Finding wisdom in places: Lumbee family history.

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Maynor, Malinda. "Finding wisdom in places: Lumbee family history." Indigenous diasporas and dislocations. Eds. Graham Harvey and Charles D. Thompson, Jr. Vitality of indigenous religions. Aldershot, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005. 153-67.


In this enlightening essay on the Lumbee sense of place, Maynor focuses on the settlement in Bulloch County, Georgia (from the late 1880s to approximately 1918) but links her discussion to the overarching Lumbee theme of Robeson County as home. She also demonstrates that Lumbees create home and community, and keep their Indian identity alive, wherever economic needs may take them. In Bulloch County, Georgia, they accomplished this by creating such institutions as schools, churches, and cemeteries.

This essay comprises several vignettes about particular places and times. Some of the vignettes show the same place but at two different times, highlighting ways in which the landscape has changed but enduring Lumbee values have not. The three anchors of the essay are Robeson County, North Carolina, 1870-1890s (including the Henry Berry Lowry era); the Adabelle community in Bulloch County, Georgia, late 1880s-1918; and Robeson County, North Carolina, 2001.

Maynor provides useful information on the turpentine work done by Lumbees in Robeson County between 1870 and 1890. She explains how Lumbee turpentine workers stripped the bark from a longleaf pine tree, cut slashes in the tree to force the gum to flow down, and collected the gum in a well or box attached to the tree. Once a pine tree is prepared in this way for harvesting the gum, it lives only about six years. When Robeson County's supply of turpentine was depleted, some Lumbee moved to Bulloch County, Georgia (around 1890) to undertake the same kind of work.

Maynor also tells the story of the inequality, discrimination, and violence experienced by the Lumbee, first in Robeson County during the Henry Berry Lowry era and then in Bulloch County, Georgia during the Jim Crow era. The Georgia Lumbees returned to Robeson County when race relations there worsened and, perhaps as a consequence, farming declined. [The Lumbees in Georgia had shifted to farming when the turpentine supply there became depleted.]

The vignettes of particular places and times—for example, Statesboro, Bulloch County, Georgia, circa 1918, followed by Croatan Cemetery, Sinkhole District, Bulloch County, Georgia, March 2001—make ample use of primary sources and interviews. They tell stories of individual Lumbees, whether during the Henry Berry Lowry period or the Bulloch County period, and follow them up with stories from, or connections to, the family descendants of these same individuals. All the while, Maynor elucidates these themes: sense of place; ways in which Lumbees both utilize economic opportunities and maintain their Indian communities and identities; and Lumbee expressions of faith and spirituality.

In addition to the core themes mentioned above, this essay provides information on specific topics, including:

• the nature and significance of swamps in Robeson County

• numerous practical and historical details about harvesting turpentine and the naval stores industry in North Carolina and Georgia

• how Harper's Ferry got its name

•the importance to Lumbees of being buried in the same cemetery as their kin

Skillfully organized, engagingly and feelingly written, carefully researched, and copiously documented, this essay is essential reading for those who seek to understand the Lumbee sense of place. The following quotation captures some of the essence of this essay's exploration of this theme:

"Coming home is everything for Indians, and the word 'h ome' has so many meanings—you can come home to the house you grew up in, home to your family, home to Robeson County, home to your familiar way of life. With all these variable meanings, home also has a permanent meaning—home is the ground where your ancestors are buried and to which we all must finally return. Such a meaning can make Adabelle a home away from home, but the Lumber River, its stories and swamps, persist as Lumbees' primary source of spiritual and physical security" (pp. 164-165).

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