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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Brenda Brewington Brooks
Interviewer: Dr. Samuel Proctor
July 31, 1972
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Brenda Brewington Brooks
Interviewer: Dr. Samuel Proctor
July 31, 1972
Her concern for the plight of the Lumbee Indian has made
Brenda Brooks one of the most politically active women in her
community. Her dedication and effort has resulted in a marked
increase in the number of registered Lumbee voters. Her personal
sacrifice, as mother and wife, and commitment to the Lumbee
tradition has forged a new role model for Lumbee women.
Mrs. Brooks is optimistic toward the future of the Lumbee
Indian community. That optimism, however, is built around pride
in Lumbee history that must be cultivated and passed on. She
hopes that her efforts will be integral in the continuance of
P: This is an Oral History interview that we are doing this
afternoon in Mrs. Brooks'living room. Let me ask you to give
your full name.
B: Brenda Brewington Brooks.
P: This is an interview with Mrs. Brooks. We are in the living room
of her home here in Pembroke, North Carolina and this is the
afternoon of July 31, 1972. Now, Mrs. Brooks, you would not mind
telling us your birth date and place would you?
B: I was born in Pembroke, North Carolina, Robeson County, on a farm
about three miles north of here May 19, 1943.
P: 1943, that seems like only yesterday to me. So, you are a native
B: Yes, I am.
P: Your folks [are] from here too?
B: Yes, my father is from North Carolina, about seventy-eight miles
north of here in an area that is the home of Indians who have
many relatives in Robeson county and in the Clinton, North
Carolina area. My mother is from Robeson county.
P: What was her name?
B: Cara May Johnson.
P: Is that an Indian name, Johnson?
B: Yes, it is.
P: I knew there were a lot of names like Dial which you could
identify as being Indian here, but I did not know about Johnson.
So they are Indian, full blooded Indian?
B: Yes, they are. My mother's mother was a Revels, and my daddy's
mother was a Jacobs. These names are the names that are
prevalent on the list today.
P: You were educated here in Pembroke?
B: Yes, within a mile of my home I attended the Pembroke Elementary
School. I then moved right across campus to the Pembroke High
School. Then, I moved to the adjoining university campus.
P: Now, I was going to ask you about your education. The thing that
I would like to find out is, were you aware of any particular
Indian discrimination when you were in elementary school or
junior high school?
B: No, our school was predominantly Indian. I never thought of any
other race. To my knowledge there were no black kids in the
elementary school that I attended. At that time, it was not a
junior high. I never attended a class with a black in high
school. In college there were no blacks yet admitted to our
P: Where did you graduate high school?
B: Pembroke High School.
P: Were there white children in the high school?
B: Yes, there were. Some of the teachers who taught in our schools
were wives of professors at the university and their children
often came to our school. Many of them were transported to
private schools and the catholic school over in Lumberton. But
we just accepted them because their parents seemed to fit into
our society by accepting the teaching position.
P: Was there much social intercourse between the white children and
the Indian children by the time you got up to the ninth, tenth,
and eleventh grades?
B: Well, there were not that many children to really make a definite
impression on me. But there were no problems and the ones who
were there, we attended the same activities. They did inter-
P: That is what I was going to ask you, about the dating. Was there
any problem there?
B: No. Not in the high school. Those who attended the high school,
we accepted, and we visited in their homes. We were as one,
almost. In college, there was a different picture.
P: Now how about the town itself of Pembroke, were you sensitive to
Indian discrimination there?
B: No, again if there was any discrimination, I would have to say
maybe we subjected someone else to it; because we are
predominantly Indian here. Everything, though it may have been
owned by whites, we were the majority of the population. There
were Indians in the stores working and there was no
P: You felt that the economic impact that the Indians had then,
tended to hold down discrimination.
B: Possibly I could say that, but then I have to say that the
economic status was held down as far as levels of advancement for
the Indian people. One specific example is a big company here
that has been here for years and years. Many of our forefathers
have been dependent upon Pate Supply Company. They hire blacks
and Indians very freely, yet, to this day in the main office of
Pate Supply I do not know an Indian secretary or an Indian man
who has an executive position in the company. Though most of the
Indian people are somehow related to Pate Supply by borrowing
money, living on a farm as tenant farmers, or just having to ask
a cosigner of a note or something like this.
P: Where did you go to college?
B: Pembroke State University.
P: Right here.
B: Yes, for four years.
P: Now what did you mean that the situation was changed somewhat
when you were in college?
B: Because there were more whites, I did feel the difference as far
as not necessarily discrimination but barriers, especially in
dating. I was often asked by white boys from the local towns for
dates, and they would gladly have dated me but they would not
have taken me into their homes to meet their parents or to make
me a part of their society. Therefore, this is the difference I
felt in college that did not exist in high school.
P: Even though it was the same community, you had not felt this in
B: No, because there were not local whites in the high school. They
were bused to a local town ten miles away. They were not in the
high school here.
P: I see. So, in other words, the discrimination against the Lumbee
Indians is basically a local thing, not a general thing.
P: This is what I wanted to make sure we got on the tape. Its not
the same kind of thing as applies to blacks all over the south.
B: No. I think our biggest barrier is the local county. Once we
get above the county level, I think there is no problem.
P: In your own mind as you look at it what is the basis of this
anti-Indian attitude in Robeson county?
B: Well, I think because the Indian is finding himself, so to speak,
he is becoming aware that he is a human being with potential. We
are beginning to develop this potential and not be dependent upon
someone to read a letter and interpret it for us or write a legal
document for us. We are beginning to develop ourselves.
This is a threat to the old power structure. Right now,
especially, we are having tremendously fast change throughout
this county. I think this is one reason why maybe we could use
the term anti-Indian as far as the white is concerned.
P: As I understand it, in talking to others, that the attitude
toward the Indian was more antagonistic, let us say before World
War II, the 1920's and the 1930's, than it has been in recent
years. That there were situations where you had separate
restroom facilities and so on. I was wondering what the basis
for it was, as you look at it, before the Indians became a
B: Well, that was before my time, because I was born during the
World War II years. But, I have heard my grandparents and my
husband's father, especially, talk much about the situation in
our county. He could go into a drug store and buy a drug at the
pharmacy, yet, they would not sell him a coke to take a dose of
medicine in that establishment. I have dated white boys, and I
would be allowed to sit in the white section of a theater. If I
went to a theater with an Indian boy, they directed us to the
Indian section, and it was divided into three parts.
