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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Lew Barton
Subject: Luther C. Oxendine
LUM 6A ET /C A,
: Mr. Oxendine, as I've explained to you, these recordings will be
placed in the University of Florida library to be used by students
and scholars and writers and what have youand many people are
interested in the Lumbee indians of North Carolina. What is your
S: Luther (A ci // Oxendine.
I: What is your occupation?
S: I'm a retired school teacher.
I: How long have you been...how long did you teach before you retired?
S: Twenty-five years.
I: How old are you now, Mr. Oxendine?
I: Fifty-nine..and a..you taught in the Hba n County School system?...
S: I did.
I: ...most of those years.
S: Yes, sir
I: Did you serve as a teacher and as a principal or just as a teacher or
just as a principal?
S: Teacher and principal..both capacities.
I: Yes, sir, and you retired. Why did you retire?
S: Disability, 01 i disabled.
I: I understand that you have a heart condition and is that correct?
S: That's correct.
I: But you have been very active. Is this because some problems are so
LUM 6A Page 2
S: Well, I was-about to say that I'm not physically fit nor able to
carry out the full duties of a teacher any more.
I: I see. Now, Mr. Oxendine, there is an organization among the indians.
You are a Lumbee indian, aren't you?
S: That's right.
I: And there is an organization among our people called the Concerned
Indian Parents Organization. What is your position with that?
S: I am president.
I: Could you tell us a little something about the purpose of it?
S: The purpose of the Concerned Indian Parents is to end this school
integration process where we're being discriminated against and
the closing of our all indian schools, Zosing them down completely
and leaving us without any indian schools,and we foresaw that in
'69 when the county boards of education had their proposal for the
integration plan ok'd by HEW. We lost 59 teachers as a result of
that)and we saw wherein that all of our schools were going to be
closed down and we would have no more indian schools.
I: I see. Well, I would like to get back to that in a minute. That's
very interesting. I would like to hear a little more about you. I
didn't ask you about your relatives or a....what was your mother's
S: First name and last or just a....
I: Last would like to know her name and her maiden name.
S: Lowry Oxendine.
I: I see and how about your father?
S: Luther Oxendine.
LUM 6A Page 3
I: Is this the same Luther Oxendine who has been active in school
matters and who contributed land or something toward the building
of Oxendine School?
S: He's the founder of that school.
I: That's very interesting. Could you tell us a little something about
the problems when that was done and when he made this contribution
and so forth. Did he talk to you much about it?
S: Well, he talked to me right much about it. He wasn't the type
to and boast on what he had done,but they were trying to get a
school in this particular location so the children would have
opportunity to get some educationand the only way that they could
get it was for tm to donate the land, all the timber and' the
lumber that went in the first building. You might say he built the
first one room school building.
I:. I see. Well, now I'm jumping about quite a bit but it seems that
something is relevant here. We mentioned the school problems and
the so called desegregation plan of 1970. What happened to
Oxendine School when that so called integration plan was adopted.?
S: Well, the plan they drew up in the pupil assignments, that school
lost three teachers as a result of the reassignment of pupils. They
moved 103 indian pupils to the Red Springs city district and brought
twelve, assigned twelve blacks and two white to that school for
integration, and as a result we lost three teachers.
I: I see. How about the plan...what kind of plan did the 1970
so called desegregation plan follow? Did they draw up a new plan
in new districts or..
LUM 6A Page 4
S: They drew up new district lines. They moved the lines to take
away this amount of indians.and as you might think, the one line
they had to draw was just around the school campus and take it and
move it opposite, swap and put it in a different school district
and that did the trick.
I: And do you think they deliberately manipulated or a..you know..the
lines to favor the majority booth or a...
S: They did that deliberately and they had in mind of closing the
school completely down within three years.
I: Was there gerrymandering in connection with Oxendine?
S: Clear case.
I: A clear case. I see. It shows on the map.
S: That's right.
I: A clear case of gerrymandering. It seems to me that this...we're
going along and I've forgotten to ask you and I would like to ask
you particularly to clarify the school situation as to structure in
W.ibe-'en County. How does it...how many districts we have and
where the indian students are located and where the blacks are located
if you could enlighten us some on that because somebody might not know
about this that listens from the outside and maybe they could understand
our problem better if you could show us, you know, tell us about the
S: Well, in the beginning after about 50 years of struggling without
any schools whatsoever, the race prejudice in this county against
the indians was strong enough that when they started building schools
we were out in the countries...out in the country... and not in
LUM 6A Page (
the towns and they had, of course, white and black schools in
the country..out in the country as well. And as time went on
in the twentieth century they ee-ried what we call these special
chartered districts and the white schools..moved all them out
of the country into the cities and they moved the black schools
I: Where did they move them into the ...
S: Into the cities. Moved them into the cities and towns and left
the indians out in the country.and we were not allowed to even run
a business own any land or move within the cities,and that left
our schools rather scattered around out in the country alone,
practically no white and no black.
I: I see. I've forgotten something else I wanted to ask you too and
that was about your immediate family. Who was it you married?
S: Mabel Woods Oxendine.
I: Was this name Woods...is this not a Lost Colony name?
S: It is.
I: How many children do you have Mr. Oxendine?
I: Would you mind giving us their names?
S: Emily Oxendine.
I: Her age too if you remember right off hand.
S: Thirty-two.Luther C. Oxendine Jr. is 28. Truman Oxendine is 25.
