Friday, May 15, 2015
[Robert K. Thomas was hired by the Lumbee Regional Development Association, apparently in the 1960s. The report was completed sometime between 1970 and 1976.]
Page 1 - I am sending in this report in lieu of an article for the Smithsonian, primarily because I decided that right now was an inopportune time to publish an article on the origins of the Lumbees, given the limited amount of data that we now have at hand.
I was not able to contact Helen Schierbeck about this decision so I alone am responsible for deciding not to write the article, but instead, to write this report to LRDA. I understand that in recent months there has been a big furor in Robeson County about Lumbee origins and about the correct tribal designation for the Lumbee people. I didn’t want to add any more “fuel to the fire” by publishing premature article which did not have the “iron-clad” evidence needed to make a definitive scientific and historical argument. At this point, I think we need to do a great deal more research than we have done in order to fill out the picture completely. One of the things you will see as you read this report is that I have to rely mainly on indirect evidence. I have an idea that indirect evidence will be most of our evidence, even with more research. This means that we will have to have mountains of indirect evidence in lieu of direct evidence, bearing on whatever is our final historical hypothesis about Lumbee Origins.
(Page 2) Part I – Previous Hypotheses of Lumbee Origin
In this section I would like to, before I get into the main body of my paper, consider the different hypotheses of Lumbee origin and to evaluate each of them.
A. The first hypothesis about Lumbee origin was proposed by Hamilton McMillan in the 1880s when he tried to tie the Lumbees into the famous Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. As most of you know who read this, Sir Walter Raleigh founded an English colony on Roanoke Island on the coast of what is now North Carolina in the late 1500s. That colony had disappeared by the time white settlers from Virginia and other explorers began in infiltrate northeastern North Carolina later in the 1600s.
McMillan’s hypothesis is based on several types of evidence. First, the family names of the Lumbees are basically English names. This is quite a contrast to the white settlers in Roberson County who have primarily Scots names and are descendants of Scots Highlanders who came to NC from 1730-1760. Moreover a great number of the Lumbee family names are the same as those of the settlers listed as members of the Lost Colony. Secondly, McMillan found in talking to older Lumbees that they had a very strong tradition of having formerly lived on the coast of NC and then migrating inland to their present areas in Robeson County. Thirdly, the Lumbees of the 1800s spoke a very archaic dialect of English which McMillan ties to the period in which the Lost Colony was founded. Fourthly, McMillan cites a tradition of local whites that the Lumbeees were already seated in Robeson County when the white settlers entered the area and at the time the Lumbees were living in houses, farming and speaking English. He tends to (p 3) date this tradition from the 1730s.
Now this is very slim evidence for evidence of a Lost Colony connection. I think the main piece of evidence which put McMillan onto such a hypothesis was that many of the Lumbee elders told McMillan that their ancestors came from Roanoke in Virginia. He took this, of course, to mean Roanoke Island off of the coast of northeastern NC. However, if we simply take the main evidence which he presents – the names, a tradition of living near the coat of NC, the archaic dialect – then the rural inhabitants of present day Hyde County of the NC coast have an even more valid claim for being descendants of the Lost Colony. Hyde County NC, in fact, has a higher percentage of names similar to the Lost Colony than do the Lumbees in Robeson County. They also speak a fairly archaic dialect of English, particularly the whites who live in isolated rural areas.
Later, also, McMillan discovered, and he was an honest enough scholar to apprise us of that fact, that the area that the Lumbees means by Roanoke was the areas of the Pamlico Sound which is considerably to the south of Roanoke Island. More, it is not surprising that the Lumbees would speak an archaic dialect of English. Appalachian whites, isolated like the Lumbee until recently, speak an archaic dialect of English. Further, it is my experience that when Indians learn English they tend to be more slower to change that English, particularly if they are not involved in a public school system, than do the whites from which they learned their English. The whites are generally much more “hooked into” the changes in language in the general society than are English-speaking Indians.
As far as the tradition that the Lumbees were living in the (p4) 1730s in Robeson County speaking English when the white settlers first came upon the, I have serious doubts that this tradition comes from the 1730s. McMillan takes the 1730s as a baseline because Fayetteville was being settled at that time. However, it could have been very much later. The swamps of Robeson County were not really penetrated by the whites until the 1770s. I would guess that the tradition probably comes from sometime in the 1770s and is a very local tradition; that is to say, if settlers moved from the area of northern Robeson County south into central Robeson County in the 1770s, they would encounter the Lumbee at that time. I do not mean to say that I am discounting this tradition, I just think that it is much later in time and much more local than McMillan believed. In fact, there is a lot of evidence to show that the Lumbees were not in their present location until about 1770 in the particular part of Robeson County in which they now live.
My point is that McMillan simply does not make the case for the Lumbees being descendants of the Lost Colony; a mixture of the Lost Colony settlers with an Indian tribe. What McMillan, a Scot, was trying to account for was the white blood present among the Lumbees and the startling English names in an area largely peopled by Scots. McMillan was much less interested in establishing the Indian background of the Robeson County Indians.
McMillan was an honest scholar and fairly thorough, but he leaps beyond his evidence to a flight of imagination and he was innocent in the extreme. McMillan would have us believe that a small group of English speaking half-breeds moved from Roanoke Island to the Lumber River in a series of successive steps in the period from 1600 to 1700. Presumably, this small group tarried (p 5) on the Neuse River in this period, the center of the Tuscarora country. Such a course of action would have been planned suicide. Further, we must believe that this group escaped the official notice of British and American authorities, explorers and traders for over 200 years. All of this stretches my credulity beyond its limits.
However, many Lumbee came to accept McMillan’s ideas about their origin largely because it gave them a rather high status origin, I would imagine. At this point in time, the “lost Colony theory” has almost become a part of the oral history for many modern Lumbee.
The best evidence on the Lost Colony comes from the testimony of Indians given in the 1600s in Virginia. According to what we can make out, the English settlers on Roanoke Island very soon moved inland to better country; reasonably so, as Roanoke Island is hardly more than a sand dune. They probably moved into the region of present day Bertie County. Sometime after the English settlement in Virginia in 1607 they were wiped out by Indians at the instigation of Powhatan, the leader of the Powhatan Confederacy of Algonkian speaking people s in eastern Virginia. Some few English seems to have survived and it appears they were taken further up on the Roanoke River to about the modern region of Clarksville , VA where the very powerful and influential Occaneechi were living; a tribe very interested in trade. They few survivors became semi-slave crafts men for that tribe, but nothing more is heard from them. Presumably the survivors finally died. As I remember, there were only about 2 or 3 survivors left.
McMillan did us a great service by recording a great deal of Lumbee tradition, but he certainly did [unreadable sentence at bottom of page] (p 6) descent from the Lost Colony and in fact, the evidence I have just cited leads me to believe that the Lost Colony was massacred, according to testimony of Indians in Virginia.
B. The second hypothesis of Lumbee origin was promulgated by a Mr. McLean, a member of a prominent family in Robeson County, an amateur historian and like McMillan, also of Scots background. He tried to trace origins of the present day Indians of Robeson County to the Cherokee tribe. His main evidence for this origin was that in the early 1900s many of the Indians of Robeson County, themselves, said they were Cherokees. However, it is my contention that the Indians of Robeson County had picked up this tribal name in the first half of the 1800s from local whites. Indians generally learn the name which is applied to them from their neighbors and there is a great deal of evidence to show that at least by Civil War time, whites in Robeson County thought that the Indians of Robeson County, at least the Indian part of their ancestry, stemmed from the Cherokee tribe. In fact, there is some testimony from the Robeson County attorney in 1875 before a Congressional committee in which he says that the mulattoes as he termed them, in Robeson, were a mixture of Cherokee and Portuguese.
If one looks at Cherokee traditions there is no evidence whatsoever that Cherokees ever got as far east as Robeson County, except perhaps on war parties, and have no tradition of having relatives in Robeson County whatsoever. In fact, Cherokees are very tied to a mountain environment. The eastern half of the Cherokee Nation in the Indian territory included, before statehood, part of the Ozark region while the western half was very rich prairie farming and ranching land. There were few Cherokees in the western half (p 7) of the Cherokee Nation before the Civil War. After the Civil War none of the traditional Cherokees moved into that area although a few people of mixed background who were very acculturated relocated there and became ranchers. Cherokees as a whole are very tied to the southern mountains, as an ecological zone. I cannot imagine Cherokee migrating to an area like Robeson County. Such a move would necessitate a tremendous adaptation to a strange and uncongenial ecological zone – the herbs would not be the same; the plant food in the woods wouldn’t be the same; the animals would be different; etc. Clear creek water, which is very important in the Cherokee religion, is absent in Robeson County. Cherokees today have no notion of ever having lived east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As I say, I think Lumbees picked up a Cherokee designation from whites earlier in the century and McLean simply built on that idea. Now he does present some evidence, some Lumbee traditions, which would lead one to believe that he may have been speaking of the Cheraw Indians. In fact, John Swanton who was a famous anthropological expert on southeastern Indians, hypothesized in that 1930s that the Lumbees were descended from the Cheraws and this is how the Lumbees had gotten the notion that they were Cherokees; that is, the two tribal names had become confused. This is a possibility and later in my paper I will present some evidence which convinces me that the Lumbees are, in part, descended from the Cheraw. But by and large, I think the Cherokee identification for many Lumbees in McLean’s time simply was taken over earlier from whites.
C. The third hypothesis of Lumbee origin devised by anthropologists in the 1930s and 40s. This hypothesis says that the Lumbees are remnants of a great many small Siouan tribes which (p 8 ) once lived in central NC and north central SC. This is really a logical guess. It is based on the fact that there were, in fact, in the 1600s, as far as one can reconstruct, primarily Siouan speaking tribes living in the immediate area of Robeson County. By Siouan speaking, anthropologists simply mean that their language is part of a great language family which has received its scientific name from the Sioux Indians who are a prominent people and language of that language family. But anthropologists had no direct evidence for this hypothesis. It is simply a pretty good guess.
D. One of the most recent hypothesis, regarding Lumbee origin is that the Lumbees are descended from the Tuscaroras. This is based on one piece of evidence altogether. A Mrs. Norment, the wife of the sheriff of Robeson County killed by the Lowery gang after the Civil War, wrote a book called “the Lowery History.” Mrs. Norment not only gave us a record of the activities of the Lowery gang, but also went into the history of the Lowery family and as well, a general history of the Robeson County Indians. I think that her family histories re pretty accurate since she had the testimony of very old people in Robeson County who knew the Lowerys well. Mrs. Norment first published her volume in 1875. I am not able to judge how objective and factual her portrayal of the Lowery gang was in her book. She was, of course, the wife of a man who was killed by the Lowerys but her family histories are well done.
In her first edition she speaks of the Robeson County Indians as mulattoes and says that they are a mixture of Indian, black and white. In fact, she goes into detail about the Lowery family and spells out the source and the generation of black, Indian (p 9) and white “blood”. However, she never identifies the specific tribe of Indians.
She revised her book and it was put out again around 1890. At that time and in that version she makes some changes. I supposed that by that period the Indians in Robeson County were becoming more powerful politically and they certainly did not like to be referred to as mulattoes. So the author drops that word. When there is any hint of black blood, she uses the term Portuguese. It is quite common in the South to stress a Latin background where black ancestry is suspected, for status reasons. Norment refers to many early Lumbees as Tuscaroras as half Tuscaroras or part Tuscaroras.