P: Now tell me why you think that that was true in the earlier days?
B: I think because we submitted to their authority so much. We did
not question anything that was done from the people who had
exercised the power. We just figured that they knew the legality
and the right way so to speak.
P: You accepted.
B: We accepted so long.
P: You accepted segregation without questioning.
B: Without questioning it.
P: Either its moral or its legal basis.
B: Right. I think this is our sad fault, but this was true we just
P: In other words your parents and your grandparents accepted being
second class citizens.
P: And now that the Indian is sort of beginning to find himself this
P: You were not subjected to this to the same degree that your
parents were, and your children will be even less than you.
B: Right, and my parents did not make the encounters that we are
making now. My mother and father would never have thought of
going in to the Board of Elections, questioning forms that had
been turned in to allow the person to register and vote. Because
they say something is wrong, it was just accepted that is wrong.
You do not get the benefits of whatever the service is to be.
P: What about the community right now? Have all the vestiges of
discrimination been eliminated like the separate seating in the
theaters and the separate restrooms and so on?
B: Well, not all the vestiges have been eliminated. They are in
more subtle type ways now. Maybe do not have the physical
separate divisions, but there are subtle forces that still cause
these things to exist.
Maybe it is because the people do not go to the theaters anymore
like they did at one time. So therefore the division would not
be necessary. The physical walls are not there anymore.
P: Is there any residential segregation at all in Pembroke?
P: White sections versus Indian sections?
B: No. They are all open but we have sections where the people just
instinctively go themselves. But there are no sections that we
are told or that are barred from.
P: Is there such a thing as organizational discrimination? Women's
Clubs or Country Clubs or other types of things that you might
have subtle discrimination?
B: Yes, very much so. We have what we call the Robeson County
Democrat Women's Club of which I was a member. Because of the
way that they operated I chose not to become a member the next
time that fees were due. It was only through subtle type ways
that this discrimination was displayed. Nothing that I could
actually pinpoint or say "See this." It was just ways that are
very difficult sometimes to bring our and to show someone.
P: How about social discrimination? Are there social clubs here
that discriminate against the Lumbee Indians?
B: There are very few clubs to begin with. Most of the clubs are
for men: the Lions and the old clubs, Kiwanis and the Jaycees.
Well, the Jaycees is a tri-racial organization here. I think at
one time they had one black in the local Pembroke Jaycee unit.
But as far as the segregation in these clubs, it supposedly does
P: What about the political make-up of Pembroke; to what degree are
the Indians involved in the local political decisions?
B: As far as Pembroke, it is divided concerning the county, a
precinct itself. Since we are predominantly Indian we naturally
have control of Pembroke. But we have thirty-nine precincts in
the county. Out of the population we are supposedly divided by
thirds, one third black, one third white and one third Indian.
However, if you look at the representatives it does not display
the same proportions. Again, these are subtle type barriers
that cause the situation to exist as it does.
We have had many people endeavor to seek office. Especially our
school situation is the next area that I hope to become quite
actively involved in. We have a seven man board. There is one
black and one Indian on that seven man board.
P: Even though the blacks and the Indians constitute two thirds of
B: Right. They have eighty percent or more of the children in the
schools which these men govern. It is just sad to see that they
are governed by whites whose kids probably do not even attend the
county schools. They go to the city units.
P: Is Lumberton the county seat?
B: Yes. Lumberton is the center of the county.
P: Is this anti-Indian, Lumberton? I am talking about the political
B: Well, we think of Lumberton as being sort of the courthouse ring,
we refer to it, as every community has. Most of the federal and
state agencies are located in Lumberton, and the courthouse is
there, the county courthouse. Most times when we have gone to
the courthouse its been because we had to go pay our taxes or
deal with some agency. We just sort of think of Lumberton as
being the power structure.
P: Is this an incorporated community? Do you have a mayor and a
B: Yes, we have a mayor and a five board councilmen.
P: What is the Indian representation in the city government?
B: The mayor is Indian and I think there is one white on the board.
P: Is this a recent development, having an Indian as mayor?
B: No. The mayor has been Indian for as far back as I can remember.
I do not know if this has always been true but as far back as I
P: Do the Lumbee have any representative at the state government?
B: No. Right now we have four representatives in the house. We
have one senator. The senator is the Honorable Luther Widden,
Jr., who prior to that position was the chairman of the county
Democratic Party. We have one black representative serving his
first term, Dr. Jay Joey Johnson. We have Mary Odom, a school
teacher, who is serving her first term, and she was defeated in
the last election. We have representative Gus Sprios, who is a
big construction owner. And we have Will McFaden in an adjoining
county who is in the house of representatives, who was defeated.
P: No Indians?
B: No Indians.
P: Do they in any way represent an Indian philosophy?
B: I quite hesitantly say that Mr. Spiros has been congenial with
some of the Indians, some of us think. I would like to think
that our closest inroad to state government would be through Dr.
Joey Johnson, the black man.
P: I was going to ask you, did he get elected with Indian support?
B: He got elected with Indian support, and because Mr. Spiros helped
us get the single shot vote. I think this did it. Prior to the
election in which he won, if there were four vacancies we had to
vote for four representatives. By getting the single shot vote,
we were able to vote for one and only one. This enabled him to
P: How have the Indians worked out with the police in the county?
Have you had any special problems?
B: We have had no special problems. But for example in our thirty-
three man sheriff's department, we have one black and seven
P: Short of two-thirds.
B: But it is fairly good picture compared to some of the other
county agencies. There are about one hundred and eighty jobs in
the county, and there is a very, very low percentage that
represent the black and Indian. I am continually saying black
because I feel like our situation is so common, that we share the
same problems. I have worked quite closely with the blacks in
the last years.
P: In the case of the police, both the local police and the county
police, have they been particularly restrictive toward Indians?
Do you feel they are harder on Indians than they are on the other
B: Well, I think that I would have reason to say they are harder on
the Indians. Because when we have students involved in the same
crime, and we see the results, some of the penalties that are
subjected to the Indian and then the whites. I think the
difference is in the treatment just at the time of the arrest or
the confrontation. I think this would make me believe that they
are harder on the Indians.
