Looking back while walking forward.

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Hunt, Cynthia L. “Looking back while walking forward” (column). Carolina Indian Voice 25 May 2000: 2.


This installment describes three commissioned federal reports on the Lumbee. The first was written by Fred A. Baker in July, 1935 in relation to the tribe's request for benefits under the Indian Reorganization Act (see The Lumbee Indians: an annotated bibliography, item 1138). Baker was in Robeson County June 16-27, 1935, meeting with various groups of Indians to discuss establishing a land project that would remove them from the vicious sharecropping and credit financial traps (described in Gerald Sider's Lumbee Indian histories (1993), pages 65-68).

Baker estimates that he met with a total of 8,000 Indians. He summarizes in his report, “It may be said without exaggeration that the plan of the government meets with practically the unanimous support of all the Indians. . . . They seem to regard the advent of the United States government into their affairs as the dawn of a new day, a new hope and vision. . . . We must confess to the fact that our own feelings were deeply touched as the old people expressed so deep a longing to have a piece of land on which they could live in peace without fear of ejectment by a landlord.” Baker's report was a step in the process leading to the establishment of the Red Banks Mutual Association cooperative farming project (see The Lumbee Indians: an annotated bibliography pages 143-146).

The article then describes John Pearmain's reports (October 1935 and November 11, 1935; see TThe Lumbee Indians: an annotated bibliography, items 1139 and 1140). They also related to the Red Banks cooperative project.

Finally, the article describes the study by Dr. Carl Seltzer to determine which Indians were 1/2 or more Indian blood. Hunt explains, “The study included a long intense process which included pseudo-scientific anthropometric analysis of head shape and measurements, skin pigmentation, hair, ears, nose, lips, teeth, and blood type measurements. This was a mockery to tribe and affront to the pride of the Indians of Robeson County. The study was not a success. Out of approximately 12,400 Indians, only 209 applied to be a part of the study.” Only 22 of the 209 were found to be 1/2 or more Indian blood; they came to be known as the “Original 22.” [For background, see Knick's The Lumbee in context (item KNIC027), pages 42-43, “The Blood Game,” and pages 62-63, about the extent of physical variation among Native Americans and other races as well.]

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