In the 1860s, a historian by the name of Evans, a man born in Robeson County, wrote another history of the Lowery troubles called “To Die Game”; presumably from a quote by Henry Berry Lowery, the leader of the Lowery gang. Evans quotes Mrs. Norment’s later version of the history of the Lowery family in his book. It is this source primarily from which the identification of Robeson County Indians with the Tuscarora had its origin.
This notion was further sanctioned by a member of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Steve Feraca, who helped some of the Robeson County Indians, who now refer to themselves as Tuscarora, organize in the 60s.
Now if you talk to the Tuscaroas in New York, they readily admit that it is possibly that they left some Tuscaroras behind in NC. In fact, many say that this is indeed the case. The Onondaga’s say the same thing; that a few Tuscaroras were left behind in NC. However, the Tuscarosas are dubious that the Lumbees are descendants of these people and tend to be a (p 10) resentful of the claim of Indians in Robeson County to Tuscarora ancestry. Some of the Six Nations think that such statements are simply a ploy to “get in on” some of the Six Nations land claims payments. However, they are not as resentful as Cherokees. It is within the realm of possibility for the Tuscarora that some of the Lumbee are descended from the Tuscarora, although they really don’t think it is probable.
In the case of the Cherokees, they are generally resentful of Lumbees saying that they are Cherokees, for a number of reasons. One is that it makes Cherokees appear as if they do not know their own relatives. For some of the more white oriented Cherokees in NC, there is also a fear of being associated with a group of people who physically appear to have black ancestry. However, this attitude has diminished greatly over the last few years. But it does call you into question when strangers from a strange place announce that they are the same nationality as you and you have never heard of this group before.
Now at one time I did think it was probably that the Lumbees had descended from the Tuscaroras. I had read Norment’s material. Secondly, I knew that many Lumbee families appeared to have migrated from NE NC to Robeson. Thirdly, I didn’t know enough about NC Indian history other than to make a good guess about Lumbee tribal origins in northeastern NC. I have since changed my mind as the evidence has come in.
However, it appears very probable that the Haliwa in Halifax and Warren Counties in NC are in part descended from the Tuscaroras and certainly someone needs to do some research to establish that fact. I couldn’t be very easily done. The last of the Tuscaroras sold (p 11 of the report, his numbered page 10) their lands in 1802 and according to a local historian, Ernest Jaycocks, whose family bought the Tuscarora lands, it appears that the remaining Tuscarora families in Bertie County simply moved over and formed a new community with the Richardsons after 1802. Jaycock’s main evidence is that many of the present-day Haliwa family names are the same as in the deeds which, in 1802, transferred the last of the Tuscarora lands. But I can see no connection with present day Lumbees and the Tuscarora. In fact, Lumbee elders, as recorded by McMillan in the 1880s state that the Tuscaroras were their enemies.
E. One of the most recent theories on Lumbee origin comes from Wesley White’s research. White found an old map which demonstrated clearly that in 1725 there was a village of Waccamas on the Lumbee River probably about where James Lowery had his ferry, a few miles west of present day Pembroke, NC. Then in 1754 White found a citation which states that there was a mixed crew of rather lawless and violent squatters who were living on Drowning Creek in Bladen County. Robeson County was part of Bladen County and from Pembroke west the Lumbee River was called Drowning Creek in those days. Further, White can pretty well pinpoint the time period, probably around 1718, in which the Waccamaws fled from SC and established their village near modern Pembroke and this, this village was noted on an early map in 1725. Then, as I said, White used this citation about a “mixed crew” on Drowning Creek in 1754 which he takes as evidence that the Waccamaws remained in the area.
I do not interpret his material as he does. I think his citation of 1754 does not refer to Indians or to even people of mixed (p 12) racial background. In 1754 there were, in fact, Scots settlers living on Drowning Creek. The area around present day Laurinburg was settled shortly after the battle of Colloden Moor of 1745. The members of the rebel highland clans came into the Laurinburg area from Fayetteville in the late 1740s. Then they began to move northeast out of Anson County into Bladen County, what would now be Hoke County, and on into what would now be Harnette County. They were in 1750, settled on Drowning Creek which was the border between Anson and Bladen Counties, now the border between Hoke and Scotland Counties. Then their next move was over the Little River. There are family traditions that many Scots in these early days were squatters on the land. I would guess that a mixed crew does not refer to mixed racially. I think that if they had been mixed racially they would have been referred to simply as mulattoes by the writer, Colonel Rutherford, who was the head of the Bladen militia. I would think “mixed crew” would mean perhaps mixed in language spoken, in nationality, in geographical origins, in class level, or even in educational level. It is very possible that a group of Scots on Drowning Creek, some speaking English, some speaking Gaelic, perhaps of varied educational backgrounds, might seem like a “mixed crew” to a standard Englishman from further south on the NC coast. So I do not accept White’s proposition that this citation refers to the ancestors of the present day Lumbees who, supposedly, some 30 years before had moved into the area as Waccamaws.
In fact, all of Michelel Lawing’s research indicates that in the 1750s there was no one bearing present day Lumbee family names in Bladen County. If White is correct then all the Waccamaw women (p 13 of the report, his page 12) married men coming in from the north and the Waccamaw men moved away or else took over the family names of these later settlers. There is not one Lumbee family name which cannot be traced back to northeastern NC. I find such a situation unlikely, to say the least. Further, Lumbee traditions which say they come from Roanoke in Virginia do not record that they encountered an Indian group already in the Robeson County area.
There is a citation which indicates that there was trouble among the Indian tribes in SC in 1755 and it was reported to the governor of SC that some Natchez and Cherokees killed some Peedees and Waccamaws that year in the SC settlements. The Waccamaws and Peedees were allies and the main Peedee settlement was at a place still called Peedee Town on the Peedee River east of the present Florence, SC. AT this time in the 1750s Peedee Town would have been on the edge of white settlement or perhaps even enclosed by white settlements. I would gather from this evidence that the Waccamaw had simply drifted down the Peedee Town to live with their friends. In other words they had gone back to SC, perhaps not to their original country, but to their friends the Peedees.
I would also gather from later evidence that the Indians at Peedee Town were absorbed by refugee Indians from NC settling in the area after the Revolution. These new immigrants into Peedee Town were obviously from northern NC and bore the names of Goings, Taylor, Gibson, etc. I would guess that what is left of Peedee genes would be found in the present day Indians in SC, at least these Indians who are descended primarily from these northern Indian migrants. I am excluding here (p 14) the more aboriginal groups close to Charleston, but I’m thinking of the Smilings who formerly lived in Sumter Conty, the very prolific Goings family who live in Going Town, plus Indians in Orangeburg and Banburg Counties west of the Santee River in SC. But this is just a guess and needs some further research.
My main point is that I do not think White makes his case well and, in fact, there is evidence that the Waccamaw returned to SC to the general area of the Peedee Indians on the edge of SC settlements and probably did not sojourn very long on the Lumbee River. I would guess that by 1740 they were probably back in SC.
Now there are two hypothesis of Lumbee origin which are not related to descent from an Indian group or groups. These two hypotheses have been devised primarily by non-anthropological and non-historical scholars – sociologists, geographers, population demographer and so forth.
F. The first of these hypotheses is that the Lumbee are basically the descendants of an old strata of free blacks which came into being before the Revolution, who have absorbed a lot of white blood over time and a small but incidental amount of Indian blood. This hypothesis was most “spelled out” by a geographer by the name of Price from the University of California who did his doctor’s thesis on “mixed-blood” communities in the South. As a geographer he could not find any particular geographic explanation for the presence of these communities except that they were usually in out of the way places. One of the things he did notice was a commonality of family names in a great man of such communities – in Appalachia, in Robeson County, In SC and in western (p 15) Louisiana. He had an idea, which he did not develop very much, that most of these families had originally come out of northeastern NC. In fact, his hypothesis was that these families were all that remained of an old free black society which had been widespread over that region of the US. He doesn’t say so but it is obvious in his presentation that he thought that most of these communities’ claim to being Indian. and of course Lumbee are one of these communities, was really fraudulent. Price doesn’t exactly say so but one gets the impression that he feels that the descendant of these old free blacks were trying to escape the stigma of being black and to raise their status by claiming to be Indians. As I say, this latter is implicit; it isn’t spelled out but it is strongly hinted at. He does think that these families are descendant of a widespread old free black society in the South. There are other scholars who hold to this hypothesis and do indeed think that the claim of these communities to being Indian is fraudulent.
There is a glaring weakness in this hypothesis and that is if this notion is correct then all of these communities have been perpetuating a fraud for quite a long time. One can imagine a single individual moving away from his community into another area and presenting himself as a member of a higher status group. This has happened in the US many times. But it is very hard for me to imagine that a whole community would enter into a commonly held “plot” and that no individual member ever exposed the plot and told the truth. Further, not only is it almost impossible for me to imagine a situation like this in a single community but the fact that there would be widely separate communities and scattered (p 16) family groups who would all maintain this fraudulent identification of Indian racial status is hardly credible. More than that, if this is fraud it is a fraud which has gone on for a very long time in the southeastern US in these communities. We have evidence that many of these communities maintained this identification before the Civil War.
Most scholars in the US, I think, have a distorted picture of Indian status in the general society relative to blacks and whites. It is true that in most parts of the South after 1900 being an Indian gave you a slight “leg up” over being black. There are some places, however, in which this is not true even modernly; in Mississippi and some parts of Florida and Louisiana. But perhaps in the middle South, at least after 1900, being an Indian was of little higher status than being black. However, this was certainly not the case in the 1700s and not the case in most places in the South before 1850.
In fact, if I as an Indian in the state of NC before the Civil War, I would have kept quiet about it. It was far more advantageous to be black and free in the state of NC in that period than it was to be Indian. Anyone non-white was classified as free colored. This included both free blacks, Indians and people who were mixed white and black. Of course, there were certain disabilities to being classed as free colored. But more than that, if you were also classed as Indian, there were additional legal disabilities. For instance, no Indian could own land in the state of NC before 1866. If you were a free black you had the disabilities of being in the free colored category, but you could own land even though you could not vote (p 17 of report, his page 16) and bear arms. So that in the state of NC in that time and certain other stats in the South it was legally more advantageous to be a free black than to be an Indian. I don’t think there was that too much difference in social status between free blacks and Indians.
By the Civil War Indians in most of the eastern part of the US had faded out of public memory and the litteri began to recreate Indians into the stereotype of the noble redman. Indian status had raised a little above blacks by 1900, but certainly this has been a recent phenomenon. In order to “buy” Price’s notions you would have to, thus, demonstrate that the “Fraudulent” Indian identification is modern in these communities and we know, in fact, that is it not. It has been my observation that most folk communities are simply not very concerned with the opinions of outsiders, non-kin. Certainly they are the most times unaware of their general social status or, at least, understand it only vaguely. If they are indeed, aware of a low social status they tend to accept it as a given or conversely see it as persecution. To raise social status by a fraudulent identity might occur to urban, middle class people but such a notion would occur not only the most marginal social deviant in most folk communities. It is true that the importance of social status or rank has been promoted in most American folk communities by the school system, but this is a rather recent phenomenon.
I have visited two modern communities which have switched their identification from Indian to “colored” or black, largely by virtue of intermarriage. One such community is Skeetertown in southeastern Virginia which became a black community in the 1880s. Another is (p 18) Browntown in eastern NC which became colored in the lifetime of older members of this group. They state such a change in identification very matter-of-factly and do not seem so to have suffered from a rank deprivation. Exactly why an old free black group would so suffer from rank deprivation as to manufacture an Indian identification is not quite clear to me.