P: How about the Feds? Federal government and their expenditures
here? Do you feel that the Indians are getting a shake through
the OEO [Office of Equal Opportunity] and HEW [Department of
Health, Education and Welfare]?
B: I think the Indians are getting their fair share of these funds.
But what I am not sure of, and I would like to see more
investigation done is on how these funds are used. They are
supposedly being used for Indians, but are we sure that we are
recipients of the funds that we are supposed to be getting?
This is the question I ask.
P: Now, your are a mother. How many children do you have?
B: I have two sons. One four years old and one two years old.
P: Your children are not in school then.
B: No. I often leave them, and they feel like they belong someplace
else. They are often in someone else's home or in a nursery type
P: Well, the question I was going to ask had to do with the schools.
How do you feel about the schools in Pembroke as an Indian
B: I have taught in the schools in Pembroke. At least a school in
Pembroke. I taught in the adjoining county, Hope County, for two
years. And I taught in this county for about six months. I feel
as far as the facilities, they could be improved. As far as the
students taking advantage of what we have to offer, perhaps it is
because we have many, many teachers. I may fit into this
category, who have gone into teaching because this was what was
available to us and perhaps we were better fitted for some other
vocation. Consequently, who suffers? The students. I feel we
have the facilities.
P: Now you are talking about students in general and really what I
wondered is whether you thought that there were any special
problems for Indian children?
B: Well, because we are predominantly Indian we have problems I feel
that we are creating the problems too. I feel that there has
been some discrimination in the control of teachers in the
Recently there was a school workshop sponsored for fourteen year
olds and somewhat below for children who were interested in
basketball. I noticed the teachers they got to teach these kids
were all white teachers. They had a few black students and a few
Indians. There was no one with whom these kids could identify
and immediately feel comfortable and perhaps display their full
potential because here they are meeting the same situation.
Someone they look at as elevated or a little bit better than
they. I feel had they had Indian teachers in there to help with
this workshop of seventy-eight boys, this could have drawn out
more of the potential of our boys.
P: To what degree do you feel that the Lumbee Indians are trying to
identify themselves as Indians?
B: I think this is quite prevalent among us especially right now.
We have this very strong sense of Indian-ism right now. For the
last year it seems to be building momentum. As far as ways to
bring this out we started celebrating an annual Lumbee Indian
Homecoming every fourth of July. Doing things that display
Indian-ism is becoming more prevalent among us.
P: Do you think that this is true of all the Lumbee or just people
like you who are educated and, you know, young and sensitive to
B: Oh, no. I think it is quite a part of the older people. Maybe
more strongly than with young people like me, who would like to
exert their efforts more in the political realm and others that
could bring definite change. As far as the Indian-ism, I think
maybe some of the older people feel it more strongly.
P: How is Indian-ism being revived here? Is there any attempt made
to re-establish the Lumbee Indian crafts.
B: There is an effort being made for a Henry Berry Lowry College.
This is a hero we look to. He is an outlaw in the history books
of the white. But to us he was a hero. We are having efforts
made for a Henry Berry Lowry College which hopes to become active
in the fall to teach crafts and to teach teachers how to teach
P: Where would this be?
B: It would be here. Right now we are in the process of getting
grants for financing. It has been chartered by the state
already. My husband is serving as chairman of the board and
hopefully this will become a full program. Right now we are
having Saturday classes that we call longhouse. Here the
children of varying ages are taught crafts and dancing. They are
taught Indian songs and Indian literature.
P: Now what kind of crafts and dances and language and literature
are they being taught?
B: Well, we have a guy who is blind, and he is teaching something
about straw baskets. This type of weaving.
P: Was this a Lumbee craft? Straw baskets?
B: It was not a unique pattern. It is just something that he has
learned. He may have learned it at a blind school. I do not
know just where he learned it.
P: But it is not necessarily just a Lumbee craft?
B: No, it is not a traditional craft.
P: Are there any special crafts that are associated with the Lumbee?
B: No. I do not know if you know anything about the unique history
of the Lumbee but as far as having a special craft, a special
language, a special dress, custom, to my knowledge and to the
knowledge of many older than me, I do not think we can trace any
said styles as far as these things are concerned.
P: Nothing in the tradition of the Lumbee that would suggest that
18th or 19th century Lumbee were pottery makers.
P: No special skills that were different than other Indians.
P: So your children then are being taught the Indian culture, not
necessarily just the Lumbee Indian culture.
B: That is right. We have again accepted the white culture so
freely that if we did have uniquenesses that were Lumbee they
seemingly have been lost along the way because we were just too
P: Does the folk tradition suggest that there were certain aspects
of the culture which might now be dead?
B: There are possibly some. I cannot definitely make that
statement, but there possibly are some that maybe my father could
relate more easily.
P: Are the Lumbee very genealogically minded?
B: Some of us. I think especially my father's family. I have an
uncle who has done quite a bit of study about his family. As far
as the younger generation, my age group, now I think we are more
so than our fathers and their fathers. Some of us are quite
P: Has any attempt been made to organize a Lumbee Historical
B: Not as such. There is an Indian professor who is on leave right
now doing a study of the Lumbee Indians.
P: Professor Dial?
B: Yes, Professor Adolph Dial.
P: He met with us this morning before you came. So, I had a chance
to meet him.
B: I think this is going to be one of the most extensive studies
that we will have had done on us.
P: Because really very little is published about the Lumbee in
anthropological journals and in journals like that. So much of
the Lumbee past is relatively undiscovered.
B: Right, and these are some of the things that we are seeking
through the Henry Berry Lowry College; to seek out and find any
ancestry culture or custom or anything that may have existed but
just not perpetuated.
P: And you said that the state has chartered this college. How much
sympathy are you getting for the college?
B: From the state?
P: From the state. Outside of Pembroke.
B: None. I do not think we even get encouragement because of such
frivolous things as sending in a paper to get it chartered or
other such legalities we have to go through. Insignificant
little things like having two persons sign a paper, and they send
it to another person who supposedly should have signed it. We
get him to sign it and send it back. Then they send it back
again. We have to get this person to sign it again and get it
notarized. To me it was frivolous. But we are not encouraged on
the state level.
P: How about the federal level?
