What is Lumbee Indian culture? Does it exist?”

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Chavis, Ben. “What is Lumbee Indian culture? Does it exist?” In: A good Cherokee, a good anthropologist: papers in honor of Robert K. Thomas. Ed. Steve Pavlik. Los Angeles: American Indian Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles, 1998. Pp. 177-188.


Chavis took classes from and was a research assistant to Robert K. Thomas at the University of Arizona. Thomas, in conversation, had asked Chavis about old and new forms of Lumbee culture, a question Chavis answers in this essay. First, Chavis defines culture as “a way of life which may be a conscious or unconscious process of passing on behavior patterns, beliefs, customs, and so forth” (p. 177). He also appreciates Roger Keesing's statement that culture “refers, rather, to learned, accumulated experience” (p. 177). As traditional forms of Lumbee culture, Chavis discusses kinship (particularly the Lumbee practice of asking another Lumbee, when they first meet, about who their relatives are and where they live; i.e., “Who are your people?”); significance of land (the rarity of land being sold in the Lumbee community of Prospect); the annual trip to the Atlantic coast for spot fishing; importance of churches (there were over 100 Lumbee churches in 1986; churches are “training grounds” for Lumbee leaders who are politicians, businessmen, or educators). As contemporary forms of Lumbee culture, he discusses attendance at powwows (mostly by Indians aged 18-45); women owning or visiting beauty shops (there are several in each Indian community, and they are a network of social support and political activism); and men traveling to cities such as Atlanta, Miami, Columbus, or Washington, D.C. each week to do construction work.

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Additional Information: 
Fishing | Beauty shops | Construction work | Powwows | Religion | Kinship | Land ownership
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