Price did contribute to our understanding, however, in suggesting that these family names in common with a great many such “mixed-bloods” lead back in time to northeastern NC as their point of origin.
G. The other hypothesis about Lumbee origin which does not relate to some Indian source has been posed by some sociologists and demographers. It says the communities like the Lumbees in the Southeast are simply refugee communities which are formed by social deviants clustering up together - free black, loose Indians, Latin sailors, whatever. After this social group was formed it took over a middle ground status position between blacks and whites and many scholars have called communities such as this Lumbee, tri-racial groups. In this they agree with many whites in Robeson County who see the Lumbees as a tri-racial, middle ground caste. Not to be uncharitable, but I think the analysis as presented by these scholars is largely a refinement of a feature of the general world view of the American middle class; a view that does not see people or communities but only individuals of differing races and ranks.
Further, these scholars see the caste system in the South as the origin or such a community as the Lumbees. Such scholar think the Lumbee community was created and maintained by the racial caste (p 19 of the report, his page 18) system of the South. I think this shows two things. One is a misunderstanding of the dynamics of caste, particularly castes based on race, and the other is ignorance of the history of the South. A caste system rarely creates a new community of people. It may create individuals who have the same rank, but it does not necessarily push these individuals into a single community. Sometimes if there are individuals who have a common rank because of a shared occupation and are then pushed into one geographical area a community can emerge. Such a dynamic may explain the origin of the Metis in Canada. Of course, it doesn’t explain their continuation. But I think it is very rare where people come together simply because of a common rank as individuals in a society and “bunch up” in order to form a common social group based on common rank.
I think that these scholars are showing a very pronounced middle class American bias. Middle class Americans will opt for rank over and above relatives of community of anything. Of course, a great many of the suburbs of cities in the US are formed primarily on the basis of common rank within American society, that it is people move to the suburbs and cluster together on the basis of income and occupation. They aren’t an occupational group that is pushed into a geographic area and then forms a community, but are in fact single individuals or nuclear families who migrate and close residences. Needless to say, social cohesion in America is very fragile. However, I think that for most people in the world association of the basis of common rank is a very rare occurrence.
(P 20 of the report, his page 19) More than that, as I say, such analysis belies a knowledge of the history of the South. In the first place, most social deviants in the 1700s or early 1800s, if they wanted to, could go to the frontier and simply disappear. Many such people chose to do just that in the US. This is only one example of the kind of alternatives open to someone whose main consideration was rank within a fluid society. It would not be necessary to bunch up in a refugee community in the swamps of NC. Further, the caste system of the South as were know it really did not start to come into being until about 1800. The first laws that began to regulate caste behavior were passed in the 1820s and 1830s in the South. Most of the communities which these scholar are looking at, the Lumbee community specifically, formed many years before the cast system in the South had begun to assume any form whatsoever. In fact, at the time the Lumbee formed as a community it was still possible in parts of NC for a black man to be married to a white woman, own slaves and be a landholder. Michelle Lawing has cases of this in the works he has done in northeastern NC. My point is, I don’t believe that rank of caste as such can explain the presence of these “tri-racial” communities. As I say, it both belies the understanding of the dynamic s of a cast system and the history of the South, as well. The scholar who most operated according to this hypothesis was Calvin Beale, but Brewton Berry also tends to work from this hypothesis, at least implicitly.
(P 21 of the report, his page 20) I suppose that now that I have discussed these other hypothesis of Lumbee origins I should launch into the section of my paper in which I lay out my own hypothesis. My hypothesis is not completely “nailed down” but I think it is fairly firm. Before I do that, however, I would like to give a fairly short intellectual history of my own efforts up to this point because I have changed the nature of my hypothesis as evidence has come in.
(P 22) Part II – Intellectual History
I first seriously began to consider Indian communities in Virginia and North Carolina in the winter of 1976 when I did a survey for the Smithsonian in January, February and part of March, 1976. I simply visited Indian communities in that area to see which ones were “alive and doing well,” so to speak. I did some estimate as to numbers and present condition. At that time, I was struck, like Price, by family names in common of these groups in Appalachia, eastern NC, and SC. I didn’t think this could be an accident. So what I did was look at migration patterns in general in the Carolinas and I could see four. The first was simply a movement out from settlements on the coast, in a fan-like shape on the map. But this was a minor pattern. Another was a general migration from northwest to southwest; that is, people moved out of Virginia into northeastern NC and from northeastern NC in a southwesterly direction down the coastal plain and along the edges of the Piedmont into SC. The third migration pattern was from the area of northeastern NC and southeastern Virginia straight west. There was a fourth migration pattern which was not significant in my research, a migration from north to south. The Scots-Irish came south from Pennsylvania into the Shenandoah Valley, then into the Yadkin, then into Piedmont SC, but I was really only interested in the second and third migration patterns.
I took the Melungeons on the Virginia-Tennessee border (p 23) around Sneadville, Tennessee and Blackwater, Virginia and simply projected them straight east. I took the Lumbee and projected a line northeast. The two lines intersected at about Roanoke Rapids, NC. Therefore, I began to look around for a group of Indians in the Roanoke Rapids area from which I thought these migrants had originated. I didn’t think, like Price, that this was an old free black society that had scattered all over the South. I thought it more than likely that these two groups with names in common had their origin in some Indian tribe. The closest tribe I could find to Roanoke Rapids which might fit “my bill” was the Saponi tribe which from 1710 to perhaps in the 1740s had lived at Fort Christiana, Va. This fort was right north of modern Roanoke Rapids, a few miles north of the Roanoke River, near present day Lawrenceville, Va. I new that anthropological sources stated that the Saponi went north in 1740 from Fort Christiana and joined the Iroquois Confederacy. But I was unconvinced since the evidence was unclear and I thought that perhaps the Indian communities in the Appalachians, the Lumbees, and Indians in SC and Louisiana had a common origin in the Saponi tribe.
However, as I began to read and learn more I found out that the Tuscaroras were the largest group of Indians in northeastern NC in that period. I then read Norment’s material in which she states that many of the Indians in Robeson County were descendants of the Tuscaroras. So at that time I changed my mind about the Saponi and began to consider the Tuscarora as the source of these widely dispersed communities.
(P 24) Finally, Wesley White did his very complete historical sketch of Indians in NC in the first half of the 1700s. I began to change my mind again and to think that perhaps the Saponi were, indeed, the source of these widely dispersed communities. Wes White found a Saponi community in Granville County in the 1740s, 1750s and early 1760s, in the general area from which Norment says that many of the Indians in Robeson County had migrated. Now I still think that the Saponi in Granville County contributed to the formation of the Lumbee community but I do not think that the Saponi are either the largest element or the only element.
Since Michelle Lawing has completed her research the picture is beginning to look a little clearer.
(P 25) Part III – Traditional Lumbee History
My main contribution in the research on the Lumbee has been to look at Lumbee traditional history and to see what could be gleaned from the Lumbee accounts of their own origin. Wes White had done a fairly complete historical record of early Indian history in the Carolinas and Michelle Lawing has done very good genealogical research on Lumbee families.
The most extensive accounts of Lumbee oral history were recorded by amateur historians who were writing on Lumbee origins between 1880 and 1915. Most of these men were trying to prove one hypothesis or another, mainly trying to tie the Lumbee into the Lost Colony of Roanoke. But in the process they quoted a lot of Lumbee traditions and it as Lumbee traditional history they relied upon to make their case for the lost colony hypothesis. Of course, Hamilton McMillan was the main researcher in this area but there were several others as well. In fact, one researcher I have mentioned, Mr. Mclean, had another hypothesis. However, all of them quoted extensively of Lumbee traditional history.
The other body of material was gathered modernly. I have interviewed quite a few older Lumbees, particularly Mr. Jim Chavis, and LRDA itself has collected quite a bit of such material. What I tended to do was use the modern oral history as a check on or to add to the accounts I got from the literature written from 1880 to 1915.
I should at this point give some idea of my methodology; that is, the way I went about to analyze this body of literature.
Most of the men who wrote during this period had an “axe to grind” and most of them were not professional historians. Their material is very disorganized and much of it is garbled or else is unusable. Sometimes it appears to they put words in the mouths of the Lumbee elders in order to bolster their own interpretations. Much of their argument is circular; it is assumption based on assumption based on assumption until in their later arguments they are taking their previous assumptions as fact and as proof of the argument which they are presenting to you later in their article. However, they do present one mass of material and these writers are honest scholars, particularly McMillan, even though they may be undisciplined.
The way I handled this material was to first read it over several times until I almost had these works memorized. It must have taken me almost a month to read and re-read this material until I had a gestalt in my own mind. This was for my own benefit as a researcher. I tend to work this way and to let my unconscious do a lot of sorting out and rearranging of material. After I had done this I went over the materials and weeded out all the tribal names since these names are simply confusing and cue one the wrong way. I also weeded out all statement where it appeared to me that the authors were putting words in the mouths of Lumbee elders. Then, I tried to weed out what I thought were garbled passages. Now I should tell my readers that in none of these works are there direct quotes of Lumbee elders. The authors usually say the Lumbee tradition says such and such but I think I managed to weed out all the author’s own interpretations, as such, of Lumbee traditional statements. I must say that McMillanis the most disciplined in (p 27) keeping his statement separate from the Lumbee statements. Then I took that whole mass of material and I simply listed each statement of Lumbee tradition, not in any particular order. Then I tried to check out these statements with historical act, statements that I thought were Lumbee tradition unaltered. They checked out well.
For instance, McMillan in one of his later publications says that the Lumbees referred to the region of Pamlico Sound as Roanoke and that they referred to the sound itself as Pamtico. In looking at accounts in the early 1700s – Lawson and others – and looking on old maps, this does check out. Old maps do show Pamlico Sound as Pamtico and Lawson and others referred to the region of Pamlico Sound as Roanoke. McMillan also says that the Lumbees say that the Indians in Sumter County, SC were their relatives and that the people known as Melungeons in the east Tennessee were also their relatives. This checks out historically as well. There are other items which I checked out and I came to the conclusion that Lumbee traditions as recorded by these authors was very accurate. Of course, these traditions are speaking to a time in the 1800s which was probably only a hundred years distant from the time the first author, McMillan, started to look at Lumbee tradition; a great deal of time had not passed.
I also tried to make an evaluation of the authors themselves and checked their material internally and with each other and with historical records. Except for their rather undisciplined methodology and rather offhand interpretations not based on evidence they seemed to be fairly honest and accurate, particularly McMillan. One author, Ford, tends to put words in the mouths of Lumbee elders but he was the only one of about 6 or 7 who seemed to me to do that.
As I looked over this material and taking into account what I know of the historical record, there appeared to be three tribal traditions in this literature plus what I got orally in my own research in Robeson County. The strongest tradition points to the Hatteras. It may well be that since most of these early authors were interested in the Lost Colony or Roanoke, they paid much more attention to oral tradition which pointed to coastal Indians. Nevertheless, the Hatteras emerged strongest in the traditions. In fact, according to McMillan, after he had completed his first research in the 1880s, an “intelligent” Indian remarked to him (McMillan) that he had always understood that their correct tribal name was Hatteras. So there was at least one Indian in Robeson County in the 1880s who conceived of himself and the rest of the Robeson County Indians, or at least a good part of them, as Hatteras Indians.