Widey Oxendine, 23. Phyllis Oxendine, 19. S Oxendine, 17
and Avis Oxendine, 10.
LUM 6A Page 6
I: Um hum. Well, that's a nice family. Nice sized family. I wonder
if you would ah....could you name the six school districts that we
have in this county?
S: That's right. Six school districts. Wilbersen County School
system, Red Springs City School, St. Pauls, Lumberton, Maxt&'
I: Now, where were most of the a...where were most of the indian
S: In the county system. In the Wi'en County System.
I: About what percentage was...would you say...was in the Wlbereae
County System before the so called desegregation plan went into
effect in 1970.
S: What percent of....
I: In numbers or could you give us any indication.
I; Yes, sir. Was the Wilb4eeen County School District predominantly
S: Predominantly indian.
I: Would you say more than half the students in that system were indian?
S: I would say 99'and a half percent.
I: Uh huh. How about today? Has anything much changed since the so
called desegregation plan went into effect two years ago? To change
#a& I mean.
S: Well, to give a figure, I don't know the exact figure, but as the result
of this plan, we lost 78 teachers the past two years out of our indian
schools which meant, if you figure that on a basis of 30 pupils per
LUM 6A Page 7
teacher that would be how many indians had gone to these other
five school districts.
I: I see. Do you think a...do you think the beso County School
System, which was predominantly indian before the desegregation
plan went into effect, is still predominantly indian?
S: It still is.
I: Uh huh, and could you tell us something about the protest, you
know, how the people..how the indian people felt about this
desegregation plan and whatever protest they made or anything along
those lines. What happened when that so called desegregation plan
went into effect in 1970? Did the people set it or were they
discontented about it or just what did happen?
S: Well, I'd have to say a...the indian race...I'd have to say there
was a few that seemed to agree with it and be satisfied with it but
the mess majority was dissatisfied with the way it was being done.
I: It has been said that we had in this county among those schools, the
longest sit-in in the history of this country. Now, were these..these
indians students...was this long sit-in a fact?
S: It was. Whole school taned. .180 days.
I: And they sat-in for the full 180 days. Was this in their own
schools or was it in white schools or black schools or what?
S: In their own schools.
I: This is probably then the first time in history that a minority group
has sat-in in its own school, then, would you say?
has sat-in in its own school, then, would you say?
LUM 6A Page 8
S: The first I've heard of or know about.
I: I wonder what kind of result this got, if any?
S: A...well..it got mighty little results, but it did attract
I: Was there a lot of publicity about this?
S: A lot of publicity.
I: Now, were people, were many people from the outside honestly
interested,in your opinion,of helping or did they make gestures
to help straighten the situation out or were there efforts directed
toward getting the people to accept the thing that already was?
S: They helped.. they helped us in trying to correct it and get it
back since we were unfairly treated they sympathized with usi
and they were helpful in that trying to help us get it straightened
I: And how about legal action. Was any legal action taken in the
S: There was.
I: How about the blacks were they satisfied or dissatisfied with the
S: They were dissatisfied.
I: Was there any legal action on their part?
S: There was.
I: What legal action was taken, Mr Oxendine, on your part and on the
part of the blacks.
S: We filed suit against the six Boards of Education a...and the three
complaints that we filed was the gerrymandering of the district line,
LUM 6A Page 9
which was to favor some and disfavor others, and the seating
of the WT0h-een County Board of Education, the constitutionality
of that, and then it was discriminatory against us in that it was
closing down our schools that we had fought long and hard with
out monies and efforts and every way we could to build and establish.
I: Do you think the indians were called upon to make more contributions
to these schools which we think of in the county as indian schools
even now. Do you think the indians were called upon to make greater
contributions toward the maintenance of those schools than other
S: Why, sure they were, without a doubt.
I: Well, how did you meet these expenses, I mean, these added expenses?
S: Well, we had what we called a box supper, which dates back further
than I can remember. Public auction box suppers, cakes and plays,
operettas just mostly anyway we could think of to have a small gate
fee to raise the funds necessary.
I: How would you get fhE boxes? As I understand it those were boxes
which were auctioned off?
S: That's right.
I: by the school.
S: That's right.
I: And where did you get the food? I mean, did you buy the food or was
it...or did the ladies ....
S: Afom the individual homes.
I: Indian homes?
LUM 6A Page 10
S: Indian homes ...bought their own food and prepared and cooked it and
fixed their box, decorated it, bought the decorations to make it look
attractive, as well as attractive on the inside.
I: And so the ladies made the food?
S: That's right.
I: And it was auctioned off and a...do you remember the names of any
of the people who were good at auctioning off those boxes and making
S: I remember the names of three T in / my life time.
I: Would you tell us about them? That's interesting.
S: One was Reverend Lonnie Jacobs, Penrook and the other one Lonnie
PI. o4rn PerA 6
H.Oxendine of PRnbrcok and Judge Lacy Manard of P2neek.
I: Do you think...have you any idea how much money those three men
that you've mentioned raised for schools..for indian schools?
S: Well, I was teaching three years at Oxendine School where we had
five teachers and we had two box suppers that we raised between
$1000 and $1500 at each one of them and then one we raised between
$2000 and 2500,and that w= one of the smaller schools. Our
higschool would surpass hat by a large amount and over the years
I don't feel like that a figure close to a million, between one
and two million dollars would be exaggerating it.
I: Oh, that is something. Do you think the people resented doing this
or did they do it freely or did they accept this burden without
complaint, Mr. Oxendine?
