Lumbee history

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Maynor, Malinda, Judy Kertesz, and Ian Aronson. “Lumbee history.” The Appalachian Quarterly [Wise County Historical Society, VA] 4.2 (June 1999): 82-93.


This scholarly, well reasoned, and carefully documented overview does much to help readers understand factors in Lumbee history that have led to current perceptions (and misperceptions) of Lumbee identity. What follows is a brief list of topics covered, with quotations regarding some particularly important issues.

The authors begin by discussing the political history of Southeastern Indians, noting that Indian removal and the Trail of Tears did not affect the Lumbee since, at that time, their swampy lands were not seen as valuable. The concept of the frontier in relation to Southeastern Indians is discussed. The authors explain, “Southeastern Indians still exist because of their genius for negotiating this ever-changing frontier. Change was not perceived as a threat to these peoples, although it was oftentimes unwanted and violent; it was seen as perhaps the only true constant in their day-to-day lives” (p. 83). The authors also discuss Lumbee identity in terms of Fredrik Barth’s boundary maintenance model.

Then, a detailed discussion of the various tribes from which the Lumbee originate is provided, along with evidence of the tribe’s migration and movements. The Lumbee adoption of English surnames in the 1700s is discussed. Then, the Lumbee were designated “free persons not white” in the 1790 Census, deprived of political and civil rights by the North Carolina Constitution of 1835, and conscripted into labor camps by the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The Henry Berry Lowry era is discussed, and the provision of public school education by the 1868 constitution of North Carolina. Robeson County did not build schools until 1875, and then only “white” and “colored.” Not allowed to attend White schools and not willing to attend Colored schools, Robeson Indians worked to establish the Croatan Normal School, which provided elementary through secondary schooling. It evolved into UNC-Pembroke.

Next, the authors discuss Lumbee efforts to obtain federal recognition. Nearly a decade after its submission, the Lumbee petition for federal recognition finally received a response from the BIA, who maintained that the Lumbee have insufficient geographical and political cohesion to be recognized. The article’s authors make several points in disagreement with this conclusion.

The article concludes with discussions of the Lumbee routing of the Ku Klux Klan in 1958, and the establishment of the Lumbee Bank in 1971.

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