B: Well, because it has not been under way long enough to reach
federal level, I am sure we would get more cooperation from the
federal level than we would county or state.
P: Of course, it is going to take money. I think you all know that
better than anybody.
P: What about the town itself? Are there people in the town, in
Pembroke or in the whole area, who are recognized as spokesmen
for the Indian cause?
B: Well, there are certain personalities. If people come in for
various reasons, there are certain persons they seek out to get
information, whatever it may be. As far as having a leader or
spokesman, I think because Pembroke is the center of the county
Indian community, we have made greater efforts as far as getting
an education. Because we are all a little bit educated we will
not accept a leader. We will not accept one man to stand up and
voice the opinion for all of us.
I think if we could accept a leader we could be stronger,
especially in the political realm. I think this is why we have
been ignored so much. We are so scattered and we are not
completely together. We do not have a spokesman. Therefore,
they do not have to worry because we counteract each other.
P: You do not have a tribal organization then?
P: At all.
P: There is no formal group that speaks for you in Washington or in
B: Recently, there has been organized a North Carolina Commission on
Indian Affairs which, hopefully, will come to this. But right
now because they are so poorly funded, they are not functioning
very strongly. Dalton Brooks is chairman of this particular
commission and the mayor of Pembroke is the regular director of
the commission. They have representatives from four Indian
groups in North Carolina who serve on the commission. This
could be a very strong sounding board for the Indians of North
Carolina, and hopefully it will become so.
P: Who takes care of Indians needs? Supposing you have a problem of
an Indian getting into trouble with the police or an indigent
Indian family. Is this a community responsibility or an Indian
B: If a person is in trouble with the police, he becomes a victim of
the judicial process. Often times it is quite bad how it turns
out. We have no Indian judge or lawyer in the county.
P: You do not have a godfather type of a set up where the parents
can go when somebody has some influence?
B: Well, there are persons who influence persons in the power
structure. But as far as being able to go and perhaps get an
offense completely wiped off before it gets to the courts,
perhaps this goes on and I am just not big enough politically to
know about it yet. As far as having a person like this that we
automatically go to, no there is no one.
P: What about the other question about indigents? Is there somebody
or some agency or some Indian fund that takes care of Indians who
are stranded or Indians who are unemployed or Indians who are
having economic problems?
B: Well there is a group or an organization that is sponsored by the
Methodist Foundation called the Robeson County Church and
Community Center that is set up to help tri-racially. Indians do
resort to this quite much if there are cases that come up and
they need immediate or emergency help. But as far as having a
strictly Indian organization or fund there is no such thing.
P: What about your own special interests in the Indian cause?
B: Well, it is so varied maybe that is why it is not so successful
thus far. I served as a member of the North Carolina Civil
P: This is an appointment from the governor?
B: No. This is an appointment form the Federal Civil Rights
Commission. They submitted names, and they screened these names,
and the persons they select are notified to serve for the state.
There are twelve members in North Carolina. The area of civil
rights that I am concerned with of course is political
participation. Another area that I am serving in is with the
social services in the county. I served as a member of the
advisory board to our welfare department. Since most of the
recipients are eighty percent black or Indian, I think we do need
someone sympathetic with the client who can somewhat understand
the red tape and the executive position.
In the welfare department I do everything voluntarily. I am not
officially employed in any capacity so I can pretty well get as
active and involved without these subtle pressures or
jeopardizing my job; maybe not my life but my job.
P: How about political participation point of view? What are some
of our goals for the Lumbee?
B: To have equal representation in this county especially in the
educational realm. I feel that this is the basis of the whole
problem. We must educate our Indian people before we can expect
them to go out and with their own initiative and become
registered and understand the importance of voting. I think if
we can correct out educational system that this will be a great
step forward for getting involvement or getting participation on
the part of the Lumbee in Robeson county.
P: Isn't this a long range, long drawn out kind of process?
B: This is and there are other areas that we are having to make
efforts in because as far as doing it strictly from an
educational basis it would take twenty years.
P: You might wait another whole generation before that could be
B: Right. But now we are trying to do it. It is very slow. We are
trying to do some citizenship training. I have served as a
registrar for the county for one year, and I managed to register
2,077 people, predominantly Indian. I registered whites, and I
registered blacks. But most of my effort was going to Indian
groups, wherever they would meet, what ever hours they met and
register them and try to talk to them concerning the importance
Many of them will not register and vote because they are tenant
farmers. The farmers would say if you register to vote you look
for someplace else to live. They do it, as I say, in subtle type
ways. Many of these people would not stand up and say it or even
let me use their names in retelling the story.
I plan an open hearing as far as political participation is
concerned the latter part of September. I hope to have Indian
people to testify before my North Carolina Civil Rights Committee
concerning the political participation and some of the barriers
that exist. I had one white land owner tell me, "Do not go to
that house. They live on my damn farm, and they vote the way I
say to vote." Of course, I did not go that day, but I went back
I went from house to house with a lot of opposition from state
level down. I was a special registrar. They said I could go
across precinct lines. Then when I started performing ny duty,
neglecting my children, going any hour, going as long as from
eleven o'clock in the morning until twelve thirty at night
without pay, I got ten per person I registered which did not
nearly pay for my gas and babysitter. Then they started trying
to figure our ways to block me; ways to keep me from going to
these groups. They said I would not go to the blacks. They said
I would not go to whites, but I had proof. I had kept a record,
and I had proof that I had registered whites and blacks.
But there were just so many subtle or institutionalized barriers
that I had to just overcome and take a lot of harassment to be
able to accomplish what I did.
P: Now you said you went to Indian groups wherever they were. What
kind of Indian groups?
B: Well, there were groups in churches. It may be strange to think
but I went to a meeting one night where people were playing
tambourines, and they were shouting and preaching and praying and
singing. They would beat their tambourines awhile. They would
come over to me and they would register to vote and they would go
right back and start their routine again.
Many churches would not do this. The Indian people feel very
strongly about their religious beliefs. They think there should
be a definite separation of church and state, and it was very
difficult to go into any kind of church group to do this. Some
preachers did encourage it, and they are beginning to realize
that they control their congregation quite strongly, and what
they say many of the people would follow.
So we have managed to reach many of the Indian preachers and
through them we have reached groups of people who would let us
register them. I had very few come to my house or come to the
store where I stayed sometimes all day long to register people.