S: Well, as -a teacher and serving in the capacity as a principal and
having the responsibility of getting the supplies that were supposed
LUM 6A Page 11
to be furnished by the state,and we couldn't get them.and as a
teacher we did resent it but to resent it in full would have
meant inferior education much more than what we were getting,and
rather than to be faced with that problem everybody freely just
rallied to it and tried to make our schools a success and a...
as good as we could.
I: Well, now I've heard that you did make quite a success. Obvious
despite all the limitations and whatever other problems you had*
and I understand that a study was conducted in 1968 by the United
States Office of Education. Do you remember anything that this
report said and what it stated or did it compare our schools to
other schools and did it tell how we compared with other indian
S: Well, we were way out front of any other tribal group in the
I: Was this stated in the report?
S: Stated in the report.
I: Official report of the U.S. government.
S: Yes, I have a copy of that bulletin. After this study commission
completed it I got ahold of one of the bulletinsand at one time
the other tribal indians, some of them had control of their schools
and they were making progress then the government took them over and
then they went on the downward trend, and in that report, the study
of it, they found that to let them control their own schools they were
making progress but when the government took over it went the opposite
LUM 6A Page 12
direction, so they recommended that they take full control of the
I: I wonder what accounted for that. Do you think it was just the pride
they took in that or a...they felt they were helping to shape their
own destiny or why do you think they a...these changes took place?
Why there was such a difference, in other words, when they had some
control and when the federal government took over completely?
S: Well, the average person, I feel, that has that desire within him
to do something on his own. Get out and work and help improve
himself and not be dependent on someone else all the time,and when
they had control they went ahead improving as we have here in
Wi+setin County. No matter what the obstacle was we felt that we
could crawl over it. Move it out of the way and go on. Now with
the situation as it is here our morale has somewhat knocked.... should
I say in the head. We're not so much..as interested now in the school
system as its now functioning as we were before.
I: Well, do you think now that some, there has been some integration,
do you think this is just token integration that we have today here
in Wilberson County?
S: Well, I think it would amount to that. I don't....its not solving the
I: Well, I have heard this complaint and I would like to ask for your
opinion about it or if you know anything about this particular thing..
problem. Some people complain that we've just traded building...
segregation in buildings to segregation in the classrooms. Could you
explain..do you know ...have you heard any complaints like this?
LUM 6A Page 13
S: Yes, I have. We have in one system ....I know of one who has
several classrooms where nothing in but white, and I know of
a number of classrooms who have black and one indian maybe another
one with two indians and the rest black, no white at all, and that
I: And how about when you do have these students and in some cases
I imagine there is more integration than others, in those cases
is there anything like in class segregation still?
S: That's right. They are r I
I: Do you think the students are being, the white students are
still being separated in the classroom or in the school itself
from the white students....the whites are separated from the
black and indian students on some pfi T '-- ?
S: That's right. The classrooms I know the white seats themselves
on one side of the classroom and black on the other side. They
don't mingle together in the classroom.
I: I wonder if there has been any incidents since the 1970 so called
desegregation plan went into effect...any racial incidents?
S: Only at a...... they had been in the Red Springs city schools and
they had been in the Wilbaeron County system. Nothing...no big
degree but I think one of the reasons why i didn't because the
indians have filed suit and also the black and that may have held
it down somewhat.
I: How about this attitude of these schools, the Wilb3eren County system
and the other school districts, the city districts, are they pretty
LUM 6A Page 14
open toward the press? Do they let the press come in and see
what is going on inside?
S: I had the pleasure of attending one unit with a ABC news reporter
from New York and had the cameras and we asked to go in and have
a look and the superintendent of that particular unit denied us
I: Would you mind telling us which unit that was?...or which super-
S: That was I.J. Wicker, the superintendent of the Red Springs
I: I see. What excuse if any did he give for this?
S: He said he didn't allow any cameras in the classroom or any visiting
in there only on the own cameras and at a set time.
I: In other words, the press was barred and in this incident the
press was not even allowed to go inside. Do you think his
attitude has changed any in that respect?
S: None whatsoever.
I: Do these incidents that do crop occasionally, do you think they are
fully reported or do you think they're kept down and not reported
to the press or is there anything like that going on?
S: It's kept down, yes, that's kept down and its not reported to the press.
I: Well, suppose I would go into this Red Springs school as a reporter
now ,do you think they would admit me inside that building?
S: I'm pretty sure they would not.
I: Suppose I were not an indian reporter, supposed I were a white
reporter, do you think they would still keep me out?
LUM 6A Page 15
S: Well, they would question you extensively to find out the
purpose and if it is to portray what you found, portray them
of what you found you would be barred. I have all reason to
I: Well, that's a great pity and you can't see any improvement then
in the schools since the so called desegregation plan of 1970
went into effect?
S: No, I can see where the school system is losing ground as a result
of this integration.
I: Uh huh, well, what we'd like to get back to these two suits. Could
you tell us specifically what charges were made in the indian suit
first, just take the indian suit first of all and see what the
complaints are..the allegations and that, could you tell us in your
own words about that?
S: Well, the allegations, we had three main allegations' one was the
gerrymandering of the district line and the second one was the
illegal seating of the board members of the Wilbesen County Board
I: Could you tell us something about that? Now that is an interesting
problem. You say its illegal. Could you tell us why you consider
it to be illegal?
S: Well, the people in the city districts, when their board members come
up for election, only the people in that district is allowed to vote
on their board of education and in the county system everybody in
the county is allowed to vote on them, the city units and also the
LUM 6A Page 16
people living in the county system.
