specific meanings to me and to other Lumbees but may mean nothing special to anyone else. Stories and places spring from these categories and become history.

I was drawn to researching and writing about my People’s history in part because the opportunity to tell our own story was too rare for me to pass up. Outsiders, people who do not belong to the group, have told our stories for us, often characterizing us as a “tri-racial isolate,” “black Indians,” or “multi-somethings.” Lumbees seem to have a particular reputation for multiracial ancestry. Perhaps our seemingly anomalous position in the South raises the question—as nonwhites, the argument goes, whites must have classed Lumbees socially with African Americans; therefore, Lumbees must have married African Americans extensively because they could not have married anyone who was white. At the heart of these arguments are two converging assumptions: one, that ancestry and cultural identity are consanguineous rather than subject to the changing contexts of human relations, and two, that white supremacy is a timeless norm rather than a social structure designed to ensure the dominance of a certain group. Race has been linked to blood and ancestry…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Social Science, United States on 2009-12-24 02:45Z by Steven

Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South: Race, Identity, and the Making of a Nation

University of North Carolina Press
April 2010
368 pages
6.125 x 9.25
12 illus., 3 tables, 5 genealogical charts, 3 maps, appends., notes, index
Cloth ISBN:  978-0-8078-3368-1
Paper ISBN:  978-0-8078-7111-9

Malinda Maynor Lowery, Assistant Professor of History
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Awards & Distinctions

  • 2010 Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award
  • 2010 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

With more than 50,000 enrolled members, North Carolina‘s Lumbee Indians are the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River. Malinda Maynor Lowery, a Lumbee herself, describes how, between Reconstruction and the 1950s, the Lumbee crafted and maintained a distinct identity in an era defined by racial segregation in the South and paternalistic policies for Indians throughout the nation. They did so against the backdrop of some of the central issues in American history, including race, class, politics, and citizenship.

Lowery argues that “Indian” is a dynamic identity that, for outsiders, sometimes hinged on the presence of “Indian blood” (for federal New Deal policy makers) and sometimes on the absence of “black blood” (for southern white segregationists). Lumbee people themselves have constructed their identity in layers that tie together kin and place, race and class, tribe and nation; however, Indians have not always agreed on how to weave this fabric into a whole. Using photographs, letters, genealogy, federal and state records, and first-person family history, Lowery narrates this compelling conversation between insiders and outsiders, demonstrating how the Lumbee People challenged the boundaries of Indian, southern, and American identities

Table of Contents

  • Preface: Telling Our Own Stories
  • Acknowledgments
  • A Note on Terms
  • Introduction: Coming Together
  • 5 Pembroke Farms: Gaining Economic Autonomy
  • Conclusion: Creating a Lumbee and Tuscarora Future
  • Appendix
  • Notes
  • Index
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