I had to go out to them and give them a good sales talk to
convince them as to the importance of registering and voting.
P: I can understand some of them being reluctant to register and
vote for economic pressures, tenant farmers. But why was there
apathy on the part of the others? You had to seek them out.
B: Right. Well, because they do not feel the importance of it.
They make statements like, "They are going to run it anyhow,"
"Ain't going to do me no good." Even the fact that the jury list
is chosen or selected from the registered voters [does not
persuade them]. They do not want to serve on jury duty, and many
of them would not register to vote for fear their names would
[appear on it] and this is what the power structure would want.
They would want the Indians to be afraid to serve on juries
because most of the clients or the persons prosecuted are Indians
and blacks. The jury is made up of predominantly white. Maybe
it is not true anymore, because they take every seventh person or
every fourth person on the registered list. But when you have
most of the people registered [are] white, if their names are
alphabetized, they fall into the right place there still
predominantly white juries.
P: Is this a lone Indian woman campaign that you are waging?
B: No. I am happy to say that there are many young energetic men
and women throughout the county who are actively involved in
this. This is what is so encouraging. I guess I became active
because of my husband and his brother's activity. We started
meeting with different young people like Mrs. Locklear, with whom
you have talked. She and her husband and many of us, especially,
the thirty years and below. It is just amazing how much interest
has been shown this past year and how much effort has been made
to get people involved.
P: Now, this is an effort to get Indians involved not necessarily
just young people.
B: Right, mainly Indians.
P: This is an Indian program.
B: First Indian and then minority. We feel that even if we get all
the Indians registered we still do not have the power structure.
The Indian population right now is a third supposedly. Even if
we could get all the Indians registered to vote without the
black it would be very difficult to get a minority person in
We found that there was tremendous cooperation between the black
and Indian in the recent election. We have a young thirty-five
year old Indian man who defeated a forty-five year old, twenty-
one years experienced county commissioner. This was done because
of young people like myself sacrificing time, money, and just
being a part of it, going out from door to door. I held a
fishing pole for a man to go vote. I picked a chicken for a man
to go vote. So it takes whatever it takes. It is having
dedicated people to give whatever it takes to accomplish what you
set out to do.
P: How many Indians are there registered to vote in Robeson county?
B: There are 10,680. In the past two years this has increased. It
has come to this increasement from about 2,000 or 8,000,
something before a concentrated effort was made to launch a
P: What about the voting turn out?
B: Well, this time all over the state and nationally I guess you are
aware that it was very poor, about fifty percent. Some of the
predominantly Indian precincts, however, we had participation of
eighteen percent, two years ago. This time because we had an
Indian on the ballot we had as high as fifty-three percent
turnout in some of the predominantly Indian precincts. So maybe
the overall turnout does not really display Indian participation.
Because in the areas which voted on the Indian candidate they did
turnout more strongly than in the areas that were not voting on
P: What is the political philosophy of most of the Indians here?
B: I would have to say liberal, very liberal.
P: Most of them are registered Democrat?
B: Yes, this is a Democratic county, but we do have an Indian
Republican chairman of the board of elections. This is one of
the successes we feel we have made in the last few years. The
first time in the history of the county that we have had tri-
racial board of election and especially to have an Indian
During the process of nominating the Indian chairman, who was
nominated by the black and approved by the white, in some strange
way the information reached the "courthouse ring", as we call it.
Some lawyers from the courthouse came over to the board of
election, which is several blocks away. They called a black
Democrat member of the board out. They told him what a goof-up
he had made. He supposedly assumed that because the man was
Indian that he was a Democrat. That is why he nominated him
chairman. He went back in, tired to withdraw his nomination.
The Indian refused to give up the chairmanship. He said that
according to parliamentary procedure he was officially chairman,
and he was to be chairman until it was settled by someone who had
more authority than the three there.
So, he acted as chairman for several meetings of the board. Then
he did give up the acting chairmanship. He gave it to the white
man who was acting chairman even up to the day almost of our
primary. It had to be settled by the attorney general at the
After the settlement of the chairmanship I think one interesting
thing was that we had the old executive secretary who had been
there for thirteen years, she quit. We now have an Indian
executive secretary. Some of the rumor is out that the Indians
are trying to take over. We have been taking over for centuries.
So more power to us if we can. (laughter)
P: I was asking you about the coming election in November, and we
mentioned that. I asked you if there was going to be any special
empathy toward George McGovern since so many of the Indians are
registered Democrats, and he is projected as the candidates of
B: I think we may be surprised in this coming election. I do not
know whether my people will just not vote or whether they will
feel they will hurt their egos enough and vote Republican. I
just think it is very difficult for them to make a decision right
now concerning this. I do not think they are really sold on
McGovern. Because many of them are Democrats, and are
Democrats because their fathers were Democrats, they think
Democrat. I think it is going to be very difficult for them.
P: Also, what about the Republican party and its attitude toward the
B: I think as an Indian community in Robeson County, we have been
recipients of more advice, funds, and know how through the
Republican party than any other time in the history of my people.
We have been directly affected by the present administration
under Richard Nixon.
P: How do you account for that?
B: Well, I think there are people who are in federal positions like
the Honorable Commissioner Brantley Blue, who is on the Indian
Claims Commission. I think he has been influential, and I think
there are others. We have a local Lumbee girl who has worked in
the federal level as secretary to our state senator for years,
Helen Maynard. I do not recall her last name. But she has been
working for years and years for her people back home. Also,
there are many other people who have, though, in ways maybe we
may not even know about, who have tried to cut inroads to the
P: I get sort of a feeling that Brantley Blue is not one of your
B: I think he is a personal friend. I do not know him that well.
He calls me, and since I have been somewhat involved in the last
year he has called me by phone. But as far as talking to him
personally I do not think I have ever had a conversation with
him. I feel sure that I have not. I do not know him that well,
but I know he has worked hard for my people. And I can see some
of the things he has done but I do not know him as person that
P: I wanted to find out how Adolf Dial got to the convention, the
Democratic National Convention as an Indian delegate.
B: We flipped a quarter between him and a black and he got tails.
P: Oh, there must be a better story than that.