I: Well, that just about gives them two votes to our one then doesn't
S: Exactly, two votes to our oneand the reason for that is so that
they can keep full control of the Wilberson County Board of Education
even though eighty percent of the students enrolled in the county
system is indian.
I: Uh huh. Hasn't there been anything we could do so far toward getting
that problem eliminated?
S: Not as yet.
I: Do you think that before this plan went into effect, I believe you
said yes to that question just a little while ago, that they made
certain plans so that the plan would come out to their benefit. Was
there anything like the annexation of white communities to the cities.
S: A definite 7fj One of the worst is called the 4/,iro fWS
annexation in Lumberton in the Lumberton city school district. They
draw the line out to pull the white section in and lines out to rule
the indian out.
I: But couldn't the indians have annexed the indian community to the
S: They could have.
I: Was that ever actually tried to your knowledge?
S: It was at one time and they were denied.
I: They wouldn't allow the indian community to be annexed.
S: That's right, wouldn't allow them to be annexed.
LUM 6A Page 17
I: Well, this seems like one form of taxation without representation
from your description. Would you agree with that description?
S: That's right, I would.
I: What happened to the school cases. How long have those two cases
S: This September the first will be two years.
I: I heard about an incident in connection with one of the United States
Department of Justice lawyers who came down here to look into the
matter and could you tell us anything about that? What was his name?
It seems that I remember something like Smith.
S: That's right, Smith. He was a black lawyer. He came to my home
here and interviewed me for two hours and a half from the Justice
Department and after he finished his work here and returned back
to Washington with these reports after about a month's work here then
this tragedy happened to him after he went back to Washington.
I: Could you tell us what that tragedy was?
S: Well, the report that we got from Washington was he left his office
in the afternoon, went to his apartment,and he had forgot some papers
to...he intended to bring to his apartment and he went back to get
them and the next.... there's a missing link there from the next we
heard then was around two in the morning one of his friends came by
to visit with him and found him dead in his apartment, stabbed to
I: Stabbed to death with a knife?
S: A knife.
I: To your knowledge have they ever solved this murder? If it was in the
LUM 6A Page 18
back we know that he didn't put a knife in his own back so I'll
call it murder.
S: Well, I understand from the information we got his hands were tied
behind him and he was laying face down stabbed in the backhand I've
checked all the papers and made special efforts from that time on
to see if they ever solved it and what did really happen,but seem
like its been a dead loop. There's nothing more than that I've been
able to hear about or learn about.
I: And of course this would be opinion and a...but is it possible, do
you think, that somebody might have murdered him because he had
discovered evidence thatbhhey didn't want made known? I don't
know whether you want to answer a question like that or not, if not
it would be alright.
S: I would rather not speak my thoughts about that.
I: Well, there is a possibility there and I, of course, I am the
interviewer and I'm not supposed to know anything but just from
listening to you talk, I have my doubts and so on but that's neither
here nor there. Mr. Oxendine, what do you think about our past? Do
you think we are actually descendants of the Hatteras indians and the
English Colony of 1587? .....and other indian groups.
S: One question that I've been seeking that I haven't been able to find
the answer that I would like to find the answer for before I could
spend an opinion about that. On the discovery of America there were
indians who are now called indians all over the country,and they
wasn't called by tribal names. There was one group of indians all over
the place and there is one thing that I would like to know and that's
LUM 6A Page 19
when each tribe received its tribal name and by whom? Then I
believe we could truthfully say what group, to me its all the
I: Its all the same race, certainly, isn't it?
S: Its all the same race. Now the Tuscaror, there's some question
about that, the Hatteras, the Suonuup and down the eastern coast,
wet thr th we called that at the time they were here?
I: Uh huh
S: That's the big question unanswered as far as I've been able to find.
I: Yes sir. Those are questions which a...some of them are questions
which will never be answered I suppose because actually all the
groups were never identified I don't suppose, but there's something
else titS- interesting, that's always been interesting to me in
this area, and this is the habit, I call it a habit or maybe its
an avocation or a hobby that some people have of searching for
buried treasure. Is there a possibility that some of the Spanish
pirates on the high seas may have found refuge in this valley here
that we think of as the Lumbee River Valley. Do you think they
might have hid some buried treasure here or something like that?
S: I would think from a....it might be a possibility.
I: How about the farming land, of course you being a professional man,
what do you think about the indian's chance of earning a living
today on the farm and earning a living on the farm say twenty years
S: Well, the chances are...to today and twenty years ago..its a vast
difference its harder for him to earn a living like they earned
LUM 6A Page 20
it..many families farming a small farm and made a living on it...they
couldn't do that today. It would be impossible.
I: What's changed the situation do you think?
S: Well, the cost of living has gone up and the price of labor's gone
up so high yet the commodities that's produced on the farm,..... -
abeiot as you might think twenty five years ago the top price for
tobacco was 59 )and today its 80. That's how much the price of
tobacco has gone up in the past twenty five years. Now compare that
with the cost of living twenty five years ago a.....how much its gone
up and that will show you where the, what kind of a situation the
farmer would be in with the same amount of land he tend twenty five
years ago compared to what he would have to tend now to make the same
living he did twenty five years ago.
I: I see. Do you think the so called Industrial Revolution using better
farm equipment like cotton pickers and that sort of thing have any
effect on farming in this county and so forth and did our people suffer
because of this as they did in other'..as other people did in other
fE 6(r sections of the country?