Now nowhere in McMillans material does he talk about the Hatteras. He simply traces the Indians from the region of Roanoke and, in fact, this man’s remarks came after McMillan had publically announced the passage of an act of NC in the 1880s designating the Indians in Robeson County as Croatans; so that this Indian’s remark was in some sense a protest against the name Croatan and perhaps McMillan’s research. His remark certainly does not appear to be prompted by any of McMillan’s research.
From what we know of the Hatteras historically, they lived at Cape Hatteras and were a very small group; probably not more than a dozen families in the early 1700s. Officially, as far as the colony of NC was concerned, the Hatteras disappeared as an Indian tribe after 1754 when they were still living, a small group, on Cape Hatteras. The next reference we get to the Hatteras is an account from a missionary in 1761 and 1763 in which he says that the Hatteras were then living with the Mattamuskeet in the area of the old Mattamuskeet Reserve near Lake Mattamuskeet in Hyde County, NC. After that the Hatteras disappear altogether from history.
In the 1790s one still finds the Mattamuskeet in Hyde County but the Hatteras appear to have moved on or to have in some way disappeared from the area. Since there was no big epidemics that we have any accounts of between 1763 and 1792, one can only surmise that they either assimilated or they moved from the area.
If you take a look at the oral tradition of the Lumbees that was recorded by McMillan and several others you can trace, at least some Lumbee families, from Lake Mattamuskeet to the Meuse River to the Black River to the Cape Fear to Robeson County. These oral traditions are very explicit. In fact, according to McMillan, in 1820, there were still Indians living in Robeson County who could locate their former homes in the Lake Mattamuskeet area. So one would presume that sometime after 1763 the Hatteras first moved to the Neuse River and then by successive steps to Robeson County; although later historical material would lead one to believe that two processions took place. One was this slow step-by-step movement and, of course, there are still Indian settlements in Sampson County and on the Cape Fear River around Fayetteville. But also it appears that some people came directly from the Neuse to Robeson County. The census of 1790 of Robeson County tends to confirm that, as well as some oral histories of families I took when I was in Robeson (p 30) County.
Another factor points to the Hatteras and that is a cultural feature of modern Lumbee life. Lumbees generally are very oriented towards the coast and the sea. Up until WWII many Lumbee families would get in their wagons and go to the seacoast and camp on the beach and fish for two or three weeks during the summer. Even today the Lumbees are great appreciators and consumers of seafood. There is a very strong orientation among Robeson County Indians toward the sea which certainly is not shared by their white or black neighbors or even other inland Indians. The Lumbees are unusual in this regard, that is to say, no other community I know of which lives inland from the coast shares such an orientation toward the sea and toward food from the sea.
The second tribal tradition is not as strong as the Hatteras but shows up fairly strong in the accounts and points to the Cheraw. Those Chavis among the Lumbee who are descended from Ishmael Chavis say the Ishmael Chavis was an Indian from the Cheraw, SC area who moved into Robeson Co. later than other Lumbee families. In fact, this branch of the Chavis family is not considered as one of the original Indian families in the area. Michelle Lawing’s genealogical material tends to confirm the Chavis family tradition. Ishamel Chavis, in fact, does appear to have come from SC sometime after the original Lumbee families had located in their present area.
Further, a Mr. Claud E. Lowery, who is a local historian in Robeson County, says that a great many Lumbee families who now live in the area of Red Springs came into Robeson County in the 1820s or 1830s from the region of Cheraw, SC. Mr. Lowery (p 31) thinks they were Cheraw Indians.
The Cheraw were located on the Dan River almost on the NC-VA border in the early 1700s. There are indications that they may have lived originally near the Blue Ridge Mountains in SC. Many people think that the Cheraw are the Indians De Soto encountered in 1540 when he marched through that area of SC and were called by him, Xuala Indians. As the case may be, we have historical records that locate the Cheraw on the Dan in the 1700s. Sometime about the time of the Tuscarora War, due either to Six Nations raiding in that are or in an attempt to avoid getting caught “in the middle” between the Tuscaroras and white settlers, the Cheraw left the Dan River and moved to SC. They settled about where the modern town of Cheraw, SC is today. When Barnwell raised his army of SC to fight against the Tuscaroras in 1712, the Cheraw probably contributed the largest body of men of the SC tribes.
In the late 1740s the Cheraw, according to historical records, left the Cheraw, SC area and went west to the Catawba country. However, there are indications in the historical records that some Cheraw returned later or else that all of them did not go to the Catawba country but remained in the area. For instance, in the 1780s the governor of SC was advising the Catawba to entice the remainder of the Cheraw from the “settlements” to the Catawba country. One would, therefore, presume that in the 1780s there were Cheraws still living around Cheraw, SC. Local historians at Cheraw, SC say that there was a Cheraw village in that area until the 1820s and 1830s. In fact, according (p 32) to one local historian there was an old Cheraw graveyard in town in which Cheraws were still burying their dead until the 1830s. According to another local historian, a woman in her 60s, her great-grandfather who was a mature adult in the 1820s and 1830s owned a store in Cheraw SC where most of the Cheraw Indians traded. However, the Cheraw disappear from the consciousness of local historians somewhere in the 1820s and 1830s. This checks with Claud Lowery’s perception that a great many Cheraws came to Robeson County in the 1820s and 1830s.
There is a group of people who live right outside of Cheraw, SC, derogatorily called “Marlboro Blues” with names like Chavis, Silver, Quick and Brigham who are of indetermine (sic) racial origin. I have not interviewed any of those people but I would guess, particularly since the name Chavis is so prominent among them, that they are what is left of the Cheraw who did not go to the Catawba country or to NC.
There are several Lumbee traditions, in the literature, that point to the Cheraws. One is that the ancestors of many Indians in Robeson County fought with Barnwell in the Tuscarora War. So far as we can determine, Barnwell’s army was almost exclusively made up of SC Indians and the Cheraws were the heaviest contingent in Barnwell’s army. The other tradition is that many of the ancestors of Robeson County Indians did not go west with the many body of the “Cherokees,” (Cheraw) to the mountain country because they were beginning to take up white ways and had relatives in the area. This sounds very much like a tradition which explains why the main body of the Cheraws went to the Catawba county (sic) but left a minority remaining in the area of Cheraw, SC. However, (p 33) in all honesty, this tradition which I have related could apply to other SC Indians as well since other SC tribes did fight with Barnwell and did finally go to the Catawba county. However, I am assigning this tradition to the Cheraw because of other historical evidence and modern oral testimony of the Indians in the Robeson Co. area.
The third tribe which this oral tradition points to is the Saponi, but admittedly this is much the weakest tradition. No one in Robeson County or in the literature specifically states that the Robeson County people are Saponi. This contrasts with the Hatteras and with the Cheraws. However, Lumbee elders were said by most of the authors of the literature which I surveyed to have universally declared that the Lumbees came from Roanoke in Virginia. McMillan took Roanoke to mean Roanoke Island and said that the Lumbees generally called northeastern NV Virginia. Later he found that the Lumbee elders referred to the Pamlico Sound area as Roanoke. I doubt , however, that the Pamlico Sound area was ever referred to as Virginia by the Lumbee elders. There is certainly evidence that the Pamlico Sound area was referred to as Roanoke but in the literature in the 1700s it is never spoken of as being in Virginia.
Another Roanoke, of course, is the Roanoke River region. It appears from reading over document in the 1700s and 1800s that (p 34) rivers were very important identity markers in NC and if you came, for instance, from near the Neuse River you were spoken of as “Coming from the Neuse”; not the Neuse River or not the Neuse River region. The same thing applied to the Roanoke River. People of that area were spoken of as “Coming from Roanoke.”
We know historically that the Saponis lived most of their recorded history either directly on or near the Roanoke River, in earliest times in Virginia and in later times just over the line in NC. So that “Roanoke in Virginia” certainly could refer to the Saponi. McMillan is right that Roanoke refers to the Pamlico County but “Roanoke in Virginia” fits the Roanoke River region much better.
The other bit of evidence which I have for a Saponi element in Robeson County Indians is a phrase given to me by Rev. Dawley Maynor, a phrase in what he called “the Indian language.” The phrase is – “Epta Tewa newasin.” That appears to me to be a Saponi phrase. Mr. Maynor says it means, “I love you, Lord Jesus.” And that it was taught to him by his great-grandmother Susan Dial who was born about 1830 or 1840. One word in that phrase can be shown to be a Saponi word, tewa. It apparently means dead. From what I can make of the phrase, I would translate it literally, “Raise-up-from-the dead one, I love you.” Raised up from the dead meaning resurrected one of Jesus; Epta – to raise up, tewa – dead, newasin – I love you. Now it is possible that this could be a Cheraw phrase but we have no record of the Cheraw language. We do have this Saponi word, tewa.
In the 1670s the Saponi were living on the Roanoke River near where it crosses into NC, somewhere between the modern (p35) town of Roanoke Rapids in NC and the Virginia line. They shortly moved to the region of Clarksville, VA further west near the Occaneechi Indians. Archaeologist and historians have put them in the area when the famous Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia broke out. This was a rebellion of settlers against the Indian policy of the Crown. Virginia settlers simply began to wipe out the Indians in retaliation for certain acts they believed Virginia Indians had perpetrated on them. At this time, in the late 1670s, the Saponis fled from the region of Clarksville, VA further west to the Yadkin River where they were encountered by explorers around 1700. Shortly after 1700 they started moving east, I would suppose returning to their old country, and were just west of the Tuscarora area in 1708 or 1709. When the Tuscarora War broke out they moved to Bertie Co., the neutral Tuscarora area, in order to, I would guess, escape the Tuscarora War. The neutral Tuscarora area was a safe area. The later neutral Tuscarora reservation sometimes was referred to as Saponi Town.
In about 1714 Governor Spotswood of Virginia established Fort Christiana a few miles south of modern Lawrenceville, VA near the VA and NC line, and the Saponi, Occaneechi and Tutelo went to that area to live. In the 1720s right after making peace with the Six Nations the Tutelo left Fort Christiana for the Six Nations country. The Saponi and Occaneechi stayed at Fort Christiana. The Saoni during the period absorbed the Occaneechi. In 1728 the Saponi got into a war with the Tuscaroras and Meherrin, abandoned Fort Christiana and went to the Catawba country.
In the early 1740s some of them left the Catawba county. It appears that one band headed north. They were reported in northern Virginia in 1754 and in a couple of years were on the Susquehanna in Pennsylvania. In a few more years they were in the Six Nations country in New York and were adopted by the Six Nations, presumably no one is quite sure what happened to this band of Saponi. After the Revolution their kindred, the Tutelo, moved to the Six Nations Reservation on Ontario where some of their descendants live in the western end of the Six Nations reserve near Brantford. According to anthropological research done in the 1890s, one old Tutelo said that the Tutelo and Saponi parted at Niagara Falls and that they saw no more of the Saponi. I would guess that the Saponi integrated with the Tuscaroras around Niagara Falls or more probably with the Cayuga on the Cataragus Reservation south of Buffalo. It is even possible that some of the Saponi, in individual family groups, wandered over into Ontario later and were incorporated with the Munsee near London. More research will have to be done before we know what happened to the Saponi in NY.
