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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Mr. James E. Chavis & Mr. Gerald M. Sider
INTERVIEWER: Adolph Dial
DATE: August 19, 20, 1971
D: This is August the 19th, 1971, Adolph Dial speaking. Here in my home
is Mr. James Ellsworth Chavis. Who are you, Mr. Chavis?
C: I'm the son of the Reverend Z.R. Chavis, who died in the past year, at
the age of ninety-nine.
D: Will you mention some of your other ancestors, please?
C: My father was the Reverend Z.R. Chavis. His father was Preston Chavis.
Preston's father was Henry Chavis. Henry's father was John Chavis. John
Chavis' father was Ishma Chavis, chief of one of the groups in between
Cheraw, South Carolina, and Hammer.
D: Which one of the Chavises moved to this area?
C: Henry married James Lowry's daughter, Clarisee. He raised twenty-two
D: That's quite a family. Mr. Chavis, are you a firm believer that we
here are a group of what we call the Eastern Siou and if so, why?
C: Because of the fact that this was the Siouan territory from the very
beginning, and we have some of the Siouan people that were left here.
Just a small group here on Lumber River, but there were other small
groups that were scattered practically all over North Carolina and
part of South Carolina. To the Siouan people, this was the territory
they lived in, and they were driven west. That notorious criminal or
ever what they called him, Sitting Bull, said that he was born here in
the eastern part of the country, and he knew exactly the conditions that
existed. That's why he was so anxious to stop the white man and that's
why he killed.
D: He was engaged in Custer's Last Stand at Little Big Horn. Mr. Chavis,
why would you think that there is not as much Lost Colony blood here as
people may think? You might have a point on it. What is your opinion
on the Lost Colony?
C: At that time, there was no way of transportation other than up and down
rivers. Big Swamp and Cape Hatteras are between us. If the Hatteras
Indians did migrate, they migrated further north into Virginia. I
wouldn't say that there's not some of that group that might have come
here. James Lowry came from Virginia in the 1770s and settled on what
we call Long Swamp, and started what we call the Lowrys. There were
other Lowrys in other parts of the country, but there were not any in
this country until James Lowry came.
D: You mentioned something a while ago about DeSoto. What is your opinion
on the white blood that did come into this area and settled with the
C: DeSoto came to what is now Southport, North Carolina--it wasn't South-
port at that time--and he travelled west and discovered the Mississippi
River. He established trading posts all across the country to the Mis-
ississippi River. But DeSoto never did come back. There's a fellow,
John Pardo, who did follow DeSoto's old trail, to what is now Rock Hill,
South Carolina, that territory in there. He established trading posts.
Therefore, my contention is that the white blood that was here was from
those people who were left stranded there after John Pardo left. He
never could come back because of the war between Great Britian and Spain.
D: Mr. Chavis, you feel that the white blood in this area is more the re-
sult of Spanish exploration than of the Lost Colony. Is that what you
C: Yes. It's more logical, because we have never known what went with
those men and nobody's tried to search and see what went with those
men--what their names were, where they went to, or what became of them.
Nobody's produced a roster showing those men's names. In Columbia,
South Carolina, they have records of both expeditions, but it's writ-
ten in Olde Spanish, and we've never have been able to have those Span-
ish records translated. It costs too much money to try to have them
translated. But Dr. John R. Swanton did go down there to find the re-
cord, and he made a report on the Siouan bill in 1934.
D: Who is Dr. John R. Swanton?
C: He's the head of the Ethnology Department of the Smithsonian Institut-
ion, and his general study is on Indians.
D: Some of the names here were on the Lost Colony list, such as Brooks,
Sampson, and so forth. Would you think that that is part of the Lost
C: It might because the first Brooks came here. There's just one Brooks
who came. There wasn't a bunch of them. The other names are the same
way they came in one at a time and married into the group that was here.
The Locklears were the most prevalent group, more prevalent than any
other family or family name. It's mentioned that there were more of
those left here.