"Tflp p S: Well, they did. The industry took away a lot of farm labor.
i' r I: And I believe I understand from what you said a while ago that the
farm hand, the prices for farm labor had gone up, do you mean that
they've gone up so high that its almost impossible to hire farm
"~h .help and still make any money?
-Sdr t Mr. Oxendine, we were interrupted there at the end of the tape because
f fE o^ we ran out of tape and had to turn this over and I think I was asking
Mfr /,* you something about why it was not possible to live on the same amount
LUM 6A Page 21
of land now as it was sometime in the past. Do you remember the
S: Yes, why it would be so more difficulty, more difficult to live on
the farm now that it was twenty years ago is due to the fact that
twenty years ago a small family could take two to three acres of
tobacco and ten to fifteen acres of cotton with their own hand
labor and make a living off it. But today it would be impossible
for one to take that amount of farm today, a family, and support
his family due to the price he gets for his commodities against
the price he has to pay for the labor to house it,and too all the
farm expenses have gone up, insecticides and well the cost of living
has gone up four or five times.
I: And the farmer's prices haven't compensated for the rise in prices?
S: That's right.
I: Necessities to make a .... to keep one alive.
S: The commodity price has been pretty well stable and has gone up mighty
little as the price, the expense in making a crop.
I: Farm produced, you mean.
S: That's right.
I: Well, is there anything we could do about this do you think?
S: I don't see anything that we could do,if they would pay more for the
farm commodities, produce, then the retailers and wholesalers would
have to go up so high until that would run, bring about inflation over
night if that would be attempted.
I: Mr. Oxendine, how many indians do you think there are in Wlb*erson
LUM 6A Page 22
S: Well, I helped do the 1970 census and I would say there would
be between thirty and forty thousand in Wilberson County.
I: That many, huh?
S: That many.
I: Do you think there is a particular problem that people have in
identifying indians as indians? Do caucasian characteristics
come out prominently in a good many of our people making it almost
impossible to identify them?
S: Now I assume you mean within W++ beten County and for that matter in
the state. I would say that there's no problem in that here in the
county and state. There might be if you get on out in some other
state. There might be a little problem in some.
I: Do you think the speech, do you think the indian speech, now speaking
about the average indian of course you and I have been exposed to
the study of the English language and we have deliberately tried to
improve our speech and so forth, but do you think as far as an
accent is concerned, you know most places have an accent or different
speech characteristics, do you think that speech characteristics of
the overall group of indians is different from that of the blacks or
S: Yes, definitely so. It's somewhat different. The accent is different,
Slightly different to where it would be discernible on the tape,
I: Do you think this is one way of identifying the...like the indians are
identified by their speech, by their a...
S: Well, that's one of the main ways that he's identified average.
LUM 6A Page 23
I: Of course, we've lived in this county, its been spoken of as a
unique county, do you agree with that?
S: I agree with that.
I: No other county in the United States quite like ours.
S: That's right.
I: And a....as for the geographical characteristics, Dr. William
McKee Evans speaks of Wiltersen County or the Lumbee River area
as the sort of hide-a-way valley to which displaced persons often
came in the past and that this is a valley completely surrounded
by swamps, or at least it was one hundred years ago, it was almost
inaccessible. Can you remember back far enough that you could
a...you could verify or deny that? Do you think this was really
S: Well, I would think that was pretty well the case. I think that was
about it. We still have a good many swamps in this area.
I: Mr. Oxendine, when a...just a few years ago an anthropologist at
Ohio State University wrote a book called"Almost White". This was
an anthropologist who was born and brought up in South Carolina,'and
this was a book about indian survivorsand he counted some two hundred
groups of indian survivors along the eastern seaboard, but the
picture he painted of the indian survivors, descendants of the indians
such as our own group was that we were constantly striving to be white.
We were constantly struggling to try to get into the caucasian race.
Do you think he was badly mistaken there?
S: I .......I would think so. I think he's mistaken there.
LUM 6A Page 24
I: This year long, this year long sit-in, do you have any idea how
many students were involved in that throughout the entire year?
Do you have any estimate?
S: I would say approximately fifty.
I; At the end of the year.
S: At the end of the year.
I: At the beginning of the year there were many more than that though
S: Many more, many more than that.
I: Uh huh and so it didn't turn out the way he predicted, of course,
he had no way of knowing inasmuch as integration hadn't taken place)
and he had no way of knowing what our reaction would be to it. What
he was saying was largely a guess and, of course, he guessed wrong.
Our people have not rushed to break down anybody's door, have they?
S: No, no, that's a....(laugh)
I: I wonder why this is? Do you think our pride has anything to do with
that? ...our indian pride?
S: Well, now I'm speaking of the average indian. We know and the average
indian know we're just what we areand we couldn't be anything else
if we wanted toand we're indians, the only true blooded American on
the soi2l and a person who is an indian who wouldn't take great pride
in that, I wouldn't count him an indian. (laugh) And for that reason
the average one don't want to be the more than what he is as far as
race is concerned.
I: Well, there are some people, and I think they're not too numerous,
Lum 6A Page 25
but there are some people that feel that the so called indian
problem could be solved by taking the brighter ones of our people
and submerging them into the caucasian group and the darker ones
and submerging them into the black group and they would still...
and they would then have only two races to deal with. Do you think
there are people who would actually like to see this done?
S: You mean indian people?