Another band of Saponi appears to have gone, in 1743, to Granville Co., NC to live on the land of Colonel John Eaton, a very famous Indian fighter originally from Virginia, and a man who had traded with the Catawba and spoke the Saponi language. They lived there from 1743, according to local historians, to the 1760s. Then according to one local historian, they disappeared by “marrying with other races.”
There are two statements in Lumbee oral history which appear to me to speak of a Saponi origin. This is over and above the Lumbee statement that the Lumbees come from Roanoke in Virginia and Mr. Dawley Maynor’s phrase. One is that the Lumbee elders, in (p 37) 1800, told McMillan that they had relatives in Canada west of Lake Ontario. West of Lake Ontario is the Six Nations Reserve, and I take it that Lumbees in the 1880s were referring either to the Tutelo or to some Saponis who had accompanied the Tutelo. The Tutelo and Saponi, according to Lawson, spoke similar languages and had inter-married a great deal in their association in the late 1600s and 1700s.
The other tradition is one that says that in the old days the Indians (Lumbees) were driven across the Roanoke River by bad Indians. Now this could very well be a reference to the war with the Tuscarora in 1728 when the Saponi abandoned Fort Christiana and moved south across the Roanoke to the Catawba county. Granted, this is “reaching” historically, but I can’t think of any other tribe to which to attribute this last statement and there are other evidence which point to the Saponi – the language phrase given by Mr. Dawley Maynor, the notion of coming from Roanoke in Virginia, and having relatives west of Lake Ontario. I can think of another tribe that I could substitute here for the Saponi and for whom it would be possible to have descendants in Robeson County.
In fact, even without this traditional history it is the Hatteras, the Cheraw and the Saponi which would be the logical choice as the key tribes in the Lumbee “puzzle.” Just looking at the historical records and the map of Indians in the 1700s plus the general flow of migration and settlements, would lead one to pick these tribes to be the ancestors of modern Indians in Robeson County. But I think the Lumbee traditional history certainly establishes the Hatteras connection, fairly well establishes the Cheraw connection and points to a probably Saponi connection.
(P 38) Part IV – The Social History of the Early Lumbees
Now, what I will do in this section is to take Lumbee traditional history plus Wes White’s historical survey of North Caroline in the 1700s and Michelle Lawing’s genealogical work and put them together into a coherent picture. If you simply look at my oral history material it appears that three tribes congregated in Robeson County; two Siouan speaking tribes and one Algonkian speaking tribe came together to form the Lumbees. But the situation is much more complicated than that and when you put Lawing’s and White’s material together with mine, a more complicated but consistent historical picture emerges.
Michelle Lawing’s material shows that in 1850 one finds families bearing the same names we find today in Robeson County congregated along the frontier in Edgecombe and Granville Counties, NC. It is further apparent that these families are a cohesive social group; that is to say, sometimes they are living in each other’s households, they are marrying together, they are witnessing wills for one another and so forth. These families had a cohesion apart and separate, to degree, from the rest of the families in that area. I would estimate there were some 25 to 40 families or family names involved in this social group.
Their race as recorded on tax lists and other documents varies. Most individuals are listed most commonly as mulattoes. In that time in NC the legal category mulatto meant having one white parent and one non-white parent. The non-white parent could be either Indian or Negro. Some individuals in these families are listed as white, a few are listed as black and occasionally an individual is listed as Indian. In the case of listing as Indian, (p 39) this meant fullblood Indian to all apparent purposes; that is, someone both of whose parents were Indian. In other words, in this time the government of NC was legally listing individuals as to race, not whether people were part of any particular community. There would be no such thing legally in the colony of NC as a mixed-blood Indian. By definition, a mixed blood Indian would be a mulatto.
If you look at these families internally, once again the racial classification of individuals within the family is quite varied. It is apparent that in some of these families spouses were of different races; a black man married to a white woman or a white man married to someone listed as a mulatto. Of course within the family household there are differences between generations, as one would expect if the parents were from different racial backgrounds. But it is also true that as these families moved from one area to another, their racial classification might very well change so individuals go from black to white, from white to mulatto and so forth. It appears to me that this racial classification was simply determine visually by the authorities; if you looked of mixed background you were listed as mulatto, if you were fairly dark you were listed as black, if you looked white you were listed as white, and if you looked strongly Indian you were listed as Indian.
One of the apparent things about this group of families is that they were forming a very cohesive group, and the question is why this cohesion? My best guess at this point in our research is that what made for the cohesion of this group was a feeling of being Indian. There were fullblood Indians in the group and the (p 40) majority of people in this group were probably of least partial Indian background. My best guess is that they were mixed blood Indians with a strong feeling of being Indian. Of course, this is a guess because there is no direct evidence that this group in 1750 identified as Indians. But I have to ask myself as a social scientist why the cohesion.
It is apparent that these families are from different areas of the country. Some are from extreme northeastern NC and some are from Virginia. Most of them were probably not related before they began to cluster together in that frontier area, nor did there appear to be any social exclusion that would thrust them together. The racial situation in NC around 1750 was very fluid and on the frontier even more so. Therefore, there is no reason to assume that these families were simply social deviants who were pushed together because of a caste situation. In fact, if you go to that area of NC today there are a great many white people who will tell you that they have Indian blood and blacks who will tell you they have both white blood and Indian blood. Now, of course, no whites in that area will tell you they have black blood but it appears to me simply from visual evidence that there are a great many whites in that area who do have black blood. This region was pretty socially fluid in 1750 as were most frontier situations, even in the South. This, kinship cannot explain the reason for this social cohesion nor can social exclusion. This is not a community of free blacks. There were very few free black in NC at that time, particularly on the frontier. Free blacks, thus, could not and probably would not have formed the core of such a community, particularly in the absence of any social exclusion.
(P 41) It is true that there were blacks as part of this social group but they appear to be few in number and to have attached themselves to a core group.
It is my contention that this group were refugee Indians from further east in NC and from VA. There was a couple of things we know about social conditions in southeastern VA just prior to this period, between 1720 and 1740. One is that there was a lot of racial intermixture in northeastern NC and southeastern VA in this period, especially between Indians and whites; so much so that authorities were very concerned about what they considered a “problem.” Secondly we know that several Indian groups in the area lost their lands in the 1730s and 1740s and disappear from history – the Yawpim and Potoskite in extreme northeastern NC and the Nansemond in VA. By the 1730s the Yawpim and Potoskite probably did not number more than a dozen families each although the Nansemond appears to have been a much larger group.
Now, Indian tribes simply do not disappear because they disappear from the records. A number of things happen to such Indian tribes. Indian tribes are not divisions of some larger unit. Each Indian tribe is a small national group in and of itself and it is very hard to do away with whole national groups. National groups tend to persist if possible. Now, it is true that sometimes American Indian “tribes” (national groups) have disappeared through being exterminated by military hostilities and disease. Usually, however, these factors have simply cut down the population of an American Indian tribe without exterminating them completely, although in some few instances there has been extermination. On rare occasions (p 42) an Indian tribe will be assimilated by the white or black population that surrounds them. This has been true of a very few Indian groups. Generally, what happens is that tribes merge together to form larger groups if they are small, and in dire circumstances sometimes they will be assimilated by a larger Indian group. The Six Nations are an example of a large confederation of tribes which incorporated quite a few small eastern Indian tribes. The Catawba are another example of such a process. The Fort Berthold Indians of North Dakota who are representatives of three tribes have in recent years merged together to make one tribe. The usual process is that a tribe will get “whittled down” by disease and warfare and then assimilate into a larger tribe or more often merge with other small tribes to make a new group. Rarely, as in the case of the Miami, does a small group of Indians become assimilated into the population which surrounds them. If there are people of a national group left around, no matter how small, they would tend to resist assimilation. Indian tribes usually prefer a general Indian peoplehood, by merging with other tribes, over against losing their local peoplehood by assimilating into white or black society. Community and identity are a very precious commodity to most people and although many middle class Americans opt for a raising of rank at the sacrifice of community, relatives and tradition, very few other peoples of the world are apt to do this, particularly tribal peoples.
So the question is, what became of these three small groups after they lost their lands? I would guess, even if I knew nothing at all about the historical situation, that these groups migrated (p 43) west and either bunched up together or attached themselves to some larger Indian group. In fact, something of the sort did happen to these three small tribes. I think that even before these tribes had lost their land they had taken in a great deal of white blood and maybe some black blood and were fairly acculturated. I would guess that after the land loss these three tribes then fragmented and as individual families made their way to the frontier regions of Edgecombe and Granville Counties by 1750.
There is some indirect evidence that this was the case. For instance, we find prominent among this social group a family by the name of Bass and a family by the name of Goins. We know historically that there were, in 1750, Indians in Virginia named Goins and Bass. There was a very prominent family in this social group called Kersey. We know that there are modern day Kerseys in Virginia who, not too many generations ago, were American Indians. The same is true of a family by the name of Powell.
As far as connections to the Yawpim and Potoskite of northeastern NC most evidence is even more indirect than the evidence which I have presented for a connection with Virginia. Most Indians of this time and region adopted their names from those of their white neighbors. We have found one name which may be an Indian patrinym, Braveboy. We know it is not a British name and we, therefore, assume it must be an Indian name. (Lumbee tradition says it is indeed an Indian name.) But we are not sure whether the Braveboys are from Virginia or whether they are native to northeastern NC. Many names on this frontier region in this “mysterious” social group are names from northeastern NC – (p 44) Lockleer, Lowery, etc. But we can trace only one definitely Indian family to extreme northeastern NC. They are a family of Hatcher who indeed are legally listed as Indians and who appear to have come from the Little River region of northeastern NC, probably Yawpim Indians. Also, we know that Taylor was the name of an Indian family in the Yawpim area. Taylor appears later associated with these frontier families. Jones and Sanderson were prominent white families who lived adjacent to the Potoskite and we find these family names also showing up later associated with the group of families from Edgecombe and Granville Counties.
I cannot explain the behavior of this group of families in this area very satisfactorily unless I assume, even if I didn’t have indirect evidence, that they were primarily mixed blood refugee Indians.
In the 1750s the Saponi were living in Granville County. By 1766 they had disappeared. One local historian said that they disappeared by marrying other races. I am assuming also at the point that this group of refugee mixed blood Indian families from Virginia and northeastern NC were merging with the Saponi. Once again, I have some indirect evidence for this. One cannot find any descendants of the Saponi in the region of Granville County anymore than one can find the descendants of the Yawpim and Potoskite in northeastern NC. The Saponi undoubtedly did not disappear in a puff of smoke and in fact, one author said, as I quoted above, that the Saponi disappeared by marrying other races. I would contend that these “other races” were these refugee mixed blood Indian families, as I intend to call them. We know that two (p 45) of these families, the Lockleers and Chavis’, lived immediately adjacent to the Saponi enclave in Granville County. We also know that the first generation of Lockleers in Robeson County; that is, Lockleers born in the 1760s were said to be the last speakers of an Indian language in Robeson County – Will Lockleer, Elizabeth Lockleer, Randall Lockleer, etc., who all died in Robeson County before the Civil War. Unless the Lockleers were speaking Potoskite or Yawpim, which is possible, I would assume that their mother was probably a Saponi Indian.