B: At the precinct level we sent delegates to the last Democrat
governor, who was Governor Scott [Governor North Carolina, 1969-
1973]. From my precinct we were allowed sixteen delegates. The
county gets a total of forty-eight votes, so with sixteen Indian
votes, there were fourteen black votes, and twenty white votes.
We went to the county convention. The white power structure
wanted to say they would set up the votes, twenty-four, twelve
and twelve. Twenty-four whites, twelve Indians and twelve
blacks, we did not buy that right off. So they said okay, we
will have twenty white delegates, fourteen blacks and fourteen
Indians. So with the two fourteens we had more votes than the
white and had we worked together, we could have gotten the
They had agreed last time the county commission met that the
chairman next time would be a minority, either a black or Indian.
It was not so. It was only a verbal agreement and it did not
come to pass. They broke another treaty.
They got a white chairman, Mr. John Wishop Campbell, who was a
lawyer over in Lumberton. He did a tremendous job just
controlling the convention that day because there was just great
pressure in there.
All day long we stayed in caucuses. This was funny; they
automatically called a racial caucus. The whites meet over here,
the blacks meet over here and the Indians meet over here. It was
just an automatic thing almost. So we had some communication
with the blacks. They agreed that if we were allowed one
delegate (it is possible that the county would not have gotten a
delegate at all) but they said if Robeson County is given a
delegate the first choice will be a non-white. Then the problem
of which non-white, an Indian or a black.
P: You did not have a Chinese delegate. (laughter)
B: So, the thing actually ended up flipping a coin between a black
and an Indian. The black that was nominated was nominated by a
I do not wholeheartedly feel that he was the choice of the
blacks, because prior to the convention we had heard the name of
a black that was going to be nominated. He was nominated, and
that was supposedly, the way I saw it, the strategy of the whites
to separate the blacks. By having a black against a black, they
are going to be divided.
So our very smart representative, Dr. Joey Johnson, withdrew his
name and left one black in. So then, they flipped a coin to see
who would be first choice, an Indian or a black. Mr. Adolf Dial
won the flip of the coin. Then if there was to be two persons,
the second person would be a white, and if there were to be three
persons from the county, which did not seem probable, the third
person would be black.
At the district level we were to elect seven delegates to the
national conventional Of seven delegates there were six counties
and fourteen alternates, but each county could get a delegate.
With only six counties, each county could have gotten a delegate,
but we had one little tiny county with only eleven votes. So of
course we had a big county with fifty-seven votes.
It seemed that the chairman of all the counties had gotten
together, and they had agreed what each county would get. This
county will get a delegate, this county an alternate or a
delegate and an alternate, and they had it supposedly ironed out
when they came to the district convention.
At the district convention, it was very difficult to keep the
counties voting together. Most times they do this thing by voice
vote. But from precinct level up, we had to poll each county or
precinct to see exactly how the persons wanted to vote. Because
the chairman cannot hear every aye and nay he wants to hear often
At the district convention we were allowed a delegate, but they
had not set it up this way at the chairman meetings. They had
given Robeson county two alternates. This is not what we asked
our chairman to go bargaining for. We had asked him to bargain
for first a delegate, and then if we got somebody else a delegate
and an alternate. Because by getting two alternates they could
get that white in there anyway. So he went out bargaining for
two alternates and accepted it alright. At the convention we
would not accept that. So, he had to go talk to his chairmen
from the other counties again and get us a delegate. So we got a
delegate and an alternate from Robeson county, and we had only
P: Well, has Dial been politically active?
B: He has. His brother is one of the seven county commissioners.
Mr. Dial has been a politically active individual for as long as
I have known him. He was a teacher of mine.
P: Why do you, at least, I have noticed that Indians are formal and
call each other Mr.?
B: I guess I call him Mr. Dial or Mr. Adolf. Usually we call them
by first name because we have so many Dials and because he was a
professor of mine. Mr. Danford Dial was a teacher of mine and it
is more or less respect.
P: I noticed Mr. Dial talking to Mr. Barton on a Mr. basis, and I
just wondered about whether this was a part of the Lumbee
tradition not to use first names or not to encourage too much
B: No. Probably if he were talking about Mr. Barton to someone else
he would probably say Lew. But maybe it is just a gesture of
respect; just a part of us. Perhaps it is a uniqueness.
P: What about the Republican National Convention. Will Robeson
county have an Indian delegate there?
B: We will have an Indian delegate. We will have three Indians on
the hospitality committee. OK, this is Indian era, and we had
better move while we can move. Robert Jones, who is chairman of
our board of elections, is a delegate to the Republican
Convention. Tryon Lowry, a young thirty year old man and his
wife, then a former Miss Lumbee, a Betsland girl, are going to
serve on hospitality committee to the national convention.
P: Are all of these firsts for the Lumbee?
B: Yes, they are.
P: What do you mean by Miss Lumbee?
P: Well, we have a Miss Lumbee Pageant. As I said, we celebrate
Lumbee Day once a year now. One of the events that occur is to
select a girl as Miss Lumbee to represent the Lumbee Indians in
any beauty contest wherever she may enter. This year we have for
the third, well we have had Miss Lumbee before we started having
our festival each year. This is only the third year we have
actually had a homecoming and had other activities. But we have
for a long time selected a Miss Lumbee which was sponsored by
some of the organizations like the Jaycees and the Lions.
P: Tell me about the Homecoming. I have not heard about that
B: This is where we just plan a program, and let the Lumbee
throughout the nation and other Indians from other areas know
that we are having a celebration of Lumbee Day. It was made
official by Governor Scott in 1970 that we would have July 4th
set aside as Lumbee Day.
P: Is it just closed to Indians?
B: We have whites participate, but mainly most of the participants
are Indians. We have Indians who have made great attainments
such as Brantley Blue. He was one of our speakers on the
platform, and Dr. English Jones; people we feel who have made
success and who ar Lumbee Indians. We had this past year Mr.
Lindy Martin, who is assistant to the President of Sanford
University in Birmingham, Alabama. He was our keynote speaker
for Lumbee Day.
P: Is he a Lumbee?
B: Yes. Besides having speakers from among the Indians we feel have
shown us how to move forward.
P: You say it is an Indian festival. Now other than speakers what
do you do?
B: We usually have a parade, and this time I missed the parade
because I had a sickness in the family. My mother was in
intensive care, and I missed the whole festivities for the day.