I: No, non-indian people (laugh)
S: Not in. "W osr County. I don't think there are any in Wilberen
County would want that done, want to see that done, because that
simply would not work because we all have to live here together.and
even though I'm dark and you're fair skinned, you're jndian same
as I and you feel that I'm an indian same as you and you wouldn't
be fair to yourself and I look at you and we'll take the two of us.
Yo wouldn't feel right to turn your back on me and neither would I
feel right to turn my back on you.
I: Well, that certainly is a good answer and certainly a true answer
true as far as I'm concerned this is exactly the way I feel. Do
you think that in time, now I talked to one man who wae middle class,
who feels that maybe within thirty years there will be only one race.
Do you think this is going to happen?
S: It will never happen. That's a broad statement, within in thirty
years it will be only one race, well that's impossible.
I. Do you think it would be a good thing if it did happen?
S: No, it wouldn't. It wouldn't.
I: There's one thing I've noticed about indians universally and that is
LUM 6A Page 26
that they are all opposed to assimilation,and one statement about
the Lumbee indians was that they had been partly acculturated but
they had not been assimilated.and a...do you think part of this is
on our part, or do you think most people, most caucasian people felt
as the professor did that our people really wanted to become white
when they didn't want to at all?
S: Well, in speaking of the indian race people, Mr. Barton, throughout
the country a...I want to say about the reservations.... I would like
to see the reservations blowed up because it's a penitentiary. It a...
its a place of land the government got and pushed this group of
indians there on desert land and /onY)taW land that's no good only
to house them and has forgot about them,and they are treated even
worse than our prisoners today are treated.and a...for that reason
to bring them into society and let them exercise their talents and
gifts, same as any other person, after all they deserve it more
than anyone else because they're the only true blooded Americans,
but they're in prison. We hear and read in the papers every day
about the Viet Nam war and about our prisoners of war. Well, the
data is if, let's don't take down otur /'E men out our soldiers
out unless they agree to release the prisoners of war, POWs. Well,
we got them in prison, all indians here on reservations are in prison
here in the United States. Well, they haven't been released yet.
I: In other words, you're referring to the stipulation or the definition
of the federal government which, the minute an indian leaves the
reservation he's no longer considered an indian and he forfeits his
rights as an indian when he leaves that reservation and this makes it
in effect a prison. This is how they keep them. Do you think this
LUM 6A Page 27
S: Well, I can't see it any other way. Either the government is aware
of the fact that the indians, or near aware of the fact, they are
out there in the everglades of Florida and the deserts of Arizona,
and they're prctt ar starving and the government seems to be
unconcerned. They pass them a little welfare check,and its a
nice way of having them on the welfare roles and they're isolated
I: Would you say reservations is a form of segregation?
S: A form of segregation, that's what it is. Its a clearcut case of
segregation. Now it has been said that the people on reservations,
indians on reservations don't want to leave. They say they take
some off and they get.. they, .r in storms trying to get back.
Well, that's like a bird when he's kept in a cage from a bird till
he's grown and then you turn him out he'll come, leave the door
open he'll come back in it. He's in a new world and to me its just
a prison. Once they were forced off, get out in there and start
earning their own living and working and get acquainted with society,
then the problem would be settled.
I: Do you think they will ever be able to get into the mainstream of
American society that way?
S: Not unless the government shows more interest than they have shown
in the past and tsy are showing today. The government shows that
they consider them no more than prisoners.
I: You're speaking of course of their? o(a(ih
S: That's right.
LUM 6A Page 28
I: Well, how about our people who leave here and go to Baltimore,
Maryland and to other industrial parts of the country. Do you
think they go because they want to go or to find better opportunity
for a job.
S: Better opportunities where 'the race is not as badly discriminated
elsewhere as it is here in Wi4bersn County. They can't get as
good a job here by being an indian as they could if they leave here
and go to Baltimore and elsewhere.
I: Do you think those who go away eventually plan to come back?
S: I have several nephews and several neices who have been up in
Baltimore for fifteen to twenty years and their plans are to
come back home to settle down to live.
I: In other words, they consider es stay in Baltimore temporary?
S: Temporarily, to make a living to raise their families because they
can make a better living up there with higher wages than they can
make here. They can get a hold of a job up there that they wouldn't
be allowed to hold here.
I: I believe I recall reading some statistics compiled by the Wilberen
County Church Center which states that the average income of the
white family in Wt-beyeen County is some $4,500 per'and that of the
a...that of the black man is about $1,500,. $1,600 and that of the
indian is about $1,500 per year. I believe, now I better not trust
my memory too far, I wish I had the sheet to check by, but do you
think this sounds about right?
S: That's about right according to the statistics. I have a sheet,
but I don't know just, now where it...I think its over at my store.
LUM 6A Page 29
Its/got the figures on it and I think that's pretty close to it,
but anyway the .indian income is below a..the black in ib.rs
I: About how many teachers would you say we have in all. I'm talking
about the Lumbee Indians, about how many teachers are there among
S: Well, in the year '69 and 70 there were 410.
I: Were they all in service in WiZhsrso or was that Witboron and
S: Well, it was WiBe-lan, Hoke and Scotland, adjoining counties.
I: I see, and do you think we've added to that number?
S: We certainly have because we've had quite a few graduates since
then that's gone into the teaching profession.
Per, 6V kE
I: In the past few months, in the past six months, Bejhai k State
University which was formerly Penbreek State College for Indians
has been under some pretty severe criticism. Are you acquainted with
S: I am.
