Joseph J. Brooks: a man of distinction.

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Hunt, Cynthia L. “Joseph J. Brooks: a man of distinction.” Carolina Indian Voice 29 June 2000: 1, 4.


This detailed article describes the efforts of Joseph Brooks to help his tribe obtain federal recognition. This Homecoming issue of Carolina Indian Voice is dedicated to his memory.

Brooks, born on January 6, 1905, was one of eleven children born to Sandy and Effie Brooks. He graduated from what became UNC-Pembroke, married Sally Margaret Johnson, had five children, served in the U.S. Navy, worked for awhile in Detroit, and then returned to Robeson County to farm in Red Banks. His first political efforts were in relation to a bill for federal recognition of the tribe as Cherokee Indians of Robeson County. The bill, introduced on May 9, 1932 (see The Lumbee Indians: an annotated bibliography, item 1345), did not pass. He then did research in Washington, D.C. on the tribe's origins, developed a relationship with senator Josiah W. Bailey, and led an effort for federal recognition as Cheraw Indians (see The Lumbee Indians: an annotated bibliography, item 1346). That effort was also unsuccessful. Brooks and B.G. Graham organized the Siouan Lodge in Robeson County and worked for passage of a bill for federal recognition as Siouan Indians (see The Lumbee Indians: an annotated bibliography, items 1347 and 1348). Due to conflict within the tribe, this bill passed the House Committee on Indian Affairs on May 23, 1934, but went no further. 

Next, Brooks communicated and met with Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier, Assistant Commissioner William Zimmerman, and Indian Agent Fred Baker to obtain benefits for the tribe under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), passed on June 18, 1934. Largely through his efforts, Pembroke Farms and the Red Banks Mutual Association--a New Deal cooperative farming project--were established (see The Lumbee Indians: an annotated bibliography, pages 143-146). Brooks also spearheaded the testing of tribal members to determine which ones were 1/2 or more Indian blood and thus eligible for benefits under the IRA. Of the 209 Indians tested, only 22 were deemed eligible.

Hunt summarizes her account of Brook's efforts by stating, “He is one of the tribe's 'unsung' heroes. As with all great leaders his detractors found it very hard to separate issues from personalities. Nevertheless, historical documentation verifies that Joseph J. Brooks was one of the most brilliant political strategists among the Lumbee Nation” (p. 4).

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