D: What about your name Chavis? Do you have any idea of the origin of
Chavis? Have you gone into that genealogy?
C: Yes, we have. We went into it to find out where it came from. The name
Chavis is a Spanish name. Therefore it is possible that those men who
were left here were Spaniards and they carried that name.
D: Would this support your DeSoto theory, and the Spanish theory in origin?
S: Yes, because there are other names besides this particular one that have
been traced back and found that they were of other nationalities.
D: Can you think of any of them right off?
C: I don't remember just now, but Oxendine is one of them.
D: Some say Oxendine is German. It seems to me that Lefloss made this
statement once at the Historical Meeting in Memphis, Tennessee. I talk-
ed with Lefloss and he was not convinced that the people here were of
Lost Colony descent. He's considered an outstanding North Carolina
historian. He didn't say they were or were not. I have here, in Mr.
Chavis' material, some letters, and replies in regard to the Siouian
bill. One letter, to the Secretary of the Interior for 1930, says,
"My dear Mr. Secretary, We the Undersigned members of the General Coun-
cil of the Siouan Indians respectfully request that the said council be
recognized by the Interior Department as the appropriate representative
of the Siouan Indians of North Carolina in all future activities of the
Department that may affect our people." The Siouan Indians of North
Carolina number about 14,000. In Robeson County the Indian population
is scattered in most of the townships. We have sixteen townships, or
communities, that make up the Indian population in the county, and in
adjoining counties. In 1933, each community held an election and elec-
ted a representative for the Indians in the community. Each community
also elected a chairman, secretary, and treasurer. The representatives
of each community met, and elected a secretary, chairman, treasurer, r:
chief councilman, and a delegate. This group formed the General Coun-
cil of the Siouan Indians of North Carolina. The term of office expired
November 3, 1937, unless re-elected. The representatives from each
community are subject to recall by a majority of votes in the community.
Officers of the General Council are subject to recall by a majority of
votes of the council, each member having one vote. None of the elected
representatives of the Siouan Indians receive any pay for their services.
They are working for the purpose of helping Indians of the Siouan group.
Although the Siouan Indians have apparently never been recognized as a
tribe by Congress,we have had dealings with the Federal Government in
various connections and expect to have further dealings, in which it
would be advantageous to the Indians and to the government to have a
representative body recognized and authorized to speak for the Siouann
Indians. During the past few years, representatives of this council
have negotiated with the Indian office, and with the resettlement ad-
ministration, in connection with the Pembroke Indian Project on which
development has recently begun. The names of the people of the Siouan
Council appear on Siouan Lodge of the National Council of American
Indians, Incorporated, Pembroke, N.C. Advisory Members, T.H. Hammond,
Shelton Bullard, A.C. Locklear, T.H. Locklear, Floyd Chavis, Henry
McGurt, T.H. Hunt, Josiah Locklear, Eddie Oxendine, Holden Jacobs, A.A.
Oxendine, John Cummings, Charlie Locklear, D.L. Lowry, Percy Dees,
Willie Jacobs, H.H. Oxendine, George Locklear, C.G. Grimm, James E.
Chavis, (James Ellsworth Chavis), Joseph Brooks. This makes up the
Siouan Council. Their motto is, "Help Indians Help Themselves In Pro-
tecting Their Rights and Property." I have a letter from the United
States Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs, Washington,
D.C., December 11, 1938, to Mr. Joseph Brooks, Pembroke, North Carolina.
It reads, "Dear Mr. Brooks: I have the pleasure of informing you that
the question of recognizing certain of your people as Indians of the
half-blood, has recently been submitted to the Secretary of the Interior,
and his approval had now been obtained. As you may recall, we accepted
a total of 209 applications in Robeson County, and of these, twenty-two
applications were recommended for submission to the Secretary. He has
ruled that, on the basis of information presented, the twenty-two in-
dividuals should be considered eligible for enrollment as persons one--
half or more Indian and entitled to benefits established by the Indian
Reorganization Act. Please note that no other benefits are involved.