But we have different areas of the county, sort of a competitive
thing. We have them make a float to depict some Indian history
or any Indian idea: just make a float for a parade and convey
whatever thought they wish. Then we give a prize for the float.
Usually an organization is sponsoring it, so they make money for
This time we had several floats entering in an effort to save Old
Main. We had two different groups make a replica of Old Main. I
do not know who even won the first float this time. But besides
the parade, we have ball games, and we have a golf tournaments.
One year I know they had a greasy pig contest. I did not see
that. Two of the homecomings I have missed.
P: Golf tournaments are hardly what you associate with Indian
B: With Indians (laughter). This shows the influence of the white
man's culture (laughter). But we did have a golf tournament this
time. They had swimming contests, and then they had the old
time singsporation. We have many groups and very talented
Indian groups who sing throughout the county. So we brought
these groups together, and we had an afternoon singsporation.
P: Is there any such thing as Indian songs?
B: No. There is a recent record out though that is called Lumbee
and friends. It is just a chanting and drum rhythm kind of music
that has originated in the last year. They are Lumbee who are
P: But it is not necessarily part of the Lumbee tradition?
B: No. I think probably they have learned it from Indians in other
parts of the country, and we are beginning to create a
relationship with various Indian groups nationally. This is
another way that I think you asked how we bring out the Indian in
us. This how were are doing it. Maybe we are just borrowing
something that we know used to be ours but is was just not kept
as a part of us.
P: What are you hoping to achieve politically with your Indians
here? You were talking about more equitable representation
particularly in schools but beyond that.
B: Well, just getting my people out to vote and to put people in
P: Or in office.
B: In office on the state level, even federal level, even appointees
jobs. If we get people in the levels that appoint jobs then of
course some of my people will be recipients of these lowly jobs
that maybe really are not significant to some of the whites, like
truck driver. I was just interested the other morning, I was
going over to a restaurant in Lumberton, and I passed seven state
trucks. Not a single truck in this county I passed was being
driven by an Indian or a black. Though these things may seem
small, but having a person in the high position who influences
who gets these jobs, my people will eventually become recipients
of some of this instead of the $1.60 an hour in these factories
as cheap labor.
P: Does your political activism envision court fights?
B: Possibly, yes. I think that perhaps the greatest potential there
will be the school issue. In our county we have six chartered
units and one county unit in the schools. The people whose
children go to the chartered city units vote on the county school
issues, any issue comes up, and we do not vote on the city school
Therefore, we hope to develop a suit concerning the double
voting. Then another is the board members who control our county
schools. A seven man board and 90% of the students are black
and Indian. They have only one Indian and one black serving on
this seven man board. Another thing we possibly may bring into
the picture is the misuse of federal funds. We will have to, of
course, document proof that this is being done but I think we
P: What do you mean by misuse of federal funds?
B: Getting funds for special teachers, teachers in special areas and
then they get the teacher, and they put the teacher in a regular
classroom situation. Just the misconstruing of records to show
one thing when in practice something else exits.
P: Are you the most politically active Indian woman in the county?
B: I would hesitate to say so because I have a cousin who is going
to be the first Indian woman to serve on the board of education
P: Well, then you are among the most active Indian women in the
B: Yes, especially my age group. There are a few older women who
have been active, but I seem to feel they have worked too well
with the power structure.
P: Do you have any political ambitions for yourself?
B: I do no think so right now because I feel that if I were to get
in any public office then this would create a barrier for doing
some of the things that I can do. As an office holder I might
not be able to be as active as I can just being a housewife and
mother and a concerned citizen.
P: I want to go back to something else that we have not touched on
and this is this matter of religion. You said that the Indians
were very adamant about separation of church and state. How did
they feel about this prayer amendment? I mean the prayer
decisions of the Supreme Court, prayer in the public schools and
B: I think probably because most of my people here are Methodist,
Baptist, they did not really understand that this was morally
geared to religions that differ so much like Catholicism and
Judaism. In places maybe like a mixture in New York city would
certainly not depict the situation that exists in Robeson county.
Because we have some Catholics, we have some Jews. But as far as
my people are concerned most of us go to the same schools, most
of us go to the same church, and we would not have this conflict
existing in our schools. I think probably if we could say what
should exist we would want them to pray in our schools.
P: Why are most of the Indians here in the Protestant churches?
Rather than in the Catholic Church or the Mormon Church or some
B: I think this is further evidence that we are descendants of
white's Lost Colony because if we think where the people came
from who happened to land at Roanoke. Where did they come from?
What religion did they practice?
P: They came out of an Anglican background, Episcopalian background.
B: Well, perhaps by just the conglomeration of mixtures with the
different people over the period of years I think would be the
answer for why we happen to be Baptist.
P: Are the Lumbee Indians very religious?
B: Yes. Within the twenty mile radius of Pembroke I think we have
eleven little churches. Not little maybe some of them as many as
five hundred members but I think the Lumbee Indians would have to
P: They are the church goers?
B: Right. This is one way I think we have of exerting our emotions
and frustrations and without fear of being infringed upon by the
power structure. We just felt that they were not coming into our
church to bother us because we were in our church. We started
it; we built it perhaps with manual labor; and they are not a
part of this. So, this is one of the places that we could go
without being bothered. I think maybe this is why we did go to
church as much as we do, and why it is so much a part of us.
P: Do you feel that there are the same sort of economic divisions
within the Indian population, let's say here in Pembroke or
within the county, as you would find in the white community?
There are Indians who are well to do and there are many Indians
who are poor. Is there a meeting of the minds because they are
B: We seem to feel that the Indians who do well for themselves and
become the upper crust of the Lumbee society, they become
complacent in their well doing. They too often forget where they
came from. It is very easy to get a nice house and two cars
parked under your garage with carpet and not have to worry about
how much money you spend for groceries and forget about the days
when you went to school, and your mother had to say she did not
have lunch money for you. There are many of us who I feel forget
his brother when he gets pretty well on his feet so to speak.
I am proud to say that there ares some who use what he has
attained to try to pull up his people. So, I do thing we do have
these varying levels, and I think too, he becomes complacent in
that upper level. Because if he becomes active or involved in
helping poor people, because here is power, then he is creating a
threat to himself by whatever has caused him to attain his level.
P: But generally speaking the Indian community is structured very
much like the white community.