In this same time in 1760, new mulattoes appear in the records, Gibson and Collins, for instance. Both of these families appear early in Robeson County. Some Collins are still in Robeson County, but the Gibsons all moved further south into SC where they are now a numerous Indian family. Gibson was a prominent early white family in Orange County which is just west of Granville County and Collins was a name among the Saponi, one of the few cases of names that we can authenticate as a Saponi name. This, of course, does not mean that the Collins’ could not have come from somewhere else since Collins was a fairly common name. I think the probabilities are that, of these new mulattoes, Gibson was Saponi in the female line and Collins in the male line. The Saponi, thus, disappear from history at the same time that this new group of mulattoes emerge in this area. No trace of the Saponi can be found in the area today. Mr. Dawley Maynor’s phrase, Epta tewa newasin, is the best evidence I have that this group of refugee tribes merged with the Saponi on the frontier in Edgecombe and Granville Counties. But other indirect evidence also points in this direction.
(P 46) In the 1750s and 1760s this group of people who I will now call Refugee Saponis began to fragment and move off in different directions out of Granville and Edgecombe Counties. The frontier had bypassed them. Some people simply kept on the frontier and moved straight west. By 1810 they were collecting on the Tennessee-Virginia border on what is called Newmans Ridge, near Sneadville, TN and Blackwater, Va. From there they sent out colonies both north, south and west. In the 1890s they were called the Melungeons. Today most of them refer to themselves, that is these Indians originally from Newmans Ridge who now live in pockets all through the Cumberland region, as Cherokees.
A few “Refugee Saponis” in the late 1750s moved into the region of Fayetteville in Cumberland County, NC and then in the 1760s began to move into the resent Lumbee area in Robeson County.
Other families moved southeast to the Neuse, probably in the 1760s. There was a famous military man by the name of Nash, originally from Virginia, who lived in this frontier region of Granville and Edgecombe County. Nash moved to the area of New Bern, NC in the 1760s. I would presume that many of these Refugee Saponi had probably served under him in different military engagements on the frontier and they may have followed him down to the region of New Bern. At the same time, the Hatteras of Lake Mattasmuskeet may have started to move over to the Neuse. But this is purely a guess. It may very well have been that the Hatteras moved to the region of New Bern in the late 1760s and that people from the Granville-Edgecombe area began to move to this region where they (p 47) could find another Indian community. I do know that Nash is a very common name among the Indians in southwest Virginia, that Nash was very involved in Indian affairs and that he went to the region of New Bern sometime in the 1760s. But whether or not Indians followed him there is a guess, but a good historical “lead.”
In the 1770s there were a lot of Indians moving straight from the Granville – Edgecombe area to /Robeson County. Other families from 1770 to 1790 were bypassing Robeson County going from the Granville – Edgecombe area into SC either to the Cheraw area, to Peedee Town or even further west of the Santee.
By 1800 most of the families from Granville or Edgecombe Counties were either on their way west, were in Robeson County or were further south in SC. People from the “Refugee Hatteras” community on the Neuse were beginning to move straight on to Robeson County after the Revolution or were moving to Sampson County on their trek west by stages. After the Revolution, it also appears that Indians who had left Robeson county or bypassed Robeson County and had gone on to SC were beginning to turn around and to regroup with the main body in Robeson County itself.
By 1800 most of the Indian families now present in Robeson County were established there although some of their relatives were still “straggling in” from SC. Ishmael Chavis had come first form SC to Robeson in the 1760s although he appears to have moved around considerable and finally to have come back to Robeson County for the third or fourth time right after the American Revolution. Hatteras were still moving in from the east all through this period. In the 1820s, according (p 48) to Mr. Claud E. Lowery, a great many Indians came from the area of Cheraw, SC probably a mixture of these refugee tribals from the north and the Cheraw, moved to Robeson. When the NC legislature said in 1740 that the Robeson County “free colored” came from the Roanoke and Nuese Rivers into Robeson County, I think they were essentially correct; the people from the Roanoke River region being the first settlers in the area and the core families. When the Lumbees of the 1880s stated that they were from Roanoke in Virginia, they were essentially correct.
There may have been other stragglers come in from other tribes. Thomas was a very common name early among the Meherrin. Bell and Reed appear to be Chowan names from around the region of Gatesville, NC and there may have been some Peedee who wandered into Robeson County. But I am convinced that Robeson County Indians are essentially refugee tribals from the Yawpim, Potoskite, and Nansemond tribes who merged with the Saponis in the 1750s and the Hatteras at about the same time and then collected together in Robeson County; attracting then a contingent of Cheraw plus some wandering “loose” Indians from other parts of NC like the Thomas and the Bells and the Reeds.
One thing that the reader should remember is that in these early times, I am talking about very small numbers of people. In 1730 there was not over a dozen Hatteras families, not over a dozen Yawpim families. In the 1740s when the Saponis came to Granville County, they numbered some dozen families. Further, probably not more than 5 or 6 Nansemond families drifted over the border from Virginia. One Cheraw, Ishmael Chavis, came with his family in the late 1760s to Robeson County and probably 5 or 6 other (p 49) Cheraw families in the 1820s or 1830s came also to Robeson County. By 1790, I would guess the majority of Indian families now in Robeson County had already settled there and there were no more than 300 Indians there altogether.
In 1750 the population of NC numbered some 35, 000 all told in the settled regions of NC, excluding the Cherokee population. The major part of NC was later populated by what has been called in this country the Scots-Irish (the north Irish or Protestant Irish) who came to the US primarily between 1715 and 1760. They settled first mostly into Pennsylvania and then pushed down into the Shenandoah Valley and then into the Yadkin valley. They probably account for ¾ of the modern NC population. English stock settlers did not increase rapidly. The Scots have not increased that rapidly. The north Irish have had a tremendous increase in the New World. I would guess that not more than 200,000 Scots-Irish came to American between 1715 and 1760, yet I can’t imagine less that 60 million Americans being descended from those 200,000 Scots-Irish. In a sense, the Lumbee increase is no more startling than the Scots-Irish increase, but it is a startling increase.
Now this is not to say that the Indians just came into Robeson County, clustered up there and then started a population explosion. There were families straggling into Robeson County up until 1850. In fact, on branch of the Maynor family of Robeson County came from east Tennessee about 1850. It looks to me like this particular branch of the Maynor family had gone from Granville straight west to east Tennessee, and the in the 1850s came east to Robeson County. But there were other Indians who left Robeson County and went into other areas. Some of them stayed and some of them returned later.
(P 50) For instance, there were Indians who stayed only for a few years in Robeson County after coming down from the Granville-Edgecombe area and then scattering south in a wide belt going from northeast to southwest in SC. In SC in this central belt we find Chavis, Goings, Gibsons, Scotts, Bunches, etc. There were quite a few Lockleers in western SC in 1790, but I am not sure what happened to them. We do know that quite a few families – Dial, Bass, Willis, Swear, Deas, Willes, etc – left SC after 1800, moved to western Louisiana and merged with Native Indians there to from a group now called the “Redbones.” A few families – Dial, Ware, etc. – then moved on into east Texas. Other families left SC later in the 1800s – the Strick, etc. – to form Indian communities in north Florida.
There were quite a few Lockleers who left Robeson County after the Revoltuion probably after 1890, along with Oxendines, who migrated to the mountains of NC and east Tennessee, but most of these returned about 1830. There were also Robeson County people who left after the War of 1812 and settled in Lincoln County just west of present-day Charlotte, NC. In the 1840s there was another big migration out of Robeson County which McMillan mentions. Mr. Jim Chavis told me of the migration from Robeson County of what he called the white Chavis’, but I am not quite sure when that took place. Thus, Indians were moving in and out of Robeson County all during the late 1800s and early 1800s. After the Civil War I think there were more Indians moving out. There were Lumbees who went into South Georgia in the late 1800s to work and quite a few stayed there. Individual Lumbees migrate west in this era; and since the Second World War a lot of Lumbees have individual (p 51) migrated to many NC cities, to Baltimore, to Detroit, etc. Sometimes they formed large colonies as in Baltimore and sometimes they scattered out as in Detroit but keep in contact with each other. I understand by the census that there were around 30,000 Indians in Robeson County in 1970. I would guess there are at least 30,000 other Lumbees who have migrated from Robeson since WWII and now live in other areas.
The Lumbees tend to show a population increase and a migration pattern very much like the Scots-Irish except the Lumbee have much more of a home base than any of the Scots-Irish have.
When I say that I am not talking about more than a dozen families of Hatteras or Yawpim or Saponi, I am not implying that these are necessarily full blood Indian families. I would guess not. In fact, I would guess that by 1890 or by 1820, when most of the Lumbee families were situated in Robeson County, the average Indian in Robeson County was probably somewhere between one forth or one half Indian by “blood, a little over one fourth would be my guess. Further, there has been considerable “hanky panky”: in Robeson County in the last 150 years; enough for quite a bit more foreign blood, in this case white blood, to spread around among the Lumbees. So I would guess, just off handedly, that the average Indian in Robeson County (if there is such a thing) is probably around one quarter Indian, three quarters white and with a little sprinkling of black genes in the pot. I think that most of this foreign blood was acquired before 1770 and that Indians congregated n Robeson County in 1790 were already carrying a great deal of foreign intermixture at that point in time.
This is not typical of other Indians in the eastern part of (p 52) the US. Some groups, for instance, those in southern New England have absorbed so much black blood that they are almost physically indistinguishable from blacks. Others have absorbed so much white blood as to be physically indistinguishable from whites and most of this intermixture took place in the 1700s when these groups were small and mates were hard to find. When your tribe gets down to a dozen families it is hard not to be compelled to marry out of the group. In fact, much of the wanderings around of Indians in NC in the 1700s and the merging together I would postulate, was not only motivated by the need for land but also to find marriage mates.
I know that moderate geneticists have done a study in Robeson County in which they conclude that the Indians in their sample are about one eighth Indian, one eighth black and about three quarters white. I would say that this is a little “light” on the Indian side. I don’t know the school the geneticists took or what sampling procedures they used but I feel that they are too light on Indian ancestry. Further, there must be a tremendous difference in degree of Indian blood from one part of Robeson County to another. Offhand, I would guess that the Brooks family must be at least half Indian. Other areas in Robeson County may have very little Indian “blood.” But it really doesn’t make that much difference.
My point is that most of their foreign blood was acquired very early and I don’t’ think it had too much influence on Lumbee history except in terms of Lumbee relationships with outsiders. I do not think it had much to do with notions of who they thought they were. It is bound to have had a tremendous cultural influence; having one of your parents and perhaps one of your grandparents, a foreigner (p 53 of the report, his page 52) in terms of language, culture, perception, personality, and so forth. But in terms of peoplehood, I don’t think it was very important.
I must put in a personal reaction here. I am getting very weary of snide remarks about the Lumbee’s “Indianness.” The Comanches, some Pueblos and some Mission tribes in California are largely Mexican by blood. Some Chippewa communities are primarily French in blood and very French culturally, as well. I don’t hear any snickers directed at these groups. Nor do I hear anyone say that the people in a large section of northern Italy are not “real” Italians because they are largely descendants of invading German tribes. I find American racism boring as well as annoying.