These people do not obtain tribal status or any rights or privileges in
any Indian tribe. I am preparing notices to be sent to each of the in-
dividuals whose applications are now approved. I will appreciate it if
you will bring this letter to the attention of the General Council of
Siouan Indians, in acknowledgement of the letter I received from them
dated November 8, 1938. Sincerely yours, William Zinterman, Jr., As-
sistant Commissioner." Mr. Chavis, would you give me the name of
some of the twenty-two people he spoke of? I don't have their names
C: Lawson Brooks, Henry Brooks, Lawson Brooks' wife, Daniel C. Brooks,
Lawrence Maynor, and John Brooks. There's a group of them.
D: Were most of them Brooks?
C: Yes, most of them were Brooks.
D: Do you feel that there was more Indian blood among the Brooks, at that
time, than any of the other people in the country?
C: No, I don't think that there was any more Indian blood among the Brooks,
but that was selective. Indian Blood has travelled everywhere. In the
meantime, in the first one hundred, we selected three. Then we picked
one name out of the group to test the whole family, and it happened to
be the Brooks family that we tested. The Locklears could have been
tested as the Brooks were, but we decided the Brooks, being so close
together, would be a lot better to test than the Locklears. They were
scattered all over the town.
D: How did they test the group?
C: An anthropologist from Harvard University did the test. He tested their
blood, their measurements, their pictures, and their general character-
D: I see. Those who were tested and didn't pass were only fifty percent
Indian. Was the other fifty percent black or white?
C: About ninety-six percent of the whole group could be classified as one--
half degree, but they were not, beyond a reasonable doubt, one-half de-
gree of more. That's the reasons they didn't pass. They were classed
as one-half degree.
D: A letter, here from the United States Department of the Interior, Office
of Commissioner of Indian Affairs, February 24, 1938, Mr. Joseph Brooks,
Pembroke, North Carolina, states," Dear Mr. Brooks: This answers your
inquiry as to the results of Dr. Selezer's physical examination of mem-
bers of the Siouan group. A total of 209 individuals were examined. Of
this total, twenty-two were found, on the basis of the physical test
exclusively, to be apparently one-half or more Indian blood. As you
know, no other evidence was obtained; no geneological evidence, no hi-
storical documentary evidence, and no ethnological evidence. It is not
in my power to say whether the findings of the physical anthropologist,
Dr. Selezer, will by itself be considered by the Secretary of Interiors
to supply the necessary evidence for final decision upon the question
at issue; namely, as to whether the twenty-two number of individuals
mentioned above can be declared Indians under the naming of the Indian
Reorganization Act. Sincerely yours, John Collier," Mr. Chavis, at
the time that Mr. Joseph Brooks went to Washington, did he go to work
iuth the Siouan Bill, or the Cherokee Bill?
C: The general council ordered him to go up there to work on and plan to
introduce the Cherokee Bill. There had been about three attempts be-
fore that to get a Cherokee Bill passed.
D: Who were those people working with Cherokee Bill?
C: The first one was A.S. Locklear, his group in 1914. He failed. There
was another group that tried to have the bill introudced but they failed.
When the third group tried it, Mr. Joseph Brooks said that there was
something wrong. He believed in the Cherokee name, because that was *
the name that we had in Robeson County, in the state. If we were not
Cherokees, the state was in error. He was sent to Washington to intro-
duce it in the federal legislation, to recognize the Indians in Robeson
County as the Cherokee, as they were recognized in North Carolina. When
he got up there, he found, from the Ethnology Department, that we were
not Cherokee, and you couldn't trace the Cherokee origin at all. He
found out that it was the Cheraws, and he wanted to introduce the Cheraw
Bill. He had the bill drawn up and was ready to introduce it when the
people sent for him to come home and have a conference. They had sent
him up there to introduce the Cherokee Bill. When he came home and ex-
plained the situation, they sent him back and he introduced the Cheraw
Bill. After they had gone before the Committee on Indian Affairs, in
the Senate and the House, the chairman wanted to know if there were other
tribes represented there besides this one tribe, the Cheraws, because
there were several other tribes represented in this area. He said, "Well,
if:ydu introduce the bill and recognize the Cheraws, what are you going
to do with the rest of the tribes that are represented in your group?"