B: Yes. I think it is.
P: They are living side by side, and you find one situation
reflected in the other situation.
P: Tell me, you said that you are involved in welfare work. You are
on the welfare board. What does that entail?
B: I am a volunteer worker, but I serve as secretary to the advisory
board to our county welfare department. This has not been
strongly influential or even active during the time I have
We have been instrumental in getting a group of the medical
profession together to hear the clients side of the story and hen
to let the client hear the doctor's side of the story. Because
if you are aware of the welfare program many of the Indians are
recipients of this welfare sticker that they can get medication
and medical service. The doctor through an act of legislature
gets only 90% of the fee that a private patient would have to
pay. Consequently, he is losing money. He has had to hire
additional personal to process this process this red tape to get
Oftentimes we have found that doctors in the county refuse to see
welfare recipients. If the person is sick, he needs medical
attention. He goes to the doctor, he will not see him, so where
does he go? What happens? So we tried to get both sides of the
picture together, and let them have it out teeth to teeth. This
is one thing the advisory board did.
Another thing I have done is actually represent clients at the
welfare department. I had this seventy-eight year old man who
rode his bike ten miles from another town to see me. How he
heard I was working with this..
P: It was an Indian man?
B: Yes, an Indian man. How he knew I was working with the welfare
department I do not know. But he comes in, and he thinks he can
just go down and ask them for forty dollars a month, and he gets
it like that. I am sort of the mediator. I have to try to
relate to him and make him understand that there is a certain
procedure we must go through. Then I have to talk with his case
worker to help find out whether this man qualifies for it.
So, he has ridden his bicycle over to my home three times to get
me to of with him to the welfare department. We finally got him
an application, and they do not have ample staff down there.
Most of the staff, as I say, is white. They do not know what it
is to come from a house that you can, as our representative used
a phrase one time, "study geology through the floor and astronomy
through the ceiling." They do not know what this environment
means. This man does not know what it is to take a good bath in
a bath tub. He lives alone in a little house and has said that
he would love to get a house that had a bath tub. He pays
seventeen dollars a month rent. He has no family, nobody but
I stumbled across him due to registration. I registered him, and
I went back, and I took him to vote. But this is mainly how I
make the contacts I do in the county.
Another home I went into was a three room shack with holes in the
floor that were big enough for me to put my foot through, and I
am not exaggerating at all. It was a cold night and there were
ten people living in that house with two double beds. They had a
sofa with wires sticking up through the sofa and a little
eighteen month old baby there. The baby was in a hot fever. I
could touch it and tell since I have been exposed a little bit to
babies and my husband is a pharmacist and we see sick people
quite often. The baby had slivers in his feet from walking over
the floor and the mother was sitting there picking them out an
the baby was just so sick it did not pay any attention to the
pain that may have been caused by the picking of the sticks. I
just felt so sympathetic I suppose with the baby.
I started talking to the mother about it. I found out the
eighteen year old mother whose husband was in prison just did not
have enough know how with the little bit of money she gets from
the state, because her husband is in prison, to provide better.
So, I talked with her about the baby for a while, and she wanted
me to take the baby. She was willing to give the baby to me
permanently. She had never seen me before, did no know my name.
So, the next day I did go back and get the baby. I got it and
brought it right home and cleaned it up and took it to the doctor
and got its medicine. I kept it two days. I knew very easily I
could get attached to it. I know I can go out and find
situations like this and ease my conscience a little bit you
But what you asked what I hope to attain in my political efforts.
I hope to do things so the educational level of my people will
not only be reflected in political participation, but in
situations like this. They have probably got enough money at
that home they could have had better housing but not knowing how
to manage it or agencies to go to get help.
P: I want to ask you, are there any Indians doctors, lawyers,
dentists in this county?
B: We have one Indian doctor in the county. He has been here about
fifteen years or more now, probably a little more than fifteen
years. Dr. Martin L. Brooks, my husband's brother. We have two
Indian pharmacists, my husband and Mr. Doolin Lowry. We do not
have an Indian dentist. We do no have an Indian lawyer. We do
not have an Indian judge. Any other professions?
B: But these are areas that we have great hope. We have on boy who
is in medical school right now. We have three young men who are
in law school. One of them we hope will return this summer.
P: Well, we have one at the University of Florida. A. Chavis.
B: Chavis, do you know the first name?
P: I cannot remember his first name.
B: Well, we have only 999 Chavis'.
P: Well, he is a Phi Beta Kappa. He is in law school and is a
Lumbee from North Carolina.
B: Oh, I wish you knew his name.
P: I can send it to you easily enough.
B: Well, perhaps he will listen to this tape and he may remember a
little ol' Brenda Brewington.
P: There was one other thing I wanted to ask you and that is there
any special empathy on the part of the Lumbee Indians from
Robeson county toward the blacks in Robeson county? You have
talked about it a little bit politically, but I wondered if they
see each other as being in the same boat?
B: Perhaps my attitude is not the general feeling of many of the
Lumbee Indians. Because of the situation we are in as a culture,
we were somehow taught, maybe taught or instilled with the
attitude that the whites were a little bit better than we are,
and the blacks were a little bit lower than we. So many of us
still have this attitude. I think my liberal sincere feeling
toward blacks is not generally the feeling of most Lumbee
P: You feel there is some anti-black feeling?
B: I definitely feel so. I am sad to say, but I think this is just
something that we have just been victims of this kind of teaching
and environment and just like all the other problems in the
nation it will have to be dealt with and overcome.
P: In general, not only about hit problem, but in general are you
optimistic about the future of the American Indian and
particularly the Lumbee Indian?
B: Yes, I am as far as the status of the Indian politically,
socially, economically. The thing that worries me is the dying
out of the Indian tradition. We are only about a million strong
nationally, now, I think the figure is correct.
P: Well, what are you passing on to your children of your own Indian
B: Well, I think just the idea that they are Indian and trying to
teach them what or how we accept that we came about. I accept
the historical view that we are part of the Indians who were
friendly with the White's colonists. As far as being able to
disprove this or completely prove it, I accept this. This is a
story that I will leave with my children and teach them to be
proud they are Indian; yet try in a very sincere way that they
are not better than a black. They are no lower than a white.
That they have the same potential and possibilities only if they
motivate and expound on it.