(P 54) Part V – Lumbee Identify (sic)
In this section I would like to look at how Lumbees conceive of themselves and see if anything can be gleaned from this avenue of inquiry. The Lumbees have a conception of their own history, as of course do any other people. They see themselves as having come from Roanoke in Virginia originally. Although some modern Lumbees have “bought” the Lost Colony notion, as well. But this is almost like some kind of mythical emergence. It is like when Appalachian whites tell you their family came from Ireland. It really hasn’t too much to do with who they are as a people now. It is the American experience which molded them as a social group. Lumbees conceive of a core of families who were the original settlers in Robeson, presumably from Roanoke in Virginia. I think most people would agree that the Lockleers, Braveboys, Oxendines, etc. are core families; that is, first settlers in this area. Most Lumbees are vague about the time of the first settlement except that it was sometime before the Revolution. They see its core as having been joined by other Indian families. I get the impression that older Lumbees think of this original core as belonging to the same tribe while these late families coming in, like Ishmael Chavis’ family or the Woods family coming from the east of the Stricklands coming from SC, are really representatives of other Indian tribes. Further, they see the Lumbee people as having emerged in Robeson County as a result of the merger of this original core group of families with these later families coming in who were offered refuge. But the Lumbee as a people, I think, were “born” in Robeson County.
(P 55) That does not mean to say that the Lumbees do not have roots in other areas but Robeson County is seen as really their homeland. The Oglala Sioux, for instance, know that at one time they lived in Minnesota but once again that’s like coming out of the earth. It’s like an emergent myth. The Sioux came out of Minnesota onto the Plains and the Sioux as they are “happened” on the Plains. Coming from Roanoke in Virginia, for the Lumbee, is their mythical origins but they came into being, as they are, in Robeson County; as this group of core families probably of the same tribe took in these refugee Indian families from other areas. Many Lumbees see themselves as a people who have offered refuge over the years for many Indians.
Lumbees usually speak of themselves as “Our People”, as do a great many other Indian groups when they speak in their native language, or else as “the Indians, meaning of course the Indians around here. They have a strong notion of being Indian. Now being Indian does not mean a middle ground caste position, as it does to many whites in Robeson County. For many whites in Robeson County, Indian simply means people who are neither black nor white, whatever might be their specific racial origin. In fact, some whites in Robeson County think Lumbees are really a mixture between black and white. They use the word Indian, but they use it to mean a middle ground status position. Even whites who use the word Indian for Lumbees in the standard sense of the word think that the Lumbees aren’t “real Indians”; that is, that they aren’t fullbooded, they don’t speak an Indian language, and so forth and so forth. But the Lumbees think of themselves an Indians, meaning the native aboriginal people of that region. Many Lumbees (p 56) know that there is considerable white blood in the Lumbee veins because they know that in the 1800s there was quite a bit of intermarriage and hanky panky with whites. However, they have no traditions of any intermixture with blacks even though it is obvious physically that the Lumbees do carry black genes. They tend to deny that this is the case for a very good reason. I think most of the black blood among the Lumbees was acquired before 1770 when they lived in other regions and their sense of history really dates from the time they were welded together as one people in Robeson County.
It appears to me that the Lumbee view of their own history and how they came to be a people where they are, is, in broad outline, historically correct. The question becomes, I think to many scholars, is how long have the Lumbees conceived of themselves as Indians? Is this something which came up after the Civil War during the time of segregation? So I think we have to address that question and see what light we can throw on it.
It is impossible to say how the people who I have called refugee Indians in 1750 on the frontier in Granville and Edgecombe Counties conceived of themselves. We simply do not have the documentation. The only hint that we have at all is that Thomas Kersey who was a resident of Granville County joined Hugh Wadell’s army of SC Indians and fought in the French and Indian War. There are some hints that other refugee Indians in that region fought with Wadell. This was an all Indian army with a few white officers. It is probably that Thomas Kersey conceived of himself as Indian. But that is the only hint that we have of Indian (p 57) identification among these mulattoes.
However, I think if we look at what happened to those people who went into Tennessee we can get a little better idea of how they must have conceived of themselves on the NC frontier. In 1840 there were several of these families in Tennessee who were enrolled on the Cherokee rolls of the 1840s and 1850s. There were Maynors, Thompsons and a few others enrolled as Cherokee Indians. So they must have conceived of themselves as Indians and as Cherokees. Further, if we look at the census of Letcher County, Kentucky which was boring settled about 1840 by this same stock of Indians out of Newman’s Ridge on the Virginia-Tennessee border, we find a great many people with Indian first names like Blackfox Thomas, Tecumseh Collins and so forth. So it is probable that some of these people, in the 1840s, conceived of themselves as Indians.
In 1890 we have some direct evidence. The people of this stock living on Newmans Ridge who had originally come from Granville and Edgecombe Counties were presenting themselves to whites as Melungeons which, according to McMillan, was a name that French-Swiss whites, I presume from around New Bern, NC applied as well to Lumbee families. It comes from the French word Melange, to mix. These families were presenting themselves to whites as a mixture of Portuguese and Indian. This sounds very much like the way the Red River halfbreeds, the Metis, conceived of themselves. There were other families in that Cumberland region, however, who simply conceived of themselves as Indians.
Modernly, most of these families, scattered in this Cumberland region, will tell you that they are Indians or part Indian and (p 58) usually identify as Cherokees. In Ohio up until about WWII whites were referring to people of this stock as halfbreeds. I would guess therefore, on the basis of this material, that part of this group on the frontier in 1750 conceived of themselves as a mixed race, Indian and something else. Other families, that had a heavier component of Indian blood and were more attached to the Indian part of their family for some reason or another, conceived of themselves as Indian. Thus, there was some division of opinion between people who thought of themselves as a new product and other families who simply thought of themselves as Indian but without any particular tribal designation. When the majority of these people left the frontier in Granville and Edgecombe Counties for Robeson County and there absorbed a large element of Hatteras and Cheraws I would imagine that this clinched the Indian identification; that is, if there was some division in 1750 along the lines which I have postulated the absorption of more people of Indian stock probably squelched the mixed race identification, if it was ever very strong in Robeson County, and confirmed the Indian identity.
Now, let’s look at what we can glean from white sources about the identification of Robeson County people We know, if McMillan is right that French-Swiss in NC (I presume this means the people around new Bern, NC) referred to the ancestors of Robeson County people as Melungeons, that is to not (sic) Indian or black or white but as a new race, a mixture. In Cumberland Co., NC in the 1700s it appears that whites referred to Lumbees as Indians, if we can rely on some indirect evidence. For instance, there are quite a few Indian place names around the region. (p 59) of Fayetteville in Cumberland County. One is called Indian Wells and is an old Lumbee settlement. Another is called Indian Walls and is the remains of another Lumbee settlement, I think perhaps a church. A third place is called the Old Indian Stonehouse and is the remains of another building built by the early Lumbees. Also the city of Fayetteville expended sometime in the 1880s and enclaved a community of Indians who are the same stock as the Lumbees. In that area there is a street called Redbone Street. Redbone is a derogatory term for mixed blood Indians in the South. I understand it comes from the feeling of whites that although an Indian can look white if you dig down far enough their bones will be red. So that at least whites in Cumberland County were referring to Lumbees as Indians in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Whites in Robeson County refer to the Lumbees from 1770, our earliest record, to about 1800 simply as mulattoes. Mrs. Norment in the first edition of her book “the Lowery History” refers to them simply as mulattoes, although she says that the Lumbees are a mixture of white black and Indian. Other Robeson whites would refer to the Lumbees as mulattoes but would say they were a mixture of Indian and Portuguese. The Indian “connection” was usually identified as Cherokee. Whites at Civil War times referred to the Lowerys, particularly as Indians and stated that the Lowerys had always thought of themselves as Indians.
Now, if we turn to Lumbee tradition it appears that the Lumbee identification as Indians must go back pretty far. Around 1915 A.W. McLean took a series of depositions from Lumbees in their 70s and 80s which stated that they had always been known as Indian, (p 60) some of them said Cherokee Indians but all of them said Indians, and that they were told this when they were children by their grandparents. These depositions were invariably stated in this manner. This would mean that a Lumbee 80 years old in 1915 was born in the 1830s and would hare grandparents who were at least born in 1790. I think it is conservative to say, based on this testimony, that at least as early as 1800 most Lumbees thought of themselves as Indian and continued presenting themselves as Indians to outsides: even in the period between 1830 and 1860 when it was a very serious disadvantage to be an Indian in NC, when it would have been more politic (sic) to keep quiet about the matter and accept the local designation as mulattoes.
In fact, it is the Lumbee conception that they have gone through a great deal of persecution because they were Indians and a great deal of persecution as well, because they would not become black and continued to declare themselves to be Indians. Many Lumbees feel that NC white society has been determined over the years to wipe them out as an Indian people and force them to be blacks. Thus, many Lumbees are very resentful toward blacks, I must say inappropriately so. But it has been blacks who have been threatening to their identity as Indians. So as most people do, rather than taking out their resentment on the source of the problems, which was the white establishment, they have turned their anger and resentment on blacks as, say, Poles have done in Detroit.
When I started out this section one of the things I wanted to assess was not only whether there was not only a present day identity as Indians but how far back historically this may have (p 61) gone. It appears to me that the weight of the evidence would lead me to believe that before 1800 a great many Lumbees, a least, thought of themselves as Indian and that after 1800 the vast majority identified as Indians.
Now, the next question I have to address about Lumbee identity is why the confusion about tribal names among Lumbees? Since 1880 the Lumbees have been legally called first Croatans, then Cherokee Indian of Robeson County, then Siouan Indians and then finally Lumbee Indians. Few of these legal names have been satisfactory to any large portion of the Indians in Robeson County. First the name Croatan was discarded after whites made a joke out of the name and it became a derogatory term in Robeson County. The legal name “Cherokee Indians of Robeson County, I think as fairly satisfactory to most Indians in Robeson County but the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in NC objected so strenuously to the name that it was finally discarded by the state government and by the influential Lumbees in Robeson County. Siouan Indians never did have much currency and faded from the picture quite soon. “Lumbee” is still not accepted by a great many people in Robeson County. It tends, primarily, to be accepted by people in the Pembroke area.
This does not mean that the Lumbees do not have a strong sense of peoplehood. Among themselves they call themselves “Our People” or “the Indians” but it is in presenting a public face to the outside that there is disagreement. One is tempted to say, of course, that the reason for the confusion is because Robeson County is a Pan-Indian community with the strains of three tribes in the population plus individual families form 2 or 3 tribes (p 62) But I do not think that is the source of the confusion. If one talks to Indians in Robeson County today, there are three major tribal designations which he will hear. One is Lumbee, which is the official name and tends to be current around Pembroke and with Robeson County people who live in other areas. A great many Indians in Robeson still refer to themselves as Cherokees. Currently quite a few people, particularly those in two heavily Indian rural area refer to themselves as Tuscaroras. As I said in the beginning of this paper, I think this comes from Mrs. Norment’s account and has been promoted by the Indian Bureau, plus the publication of Evans book “to Die Game” in which he quotes Mrs. Norment on the history of the Lowery family with her claim of Tuscarora ancestry for the Lowerys.
Now, why the confusion? I think the confusion emanates from two sources. One is the Lumbees have simply been misinformed by outsiders. Most members of Indian tribes learn that they are aborigines and “our people” from their parents and, of course, this is what the Lumbees learn as well. However, Indians learn their specific tribal designation from neighboring whites generally or whites in official positions. I think in the 1880s the Lumbees learned from whites that they were Cherokee Indians and that has tended to stick, although many Lumbees also accept McMillan’s “Lost Colony theory.” Such a paradox appears not to cause any conflict among those Lumbees who are themselves as (sic) both Cherokees and descendants of the Lost Colony. Many Indians in Robeson County simply think of themselves as Indians and don’t try to identify with any particular tribe. Anthropologists were largely responsible for the Siouan name. The only Indians in eastern (p 63) NC who have taken over the Siouan designation are the Indians in Sampson County whom I am convinced are largely Algonquian speaking Hatteras and not Siouan at all. I don’t hear too many people in Robeson County saying they are Siouan. The Indians around Pembroke, I think, have accepted Lumbee as reasonable because it is a fairly neutral term; that is, it is a local term and offends no other Indians or whites. The Tuscarora identification, once again, has tended to come from whites and is simply I think, once again a case of the Lumbees being inadvertently misinformed.