I: Have you any idea as to what the enrollment is there according to
S: Well, I...there's slightly over two thousand.
I: In all?
S: In all,and there's around three hundred right approximately three
hundred indians and approximately fifty to sixty black.
LUM 6A Page 30
I: Um hum a..do you think..what do you think PSU could do or should
do toward getting more indian and black students in the university?
Do you think they should have an active recruiting service?
S: I think so. They've had one for other races but never have I heard
of one recruiting service for indians.
I: Are there any advantages that they especially offer to indians to
induce them to a..to attend college today?
S: All the inducement that I see there is the inducement to encourage
them to go elsewhere. For instance, in your athletic set-up, in
the basketball, baseball, the indian doesn't get a show in there
regardless of talent.
I: Now how about Old Mains' why do you think the PSU administration
a..was so determined to destroy Old Main? They voted to destroy
Old Main in an intensive campaign to save the building which became
nation wide was conducted.and finally they gave in and decided
to..not to destroy the building a...wonder what the reasons behind
this were to destroy it in the first place?
S: Well, I think, in my talking with individuals and my own thinking a..
its hard once you make a mistake an individual to..in secret..its
hard to make an open confession.(laugh) and I think they went about it
behind closed doors and didn't let it be known that that's what they
were going to do until they were ready to start tearing it down.and
had we known it two or three years in advance why the protest would have
begun then, but a..they made the mistake by keeping it concealed, I think,
and then after the protest came then they was not fair enough to admit to
the public we made a grave mistake and we're willing to recall or a..
LUM 6A Page 31
call it back. They wanted to go on with it even though they was
aware that they had made a mistake.
I: I see a..do you have any suggestions as to what PSU could do to
improve its....well, let me ask you this..do you think that the
university today has proper rapport with the indian community in
which it was stationed? You know, its surrounded by indians but
does it have proper a...a...relations...does it have?.is there
an attitude between the indian community and PSU working in
S: Well, a..I would say that they are not showing the interest toward
the indian students that they should. Now it may be that they just
take it for granted that the indian automatically should be interested
without any encouragement on their part. Now I say it could be that
they're looking at it or it could be some outside influence.
I: Well, its a matter of record, Mr. Oxendine, that the PSU administration
is opposed to the Lumbee Club, the Lumbee student organization on
campus, and they say they'd be opposed to any racial organization.
Do you think that a..they ought to be proud of this or that they ought
to tolerate this organization or ought they encourage it or discourage
S: I think they ought to encourage it. Had it not have been for the
Lumbees, what would PSU be? Would there be any PSU existing today
had it not have been for them? I think that's a precious jewel.- A
"M shouldn't be throwed in the garbage or the waste.
I: Well, judging from what has happened at other universities and colleges
we know that they..there's a tendency to save any old building and to
LUM 6A Page 32
consider it precious but here is the first college building to
confer degrees on indians in the United States in all history. .
do you think this gives.it great value?
S: I think it does a..
I: For others as well as our own group?
S: Yes, I think so. Let me relate this little happening. I was
talking to a student that asked me about Old Main and was
criticizing the protest against a...destroying it and asked me
what I thought of itand he was a student from California attending
the university.,nd I came out of my billfold with my certificate,
and I told him that is my most treasured possession asd I had it
in my billfold, that as a result of Old Main I received this. Had
it not have been for Old Main I wouldn't have had it, for the reason
I wasn't allowed to attend any other college of higher learning
because I was an indian. Had it not have been for Old Main
I wouldn't have got any education above hig chool.and I asked him,
I said,"Are you a student over there?" He said he was. I said,
"Where are you from?" He said, "From California." I asked him
if he was at tbrlk because he couldn't attend the university in
California. He said, "no". I said, "Well, Old Main never has meant
anything to you)and it don't now,and when you're finished there and
gone it won't and I feel that you students there now from New York,
New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere are coming there because its
the cheapest college in the nation. If you speak, you ought to speak
up for the preservation of Old Main rather than the destruction of it
because it hasn't meant anything and won't ever mean anything to you,
LUM 6A Page 33
that building, but I went there because it was the only place I
could go, had it not have been for that one I wouldn't and as a
result I have twenty-five years teaching to my credit."
I: And so that was kind of a life saver for us wasn't it?
S: That's right. Then a week later I ran up with this student again)
and he stopped me and he said, "You know, I thought about what you
told me and, he says, now I'm for the preservation of Old Main."
S: Its the same student.
I: Same student. ~r_/ A/AJs ,ifv _l At.do you think our people will
eventually get better consideration at PSU now that its become
a part of the consolidated University of North Carolina? Do you
think this is a plus for us? Do you think things are going to be
S: Well, I think if the faculty and the president and all show as
much concern for the indian students as they are showing for the
other races, I think it will be.
I: Well, a..do you have any comments you'd like to add to this? I
guess you're getting a little bit tired because I really have
(laugh) I really have been a..
S: Well, I'm a little a...critical of the Board of Trustees at PSU.
I think that the Board of Trustees at PSU should have at least
a college degree,and I find several down there, one in particular
5 y..-:,, 5? ct g'* ^ -.-
who didn't finish elementary school,anrd he'S a -tueee appointed
by Governor Bob Scott and several others who doesn't have a college
degree,so I think that's so misfitted.
LUM 6A Page 34
I: Do you think the man who lacks adequate education a..are you
saying that he doesn't have the capacity to make educational
judgements unless he himself is educated?