That was a question that had to be settled. They decided to introduce
the bill under the family name, instead of just one!p.)attiatdarcta-it-heooTr
group. That's the reason the Cheraw Bill was introduced to begin with.
The Siouan Bill was introduced in order to cover all the small tribes
and groups represented in and among the Siouan people.
D: At the time when the Eastern Sioux came into the picture, had Swanson
already made his report, or was it during this time that he was working
and writing on the Siouan Indians? Who were some of the people from
Washington who were down here? Do you recall what department they were
with or their positions and so forth during this time?
C: We had a representative from the education division that came to the
college and made a report. The Superintendent on Indian Education
from Florida or that area down there somewhere came through and stopped.
I forgot his name. But anyway, we were trying to get scholarships for
Indians here, like the scholarships they had in other places with the
federal government making allowances for needy children to go to school.
We did get three scholarships for a year.
D: To whom?
C: To James Bell, Gertrude Locklear, Stella Grimm, and later on, Z.R.
Chavis. Z.R. went to Beecomb,bit the other three remained here at
Pembroke State Indian College.
D: Didn't we have some students, Mr. J.C. Oxendine and Bell--who went to
Carlisle years ago?
C: The ones that went to Carlisle were J.C. Oxendine, George Locklear,
__ Ernest Bell, and three or four others. Lacey Oxendine and
Donnie Oxendine also went.
D: Did they have special scholarships?
C: No, they went to Carlisle because they applied and were accepted.
Later on, Carlisle refused to take any of them.
D: That was one reason we needed a name and more recognition.
C: That's right. That's one of the reasons why I got in the Indian bus-
D: Mr. Chavis, how did people feel about Indians going in to World War I?
Wasn't there some confusion about being known as Cherokee and being
drafted into the service?
C: Yes. There were some groups that would leave and they would try to put
them with the Negroes, but they failed to do that. Of course, they did
switch some of them and change them around to put them in Negro outfits.
They stayed in that all through World War I. Several of the records
show, if you wanted to check the Veterans' Administration, that those
Indians who were left with the Negro outfits were discriminated against
because they were not white. In some cases, they were mighty nice to
the Indians, and there were some non-commissioned officers who were
glad to have an Indian as a helper.
D: What about the draft? How did they feel about being drafted?
C: Under the law, Indians didn't have to go to war. There was no law passed
for their citizenship or semi-citizenship or anything. He was a ward of
the federal government; therefore, he didn't have to go to war and he
didn't have to fight. Because the Indians didn't know anything about the
law and they had no lawyers that could do them any good, the white man,
doing as he pleased, drafted them anyway. There was a case here in
Robeson County, where an Indian was taken to the Federal Court for not
registering. The Federal Court sent him home and said, "Well, if you're
an Indian, you don't have to go." The technicalities of the law were
such that, until that time, there was no way in the world to make an
Indian go to war to fight.
D: That was prior to 1930. Was it 1924, before he became a citizen of the
C: That's right.
D: There was much talk that many of the people felt and thought that you
couldn't send these people into the service. Did Grimm win his case?
C: Yes, he won his case. He contested and won.
D: I see. Mr. Chavis, at the time of the Smiling lawsuit, what was the
feeling of the people here about outsiders coming in? What was the gen-
eral feeling of other Indians coming here? It appears there was a lot
of feeling if one came from Columbus County, or from Sampson County, or
some other place. Say something on that, please.