Many Lumbee, however, are now caught in a rank dilemma and that is the second source of confusion. Lumbees want very much to be able to trace their ancestry to a specific and “respectable” historic Indian tribe. Therefore, Cherokee and Tuscarora both are every appealing tribal designations to many of the Lumbees. I am hoping that Wes White does not promote the Waccamaw name among the Lumbees so that we will have a Waccamaw “faction” in Robeson County in future years. In spite of their strong sense of Lumbee peoplehood and a strong identity of being Indian, Lumbees are still confused about their tribal background because they have not only been misinformed by whites but also because many Lumbees are searching for some “respectable” Indian tribal roots. Many of the Lumbees, in the past 20 years, have become a little called into question by the attitudes of outsiders toward them. I think that a great many whites really do not “buy” the identification of Lumbees in Robeson County as Indians of any tribe. Further, some people in other Indian groups feel the same way as do whites about the Lumbees. Many Lumbees have obvious (p 64) black blood. Lumbees do not have a distinct language and a distinct tribal religion. Different individual Lumbees present themselves as members of different tribes, which causes some confusion on the part of many Indians of other tribes. I think many such Indians think that the Lumbees don’t know who they are and reflect this reaction back to the Lumbees; which of course causes many Lumbees to wonder more who they are.
Further, there is a search for validation going on among many Lumbees now. Many would like some official agency to not only validate them a Indians but to validate them as descendants of a historic Indian group. It appears to me that the desire on the part of many Indians in Robeson County to be recognized by the federal government stems in part from just such a search for validation. Now this isn’t all there is to the desire for federal recognition. Certainly the Lumbee would benefit from better health facilities if they were recognized by the federal government, but I don’t think that is the main source of Lumbee motivation for official recognition. As I say, I think part of it stems from the search for outside validation but also with many Lumbees “recognition” is a moral point. Many Indians in Robeson County feel as if the federal government has neglected them for many years. Official recognition on the part of the federal government that they are indeed Indian would be something of an apology and a confession on the part of the federal government that officialdom has been lax in recognizing not only that the Lumbees are Indian but a respectable and worthy community in the world.
(P 65) Part VI – Conclusion
As I said in the beginning of this paper, the main reason I decided not to write an article for the Smithsonian is that I did not want to add more confusion into an already confused situation. I feel that before any publication comes out we need to gather as much evidence as can possibly be gathered. At this point, I don’t think that I will change my mind on the broad outlines of Lumbee history but much of our evidence is indirect evidence and to make a case on indirect evidence, you need mountains of it. Direct evidence would be something like if in the records of Granville and Edgecombe Counties the ancestor of the Lumbees were listed as half-breed Indians instead of Mulattoes. More, if we had a few quotes or observation about the tribal background of these frontier families we would be “in clover.” However, we don’t have that sort of evidence and I don’t expect we ever will. We will have to build our case on indirect evidence. Now, I, myself, do not think that oral history is indirect evidence. I think it is very solid direct evidence. Many scholars, however, so not agree with me so I think that in order to make our case we have to have as much evidence from the records as possible and most such evidence is indirect evidence.
I think we need to find out, for instance, how many “mulattoes” in the Granville-Edgecombe area in the 1750s fought in Hugh Wadell’s army, if that is possible. I think we have to find out if Colonel Nash took some people with him in the early 1760s when he moved from the Granville County area to the area of New Bern. I think we have to do some work on the migration of the (p 66) Hatteras from the east into Robeson County. We need to do some more diligent searching in northeastern NC land records and church records. I think we have to do some work in Virginia and SC. We have to make the picture as complete as possible, with mountains of indirect evidence. Much of the material I have presented in this paper has been indirect evidence. I think to really do Lumbee history the way it should be done, we will have to look at all of southeastern Virginia, eastern NC and central SC between 1730 and 1840. This means that after we are through we will not only have a history of the Lumbee but also a history of all of the Indian groups in the region. I think it is a big job of research but it will be well worth it by the time we get through.
For some groups like the Haliwa and the Meherrin and the descendants of the Nottowa (sic) of southeastern VA I think such research might be the basis of a land claim against the US which would allow these people to collect quite a bit of money. The main thing I would like to see done is to give the Lumbee a documented, authentic history that is “nailed down,” so that all these confusions can be cleared up once and for all.
The other thing I would like to see done, as an anthropologist, is really secondary to the historic research on origins; and that is some research on modern Lumbee culture. I don’t know very much about modern Lumbee culture, needless to say, but it appears to be very interesting; and much more distinctive and “Indian” than one would think. For instance, the curing complex and the religion, just offhandedly and impressionistically, appears to me to be some kind of historic combination of Indian, white, (p 67) and black patterns which then evolved uniquely among the Lumbee people in Robeson County.
Personality wise, Lumbees, to me, most resemble the Metis of Saskatchewan. They are a folk people, but lusty and outgoing with a strong sense of personal and group honor. I would guess that the Metis are very much the product of their French voyageur ancestors and I would guess that the Lumbees as personalities hark back to that frontier era between 1740 and 1790 when they were both forming as a people and moving on the frontier as well. What I can glean from history about the ancestors of the modern Lumbee point to a lusty “free-wheeling” frontier type who must have resembled the mountain men of the west or the Metis in the prairies of Canada.
The other feature I think needs some anthropological work is Lumbee English. Lumbees can usually recognize another Lumbee by his English and also recognize the dialects among Lumbee settlements in Robeson County. Importantly, this dialect appears to by symbolic of Lumbee identity. It is true that the Lumbees do not speak an Indian language, but they certainly speak a kind of English which has become symbolic of their identity and this in itself is interesting, scientifically.
Lumbee social organization is fascinating; one hears of the Lowery settlement, the Brooks settlement, the Oxendine settlement, and the Lockleer settlement. These are almost small tribes which have maintained themselves through strict patrilocal residence. There are many cultural features about the Lumbees which are probably both unique to them as a people and from which one could also get some notion of the different components which have (p 68) contributed to the formation of modern Lumbee Indian culture in Robeson County.
(P 69) Part VII – Appendix
As I said in the previous section, if we really did this research up right we would know the history of all the Indians in eastern NC, southeastern Virginia and central SC, plus perhaps gather some very important material on the refugee tribes from the Granville-Edgecombe area who went west into the Appalachians. So in this final section, I would like to say just briefly what we know about other Indian groups or what I suspect at this point about other Indian groups in this region.
First, let me examine the Haliwa. At this point it looks as if the Richardsons were part of the Pan-Indian “pot” in the Granville-Edgecombe area in the 1750s. By the 1770s the Richardsons had moved further west and were in Chatham County. After the Revolution one of the Richardson brothers returned to Halifax County and was granted a large acreage of land in that area where he proceeded to raise a big family. Other stragglers who had not moved out of this section west or south began to cluster around the Richardsons – Lynch, Harris and so forth. Ater 1802, I think at last some of the remnants of the Tuscaroras in Bertie County moved into the Richardson area; the Copelands, Silvers and perhaps a few other families. I have not seen Ernest Jaycock’s material so I am only guessing. Some of these people who clusters around the Richardsons might also have been recent newcomers from Virginia into the area. For instance, I suspect perhaps the Evans family was such a one.
The Coharie Siouan seem to be primarily Hatteras mixed with a few refugee tribes from the Granville-Edgecombe area who moved (p 70) in with the Hatteras to form a community on the Neuse. The Indians in Hoke and Cumberland Counties are simply Lumbee “stragglers”. The Indians in Montgomery County ar Lumbees that moved west from Hoke County.
I would guess that the modern Waccamaws are the descendants of Indians who moved south from Sampson County or perhaps the Neuse, as well as Indians who came back into that area from SC; that is to say, some of the refugee tribes from the Granville-Edgecombe area who had gone to SC gravitated back to the Waccamaw Lake area. I would guess that such is also true of Indians of western Columbus County.
The Indian groups in SC, except for the ones near Charleston and Cheraw, appear to be descendants of people from the Granville-Edgecombe area. As I stated earlier many people went from the Granville-Edgecombe area directly to SC and then some of them came back to Robeson County in the late 1700s. In the 20th century of course, the Smilings moved en masse from Sumter County to Robeson County.
The small group of people known to whites as Marlboro Blues near Cheraw, SC are undoubtedly Cheraw Indians or at least Cheraw who have mixed in with Indian refugees from northeastern NC.
The Indians near Hamlet in Richmond Co., NC seem to have moved over into NC from the Cheraw area sometime in the early part of the last century.
There are two other groups in NC which are interesting as well. One are the mixed-blood families who live near Wilmington on the Cape fear and who I understand now identify as (P 71) black. There is also a small group of people between Kinston and Snow Hill at a place called Brownstown who are also former Indians recently assimilated into the black population. The Browns appear to me to be what remains of that old community on the Neuse and the Cape Fear people are “Indians” from the Granville-Edgecombe area who settled in that section and did not maintain their Indian identity.
The Indians in Person County are still somewhat of a puzzle to me. I can find evidence of them in the 1760s on Island Creek where it runs into the Roanoke on the Virginia side, north of present-day Henderson, NC. It looks to me that by 1850 they had moved farther west to the south of Clarksville and that after the Civil War they began to drift west and south into NC. I do not think they are necessarily connected to the group formerly in Granville and Edgecombe Counties. I would suspect that they are primarily Virginia Indians from the Powhatan area east of Richmond, but further research will have to tell us that.
The Indians further west near Stoneville, NC in Rockingham County who are primarily Goings and Harris seem to be simply drop offs from the main migration straight west from the NC frontier to Newman’s Ridge, TN.
I have some idea now of the broad outlines of the history of the Indians in the Cumberland area of Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky but there needs to be quite a bit more work done in that widely scattered group.
The work on the Haliwa could be done very quickly as well as on the Indian groups in Sampson and Columbus Counties. The (p 72) research on Person County Indians might be, however, a major job since they are not part of, or so it appears to me at this time, that general exodus out of the NC frontier in 1750 into other areas.
There are a few Lumbee “off-shoots” I would like to visit in the near future – one group near Grouse in Lincoln County, NC; another at Swananoa near Asheville; and the last in Macon County near Franklin, NC.
I would, especially, like to look at the area of Skeetertown near Suffolk, VA. I believe this formerly Indian, now black, community is the source of many of the families that went to the Granville-Edgecombe area in NC in 1750.
Thomas discusses Tri-racial isolates communities hypotheses of Lumbee origin that came from Edward Thomas Price, who did his dissertation on mixed-blood communities in the Eastern United States (see The Lumbee Indians: an annotated bibliography, item # 705). According to Thomas, Price believes the Lumbee “are basically the descendants of an old strata of free blacks which came into being before the Revolution, who have absorbed a lot of white blood over time and a small but incidental amount of Indian blood” (p. 14). Thomas points out what he feels are flaws in this hypothesis. This question could be solved today by DNA regarding some of these clans DNA tests strongly points to Edward T. Price theory as correct even though Price 1953 report came 23 years before Thomas 1976.