A trio of Lumbees. Pamela Brooks Sweeney, Curt Locklear, and Mary Ann Cummings Jacobs

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Owings, Alison. “A trio of Lumbees. Pamela Brooks Sweeney, Curt Locklear, and Mary and Cummings Jacobs.”  Indian voices: Listening to Native Americans.  New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2011.  37–61.


Each of the 17 chapters in this interestingly written, accessible, and detail–packed book  features interviews with individuals from a different tribe.  Alison Owings states, in the preface, that she “wondered about [Native Americans']  views from the inside out. What did they see? What did other people see? (p. xiii). She set out to secure a wide variety of interviewees. Her only criteria, otherwise, were that “each interviewee qualify as a Native person and speak candidly” (p. xvi). In writing the chapters for the interviews, she did not update the information; she “presented each account as true at the time we met” (p. xvi).

Owings visited  UNC–Pembroke  to learn about the Lumbee from the three individuals featured in this chapter. She also attended the 37th Lumbee Fall Pow-wow. The chapter has a section devoted to each individual, describing the person's family background, work, interests, and activities. Each section highlights the person's stories and perspectives about Lumbee life and identity.

Pamela Brooks Sweeney “helps run the Brooks family's two nursing businesses, one for ‘assisted-living,’ one for home care” (p. 39); she also directs the children's choir at Berea Baptist Church. In the interview, she discusses her experiences in nursing school at UNC–Greensboro; her work at an Indian Health Service hospital in Lawton, Oklahoma; and skin color and hair differences in her Lumbee family.

Curt Locklear, 84 at the time of this interview, started Pembroke Hardware (later renamed True Value Hardware). In his interview, he reflects on the pleasurable hard work of growing up in a farming family; the racial divide in Robeson County in earlier days, versus the current tolerance of interracial marriage; his marriage of nearly 62  years to his wife, Catherine (both of whom attended Pembroke State College); their 9 children; vegetable gardening; his World War II Army service (in white units); returning to Robeson County after the war to, once again, face three-way segregation; the Ku Klux Klan Routing of 1958; the impact of drug use and abuse on his own family and on other Lumbees; and the increase in the number of Lumbee professionals over the years. [Note: Locklear died March 5, 2011, at the age of 87.]

Mary Ann Cummings Jacobs, a professor at UNC–Pembroke and chairperson of the American Indian Studies program, has a PhD in counseling. Her husband, Russell, who is also Lumbee, is a chemist. In her interview, Jacobs discusses her career path and her decisions about which degrees to pursue; attitudes of Lumbee people toward two-spirit people, or Native gays (Owings observed Jacobs teaching a class on Native populations for non-Native future social workers); being homesick for Robeson County while in California; poverty and illiteracy among Lumbee people; a Cummings family reunion; Sunday School and church service at Mount Airy Baptist Church, led by the Rev. Steve A. Strickland; and Family Fun Day at the same church.

Interspersed between interviews are  discussions of the following: the Lost Colony theory of Lumbee tribal origins; Lumbee dialect; the question of Lumbee tri-racial ancestry; archaeological evidence placing Indians in Robeson County from the pre-contact period through the mid-1700s; and an interview with Stanley Knick, touching on the high Lumbee unemployment rate and higher-than-average rates of homicide, suicide, accidental death, and alcohol-related deaths among the Lumbee.

The chapter's final paragraph aptly summarizes the impressions an outsider, or a newcomer, might have of Pembroke, North Carolina:

“If a group of strangers were to drive or walk around Pembroke, they might not realize they are anywhere near Native Americans. The Lumbee Guaranty Bank, formed by a group of Lumbees who had been denied loans by white-owned banks, gives little clue. UNC-Pembroke advertises itself as Home of the Braves, but that might be just another disputed sports mascot. (It was, in fact.) As for Eaglefeather Arts and Crafts, and the Lumbee tribal offices, neither is especially prominent, nor likely to turn heads. The group of strangers might overhear a dialect that baffles them and might wonder about the genetic heritage of people they see. It is unlikely, though, that they would sense the intricate linguistic and cultural history around them or the extensive kinship systems keeping the community together. The group of strangers might never even know Lumbees exist, nor who they are. But Lumbees, they know.” (pp. 60–61).


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