C: The people had been discriminated against for so long, and they knew
that they were not Negroes. They were just simply afraid to take any-
body in, afraid it was a mulatto or something other slipping in. We
had cases of that kind, previously. They were just afraid to take any-
body in on account of that.
D: In your opinion,--of the mixed blood here in the area Mulattoes--did
people feel that most of them were white and black rather than being
mixed with Indian?
C: Until today, there were a lot of white people who said that is where we
originated, but it's not true. There wasn't but one thing to do, and
that was to cut a line, and go through to that line. That's the reason
the Smilings had trouble with getting in. They came in, and stayed for
the last thirty-five or forty years, and now they've assimilated. They
have come and mixed in, and you learned to know them. There's a lot of
things in there that affect the entire group. That's the reason they
never did want anybody else coming in. They were just sick of it.
D: Looking back, in view of the Brown decision of 1954, and seeing schools
integrated today, how do you view the situation?
C: It was pitiful back there because everybody had to stand on his own feet.
D: That's not exactly what I mean. Does it sound somewhat absurd, today or
were you thinking in terms of already being a minority, that the white
man had to make the moves for integration rather than the Indian? That
he couldn't afford to pioneer into integration?
C: The question of integration covers a large field, but in the meantime,
the Indians had to cut his line and stop them all from coming in. In
my lifetime, I've seen the time a white man couldn't come into this ter-
ritory. There wasn't but one white man that had access to this territ-
ory. He could come in when he pleased and leave when he please. And
that was Old Mr. Weinstein, and he sells clothes.
D: A peddler?
C: He was called a peddler. He was the only peddler that could come in
this territory, and get out.
D: He lived with many of the Indian people.
C: He lived with a lot of them. Whenever he'd drive up and it happened
to get dark, he could stop anywhere, and people would take him in. He
stayed for the night, fed his horse, put him.up--just like he was one
of us. But he was the only white man that could come in this territory
and get out.
D: Being a Jew, he was discriminated against too, so maybe both had some-
thing in common. You mentioned a minute ago an incident about Miss
Lulu, who went to Lumberton, and the instruction she was given about
her boy, and so forth. Will you tell me about this?
C: My aunt, Luly, was the youngest one of the whole family. She was the
baby. My grandgather would send her off to transact business for him.
In his last days, he was too disabled to go to Lumberton and pay his
tax. I happened to be there one day, and he told Lulu to go to Lumb-
erton and pay his tax. I wanted to go and she decided to take me with
her. Before we left, Grandpappy took her in there with him and said,
"Now Lulu, whenever you start down the street, and there's a white man
on the street, comes walking down the sidewalk in front of you, or a
white girl, or a white boy, you get off of the street, and you take
this child off the street with you. And when they pass, then you can
get back on the sidewalk." Those were the conditions that existed at
D: I can remember some Indians were at the building, waiting for the bank
to open, and some whites were there. Even if the Indians had been
there a good while earlier, they would stand aside and they thought the
white man was to go in first. As a matter-of-fact, I can remember when
no white man called any Indian Mister, except for those who had come
into the community college to teach and so forth. It was this way up
until, I suppose, World War II, wouldn't you think so?
C: Yes, in World War II. The most change was made in that time.
D: I know of one white fella, about ten or fifteen years ago, who'd always
say Adolph, and I started calling him by his first name--then he started
calling me Mr. Dial. Mr. Chavis, you're seventy-six years old and I'm
sure you remember some of the hard times during the Depression and even
before the Depression. Will you relate some to us?
C: Before the Depression, we didn't even know what a depression was. But
we had hard times. In the wintertime, you'd have to cut cord wood,
things like that, cut crossties, and then you could haul it to town in
order to get some Christmas money. Generally the crops were corn and
cotton. If the cotton didn't pay you out, then that fall the judgement
wagon came around and closed everybody out that couldn't pay their
debts. When I say closed them out, I'm talking about taking the chickens,
hogs, or anything that you had, load them on that wagon, and carry them
back to the boss' house. But through the Depression, it was not near
as hard as it was in my coming up, in molasses at that, the kind they
use now, or used to use, to poison boll weevils. That was the kind of
stuff you got from the store, and these no-head herring fish, things of
that kind. That's what you had to get from the store to live.
D: Do you feel that a lot of the land in this area was acquired il-
legally by the merchants who were white? Could you give me some
examples without calling names?
C: Yes, I've seen too much of that. I've seen enough of it that it
made me prejudiced against going into debt to buy land or to buy
anything. I was afraid for a long time before I tried to buy any
land on account of that same thing. You go buy a piece of land,
and get it pretty near paid for, and happen to hit a bad streak.
Maybe your wife or children had to go to the doctor, something like
that would happen to you. You had no income, you didn't have any-
thing you could do about it, and you'd had to carry that child or
wife, or whoever it might be to the doctor. If you didn't have mo-
ney then to pay it off when the time came, they'd close you out.
Then you'd be lost. I know of a man who bought a farm--that man
lives in Pembroke now--and he had paid it down to a small amount.
Then the man who sold him the land closed him out and took it away
from him. He had put about seven or eight years work on that land,
building it up, and paying the payments 'every year. That was just
one incident, and there's hundreds and hundreds of incidents all
over the county where this same thing was done.
D: Mr. Gerry Sider, an anthropologist from New York, has worked lots in
the Lumbee area here. He happened to drop by a few minutes ago to
pay a visit, and while he's here, I would like him to give me some
of his impressions of the things that he's learned in this area. Dr.
Sider, point out some of the things here that you've observed in the
S: To me, the most fascinating thing has been the political success of
the Lumbee. He'd start out about the 1830's, at a time when the
national and local governments got serious and decimating the Indian
tribes east of the Mississippi. You find, in case after case, the
Indian social structures were smashed, the Indian people were killed,
and the Indians have progressively, in general, gotten less and less
political power, and less and less assertive socially, economically,
and politically again. In the space of this, the Lumbee have man-
aged, slowly but consistently, to grow and develop, to become more
assertive politically, to become stronger economically, to become
socially more powerful within their region. To me, one of the most
fascinating issues has been how the Lumbee have managed to have the
opposite historical experience from just about every other Indian
group east of the Mississippi.
D: What kind of work are you doing now? What is your address, title
and so forth?
S: I teach at one of the branches of the city university--Richmond
College, which is an experiemntal college, with juniors and seniors
upgraded, in New York City. I do have my doctorate this spring.
I'm working primarily on the political history of the American Indian
groups. I'm interested in the local impact of national trends and
national policy, and I'm particularly interested in the various ways
that American Indian groups have organized themselves to fight
D: How did you first hear of the Lumbees, and why did you come this way?
S: I'd heard of the Lumbees because of the clan incident. It's pretty
famous. Then I received some further information through Dr. William
Sturdivant of the Smithsonian Institute.
D: Gerry, what do you feel is the greatest need in this area now? In what
direction do the people need to travel? As you know, we're getting our
bank on the way, or we think it will be on the way in a few weeks. What
are some of the things that we need to concentrate on?
S: That's always hard for an outsider to say. I don't pretend to under-
stand all the complexities of the situation, nor to understand exactly
how success is achieved. It seems to me, in retrospect, that one of
the critical issues is land ownership and control. I was always fas-
cinated by the political prophecies down here--the prophecies by which
the whites could divide the Indian vote from the black vote and could
take control of the schools, the welfare department, and the county
commissioners on that basis. I was extremely concerned to see fair and
decent elections come in, and to see the Lumbee win some of them, at
least their share of them.
D: (By the way, the Lumbee, or the minority today have control of the
S: That's nice to hear. A lot of good people were treated badly down
there. I myself know of a couple of cases where the man would say that
he was treated so badly he would rather starve and die than go down and
ask for assistance. In one case that I can certify myself, the man did
starve and die. The welfare board was a real horror. I am now coming
to think that land ownership--what happens to sharecroppers, what hap-
pens to tenant farmers, what happens to people with twenty or twenty--
five acres of land--is one of the critical issues. Also, I think--par-
ticularly in my historical research--that one of the issues that's very
urgent, both here and in other American Indian communities around the
country, is that people are coming to regard anger as legitimate. It
used to be, that the dominant style of politics was politeness and kind-
ness. That's very beautiful in one sense but on the other hand, I think
that it's going to take a lot of anger and a lot of believing in the
legitimacy and validity of anger to .accomplish what needs to be accomp-
lished now. I was particularly impressed with the research of a man
called William Willis, who did an article called "Divide And Rule: Red,
White, and Black in the Southeast."
D: Mr. Chavis, how do you feel about education today? Do you feel that
Pembroke State University has left some of the children, or do you feel
that there ought to bealmore open admissions policy? What is your po-
sition in the past?
C: In the beginning of the college, when it was first established, it was
established for Indians only. Now you might think, by what I am saying,
that it might be prejuidiced against any other race. It's not. The
original purpose of the Indian college was to give the Indian a chance
to get an education. They are not qualified in any way to compete with
the white man/yet. I understood that was what the college was for.
In 1909, we moved from the old college at Pole to the new college at
Pembroke, which had become Pembroke Indian Normal. I don't know how
many different names it had. The real purpose of the college was for
the Indians of Robeson and adjoining counties. The Indians speak bro-
ken English, they have lived with it all their lives, and they have
never had a chance to use good English, except those who go out and
live among the white people and stay among the white people. They can
not compete with these other children that come in here from other
places. They are raising the standard at the college so high, until
those Indians who compete are Indians who have lived and worked among
white people all the time, or most of the time, and they pick up their
language. The language generally used among the Indians in the Indian
home is the kind of language that they use automatically when the fin-
ish high school and come to college. Then that's held against them.
Professors and everybody else say they are half-trained, half-this and
half-the other. The main purpose of the college was to get them out
of that. Instead they are being criticized and discriminated against
in their academic work. This should be corrected.
D: Thank you, Mr. Chavis. I teach at Pembroke State University, and I
too believe that the university has somewhat left its student body.
Maybe we need an open-admission policy for all Indian high school grad-
uates. Speaking of the real purpose of a college of a university, we
might mention Navaho Community College. They have some students who
have never attended a day of school in their life. Mr. Chavis would
you tell us something about the Resettlement Administration that evol-
ved out of the New Deal program?
C: Prior to the President recommending and establishing the Resettlement
Administration, we had made application to get benefits through the
Indian Office from the Sealer Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Under
that, we could borrow money from the federal government through the
Commissioner on Indian Affairs, or the Secretary of the Interior, and
that money would be paid back. The Resettlement Administration had
the same kind of program for citizens, and we had the Commissioner on
Indian Affairs, or the Secretary of the Interior, as you'll find from
the record, recommend our group to the Resettlement Administration.
Then Mr. Brooks made an application for a project and the project was
D: Was the Red Banks Mutual Association formed about or at the same time?
Was all of it in the same program?
C: It was in the same program, but it was separated because it was in the
experimental stage. The Red Banks Mutual was recommended by Wallace
who became vice-president. Mr. Wallace had been to Russia and saw how
communes were established. He thought we could try that and see how
it would work out. Red Banks was established on a commune basis, with
a constitution, bylaws, and things of that kind that you can find in
the records--how it was established and how it went about being estab-
D: Now it's broken up, but I noticed the land is all Indian-owned. As of
today, they haven't lost it. What about the Resettlement? Did any of
that land drift into white man's hands? It's all in Indian hands, right?
C: It will be, as long as the green grass grows, and the water runs down-
D: I see.
C: It'll stay that way. You better believe it. We'll always keep it from
going back into the white man's hands. The deeds were drawn that way.
That land was bought under federal statute; it was not bought under
state law statute like our land that we buy. When the government bought
that land, they bought it under federal statute, and the land was to be
for Indians. If it's ever sold it will have to go back to the Indians.
D: Mr. Chavis, when did you start your teaching career?
C: I started teaching in the latter part of 1914, and the first past of
D: Describe your teaching to us. Tell us something about your teaching
and so forth.
C: My first teaching experience was in an old house down on the edge of
South Carolina. We took boards, might be six-by-one's, and made ben-
ches for the children to sit on. The next teaching I did was in Sampson
County. I taught four years in South Carolina and after I come back
from the war in 1920, I taught in the latter part of '20, and the first
part of '21, in Sampson County. We had about seventy-five children,and
we used the church as a schoolhouse. I had grades one through seven. You
can imagine what I had when I was trying to teach seven grades with
that many children in that little old church. In the latter part of
1921, I started teaching at what is now Oxendine School. I taught
there two years and then went down to what they call Black Ankle. I
stayed down there and taught for seven years before I went back and i
finished high school. Then I went to college for two years. In that
period of time, working with the children, I had never had any teaching
experience, just what I had picked up. I had to learn it the hard way.
We had a county commencement. Old Miss Morgan--I forgot her name now
but she was Miss Morgan at that time--she was a supervisor of Indian
education in the county. She had a county commencement. That county
commencement went on for three or four years. That experience that
year woke up most Indians in Robeson County. It got them interested in
education and getting their children through school. Teaching is a
whole story within itself when you have seven grades and seventy-five
children, trying to teach all seven grades.
D: You had seventy-five students in seven grades? While you were teaching,
did you feel you were given equal amounts of funds for supplies and so
forth? Did you have running water, even in recent years, in the schools
you taught in?
C: No, we didn't have running water. Most of the time we had to drink out
of mudholes. I call them mudholes now, from what they were then. We
had what they called a spring--someplace or another off from the school-
house--to get our water. We did that in South Carolina, and in most of
the schools, except in the latter days around in the twenties. We did
have a pump, but, most of the time, the pump was out of order, and you
had to carry water from other people's houses nearby.
D: Did you get water from a hand pump?
C: Yes, a hand pump. You just put the pump pitcher on it. Most of the
time it was out. As far as the wood, we had to cut the wood ourselves.
We had to buy our own heaters. We had a heater which had been bought
by the community or the people. If we wanted chalk, we had to buy the
chalk to write on the blackboard. We had to buy that and any other
things that we needed ourselves. They furnished a minimum amount for
teaching and that was it. As far as the toilet, most of the time we
used the woods. They didn't even have what we now call outside toilets.
We never had those until Dr. Hardin came on as the county health offi-
cer, and he required that all schools have toilets on account of hook-
worms. People came in contact with hookworms...
D: Yes, in my day as a student at Prospect High School, we had some out-
door toilets, but they were usually so filthy that the students didn't
want to use them. The county didn't do anything to keep them in good
shape. When it was built, the frame building had two restrooms built
on to it. From the day it was built until it was torn down and replac-
ed with a new building, it never did have restroom facilities in it.
We had what we called the girls swamp, and boys swamp, and that's
where we would go. It was not very sanitary; it was rather terrible.
I found in my teaching years that even now we don't get our prorated
share of funds like we ought to. The Indian is still taking what he
can get. It's a lot better than it was, than it has been in the past,
but still, we have a long way to go. We need to work on this problem
in the future. Speaking of land ownership, we are gradually getting
back more of the land now--after the hardwork, the blood, .sweat, and
tears. I bought 240 acres myself. I want to help to get the land back
into the Indian hands. Indians put their great pride on land in this
territory. They have great pride, perhaps more so than the whites or
the blacks. This is part of their nature. They like being close to