S: That's right. Can't make any decision in the light of education
unless he's educated himself.
I: I wonder why they appoint people like this? Is it purely
S: Well, I think its a political a..thing. I believe its political.
I: Do you think there's any hope for this changing?
S: I think its since we've....Old Main has been spared I think now
that they'll be some of these..protests made against some of these
issues that a...against the indian over there.
I: We know that throughout the nation the indians have been regarded
as a silent people and that they are speaking out now. Do you
see a change in this trend? Do you see that the nation is
becoming willing to listen to your problems and to mine more and
more or let's say more than they did when we were children?
S: Well, I would say since integration came into effect in '54, I
think the government officials are all seeing that we're having
to go under this integration and give everybody a chance and
I think they're beginning to listen a little more and more,.nd I
think also that we have five indians in law school, one who is
just finished a..once we get some lawyers in our group I think
that will be a big asset to us.
I: Um hum. Well, we have several lawyers in training to my knowledge
LUM 6A Page 35
already and I'm certainly hoping like you, that the number
increases and we will have somebody to look after our interests.
How about the expense of hiring legal talent today, Mr. Oxendine,
for the indians or for anybody? What is the fee? I know that
you've been on jury duty and you've a..you worked rather closely
with a..legal council in the past)and I'm just wondering if you
have some knowledge of legal fees and what they cost. What
does it cost to hire a lawyer to work on a case?
S: Well, the state has a..three fees set for attorneys to go by.
One's a minimum and a maximum and then midway between,and its
all depend on the nature of the crime or the case. Now, if its
a criminal case it depends on whether that's your first time or
your second time or third time as to whether it... it willbe
the minimum,if its the first time, second time it will be in the
middle and so onand that ranges in certain cases a..from two to
five hundred dollars.
I: Uh huh. They don't a...when they...when you are able to retain a
lawyer by the hour about how much does this amount to?
S: Well, if its a firm..its...a pretty big firm..its high rated..say
it runs about $75 an hour.
I: That's pretty steep even for a group such as ours. I'm not saying
that it isn't ethical, but I'm saying it poses a problem for
a poor group of people when they have problems and they have to
hire legal talent and so forth and yet we know that this is
necessary once in a while. So, do you think that some of the
LUM 6A Page 36
government agencies should step in in a case like this and insure
justice a...some cases.unless some cases are tried they'll never
have it resolved, they'll never have our problems resolved,and the
courts are the logical places to resolve legal problems,but if you're
not able to foot the bill then the poor people will not get justice.
Justice is just too high for them to pay,and don't you think then
that state and federal government should guarantee in some way that
these cases are tried and heard that are legitimate complaints or
our legitimate grievances are heard whether we can afford the
legal fees or not?
S: I think so. I'm glad you brought that up. Now, this school
case that we have..I'd like to point this out and I'd like for
people to know and understand it. In i O County the Lumbee
Indians have more on the welfare roles than either of the other two
racesand our attorneys that we employed to fight this school
suit said it cost from ten to a hundred thousand dollars depending
on how far we had to go with it. Now the six Boards of Education,
each Board has its own...a lawyer, hired and payed a salary of our
tax money. Well, we're too poor to fight this case on to
Washington if its going to cost us a hundred thousand dollars. Yet,
its unfair for us to have to pay their six lawyers with our tax
money and then go in our pockets besides and pay our own out of
our pockets which is not an act of justice within its elf. There-
fore, they should be...the government should see that we get justice.
The Justice Department in the state and federal government should
see that we get the ample funds to fight this suit on out..that we
LUM 6A Page 37
I: In other words, we're having to pay those lawyers..
S: Year round.
I: and they maybe trying to deprive us of our rights and yet
we're having to pay them out of our tax money and we have a..
we don't have sufficient private funds to fight the case.
S: Fight them back.
I; I see what you mean. That's a very interesting point. I'm glad
you made that.
S: They make us pay our taxes and pay their fee. Their's has got to
be paid)butAwe come up lacking in our own and which we have done
exhausted ours already. Its unfair that we have to pay their six
lawyers plus ours out of our own pockets.
I: Uh huh. Mr. Oxendine, I think our tape is running on pretty good
but you have a..this was your son who came in and spoke a while
ago, was it not?
S: Yes, sir.
I: Uh huh. Are you.a..well, I know you're proud of your children
because they a..they have all done well and a..do you think that
your success and their success together that you can account for
it all through the simple word education, better educational
opportunities and things like this?
S: That's right. Yes, sir.
I: Well, I guess this tape is just about to run out on us so a..
I want to thank you for talking with me a..its certainly been
interesting to me)and I'm quite sure it will be interesting to
LUM 6A Page 38
others and we certainly pray that these tapes will be a blessing,
and that they will further understanding among all people and a
so we'll just thank you and we'll sign off right here if it ht
with you, unless you have something you would like to add.
S: Well, I can't think of anything further that I would like to add
other than its been a pleasure to spend these few minutes in
discussing the problems we are confronted with here in 4l n
County as Lumbee Indians.
I: How do you feel about the future? Let me ask you that. Are you
optimistic about the future or are you discouraged or what?
S: I'm discouraged about the future as I see it because a..I think
with the situation -4. it is and what I've observed since its been
the post integration with the mixture of children, I can see a
difference in mine and being a teacher I can readily observe this
year over last year and I feel like that a..our educational process
is losing ground.
I: I see. Well, thank you so much, Mr. Oxendine, and this is Lew
Barton signing off on this tape. This is tape three.