“Their identity has done more than allow the Lumbee to survive–it has been an active, motivating force enabling them to flourish-” Karen Blu
The Lumbee are a Native American tribe recognized by the state of North Carolina. The name “Lumbee” is derived from the word lumber or Lumber River, which winds through Robeson County, North Carolina. The river was named for the extensive lumber trade in the region in the early 19th century.
The area of North Carolina today called home by the Lumbee is Robeson County. Until 1787 it was part of Bladen County. When North Carolina Governor Matthew Rowan dispatched surveying parties in 1753 to count Indians in the state, the report stated there were “no Indians in the county.”
In the first federal census of 1790, the ancestors of the Lumbee were among those enumerated as “free persons of color”. In the 1870 census, the first in which “Indian” was a separate category, almost all Robeson County residents with surnames since associated as Lumbee were classified as “Mulatto.”
In 1885, the politician Hamilton McMillan proposed the theory that the Lumbee were the descendants of England’s “Lost Colony” (the Roanoke Colony), who intermarried with the Hatteras (Croatan), an Algonquian-speaking people. The state legislature accepted McMillan’s proposal, identifying traditionally free people of color in Robeson County as Indian in 1885, after the Reconstruction era. The Lost Colony legend suggested that the entire Lumbee population grew out of intermarriage between survivors of the 121 stranded colonists and the Hatteras (Croatan) Indians. This assertion has not been supported by mainstream historians or anthropologists.
After the 1885 recognition by the State of North Carolina as Croatan Indians, the Lumbee unsuccessfully sought federal recognition thereafter. In 1952, after a request from tribal members, the Robeson County Commissioners conducted a tribal referendum on the tribal name. Tribal members voted for adoption of the name “Lumbee Indians of North Carolina”. The Lumbee claim to be descendants of the Cheraw and related Siouan-speaking tribes originally inhabiting part of the coastal regions of the state of North Carolina. Some members claim to be descendants of the Iroquoian-speaking Tuscarora tribe, who before 1722 inhabited northeastern North Carolina.
In 1956, the United States Congress passed H.R. 4656, known as the Lumbee Act, which recognized the Lumbee as Native American people, but did not recognize them as an official tribe. In consultation with the tribe, as a condition of recognition, Congress excluded the Lumbee from receiving the federal services ordinarily provided to federally recognized tribes through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As the only tribe in this circumstance, the Lumbee have since sought full federal recognition through congressional legislation.
Such recognition through congressional legislation is supported by some federally recognized tribes (e.g. the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) and opposed by others, including the Tuscarora Nation of New York and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina.
Tribalpedia’s Questions for Comprehension and Discussion
1. What state are the Lumbee recognized by?
2. Where didi the name “Lumbee” derive from?
3. Who was Hamilton McMillan, and what theory did he propose concerning the Lumbee People?
4. In 1956 the Lumbee Act was passed. Explain what was this act entailed.
5. Are the Lumbee federally recognized today?
Today the Lumbee people reside in North Carolina. They have a a system of government with three branches, Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. Their programs for members include, Elder outreach services, energy assistance for members who need financial help. The Lumbee also have educational programs to enrich the lives of their children. Their annual Pow-wow is held during May, and includes male and female dance competitions, with special drumming contests. the people are happy and proud of their heritage.
Lumbee Myth: Legend of Braveheart and the Tuscarora Girl
…Braveheart was a handsome young Lumbee Warrior. One day he was by the Lumber River in North Carolina. The Tuscarora Tribe were strong then. They had a great success in Carolina and even the Iroquois cared once the Tuscarora join up with them. But, the Tuscarora wished to be alone. And on that day, A young Tuscarora girl was bathing in the Lumber River near what is now called “Boardman.” Her name was “Early Sun.” And Braveheart saw her, that she was “fair” and he thought, “What a lovely Lumbee maiden.” She heard him on the banks as he moved along and she thought, “This will be my Warrior.” And he was. They were both in the River together that first day they met and there they became eternal mates. She would henceforth be his and his a “alone” for the Lumbee believed in “Monogamous relationships” and denied others.
And on that day as they lay by the Riverbanks in the pure White Sands there, Braveheart and Early Sun saw a black Crow appear. And suddenly, the Crow flew to the left to umble skies above and then disappeared. A White God appeared and they quickly gathered their things and left together. A Storm was soon to come. And Braveheart took Early Sun miles away. The Storm was full of winds, lightning, and hail. The Crow had spared them just in time. And Braveheart would “follow the Crow for all of his days.”
It came to pass that Early Sun would have a child, a son. On the day she did, Braveheart could not be by her side. He had to be at a conflict with a group of the Cherokee. Its sad, Braveheart was killed. Early Sun had gained the glory of a son and the loss her mate on the same day. Her heart was trully broken and she broke an arrow (which was a Lumbee symbol for a broken heart then). Only in her dreams of Braveheart could she share his love.
One day, some white settlers appeared. They raped many Lumbee girls and slew many men and children. She lost her firstborne to the attack and was also raped by three white men. She was in tears and made her way to the river near what is the town of Boardman today. There, she cried out to the heavens, lying there by the banks for many many days. She refused to eat even berries. Then one day, Early Sun saw the crow again. The Crow flew to the Left of heaven, which meant she was to leave this world. Early Sun wanted to die. She wanted to end the pain as exemplified by the broken arrow. She refused to leave.
Soon, she saw him. It was trully Braveheart again! Chills ran all over her to see the one she loved. He embraced her beneath the morning Sun. They went to the middle of the river where Early Sun drowned. This would be such a sad tale but after Early Sun drowned, now and then, she could be seen as a spirit in the Lumber River. Even truck drivers today crossing that river along the highway have told of the “River Spirit,” sighting a young indain maiden in the midst of the river, especially on foggy mornings when cool winds blow.
There she is, waiting for her love, waiting for Braveheart still. Times come and times go but Early Sun waits, love endures. But, now and then, someone sees her. Now and then, someone tells of seeing the spirit of Early Sun again.Except for the words of an elderly Lumbee lady now passed, this Legend would be lost. The Lumbee loved the crow, the same God of Isaac and Abraham. The Lumbee lived in harmony with this World, God, and nature. But, stop there one foggy morning, look closely, maybe you will see her, Early Sun, the “River Spirit”, and think about the love she knew and lost….
Words/Phrases from the Reading
North Carolina Governor Matthew Rowan
H.R. 4656, known as the Lumbee Act,
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma)