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WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW MOST ABOUT THE
LUMBEE INDIANS By Lew Barton
July 3, 1971
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Question: Do you have a sort of "State of the Lumbee" Address each year?
Answer: Yes. The following is such an address, delivered by the honorable
Mr. Brantley Blue, B-r-a-n-t-l-e-y B-l-u-e, Commissioner, United States
Indian Claims Commission, Washington, District of Columbia, July 3, 1971,
at the Lumbee Annual Powwow, at the Lumbee Recreation Center, Red Banks,
that's R-e-d B-a-n-k-s, North Carolina, Mr. Blue, himself a Lumbee, is
one of five federal judges appointed by the President of the United States
to study and make decisions on claims involving lost Indian lands for
which suit has been brought against the United States by various Indian
groups. Mr. Blue was appointed by President Richard M. Nixon shortly
after the President's first inaugural address, and still serves in that
Brantley Blue's own personal story is tinged with irony. Finding him-
self unable to practice law in his native state after graduating from
law school because he was an Indian-; he moved to Kingsport, K-i-n-g-s-
p-o-r-t, Tennessee, set up a very successful law practice, married a
Kingsport girl, and eventually became a city judge there.
Yet Bluets interest in his own people and in his own community has never
waned. Down through the years, he has kept in close contact with them,
advising them on many matters when the occasion -demanded it and returning
to visit his mother and other relatives in Pembroke very frequently.
I acquired the text of the speech which I shall give shortly, not only
because I believe the speech reflects this, but also because it furnishes
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a good check point in time. I might also add, that it was on this par-
ticular occasion that our present governor of the state of North Carolina,
James E. Holshouser, J-a-m-e-s E. H-o-l-s-h-o-u-s-e-r, launched the
political campaign that would land a Republican governor in the state
capital for the first time in three quarters of a century. That, what-
ever else one may say about it, is historical.
It was a dramatic moment when Blue stood up to speak. Also on the
platform with him were United States Congressman Alton Lennon, A-l-t-o-n
L-e-n-n-o-n, (D-NC), serving as Master of Ceremonies was Bruce Jones,
B-r-u-c-e J-o-n-e-s, then head of the newly-organized Lumbee Regional
Development Association. All three men spoke.
This particular speech is also important because it explains something
about names, a subject that has plagued our people for many generations.
Here then is the text of Blue's speech:
Fellow Lumbees and friends:
It is good to be home. There is something perhaps a little bit unique
about an Indian being born in an Indian community. Where ever else he
lives and for however long he may live there, when he mentions the word
'home' he means the place of his birth. And when he speaks of his people
he means his Indian family, Indian relatives and Indian friends. This
is my home and you are my people.
A new day is dawning for the American Indian all over this country. It
can be felt very strongly right here in Robeson county. A man can feel
it in his bones. This is good! The racial, economic, social, education-
al and political prejudices of the past are easing up. I do not have to
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list for you what they are or have been. You are well able to identify
them. They still exist to some extent, but they are vast melting into
thin air and mayZ that process continue and even hasten along its way!
There are a number of reasons for this change inthe climate here
in Robeson County, as well as in the remainder of the country.C The
chief reason is that it has been about one hundred years since the whites
and Indians were last engaged in a fierce struggle of combat and death.
Those who personally took part in those actions are no longer on the
scene. .The passage of time has healed many wounds and eased many hurts.
Those now living on either side can honestly say, "Those were not my
actions.;- They were the actions of my ancestors. And whether they
were right or wrong I should not suffer the blame nor should I receive
This makes it possible for the whites in this county to read the
book, To Die Game-, which is spelled, T-o D-i-e G-a-m-e, and perhaps
better understand the actions of Henry Berry Lowry. That's spelled,
H-e-n-r-y B-e-r-r-y L-o-w-r-y. (Note: Henry Berry Lowry was a gorilla
fighter who operated during the troubled days 1865 to 1875.) It makes
it possible for descendents of western settlers to read the book, Custard
Died For Your Sins, and better understand the actions of Chief Crazy Horse.
The country has been settled now for a hundred years and it is no longer
necessary for our government or for history to show the Indian in the
worst possible light in order to justify the taking of his land.
After lying low for a hundred years, the Indian is emerging again
under changed circumstances.> He is seeking education. 3 He is becoming
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skilled in the ways of the white man including the business world,
the professions, the arts and sciences, and in government itself. He
is learning that he is not inferior, that he can be just as intelligent,
just as skilled, just as professional, just as political and just as
effective as can his white breathern. He is building a great amount
of self-confidence in himself. His children are self-confident. He
finds them ready and rearing to go, to prove that they can do. And
this is good! We are seeing the good fruits of this new and healthy
However, in the Indian community we know that we have been the most
rejected, the most deprived and the most abandoned social group in this
country. No less a person than President Nixon, in his special indian
message to Congress last summer, made that very clear. The President
laid out a program asking Congress to enact its provisions in order
to better serve the interests of the American Indians. If you have not
read that program I suggest that you do so. In my opinion, if the Con-
gress of the United States puts into law the Indian measures recommended
by President Nixon, more will be accomplished for the good of the Indian
in this country than has been done under any other president this country
has produced. The ball has been tossed to Congress. We will now see what
Congress will do with it. I urge you to support this program. Write
to your congressmen and to your senators and let them know that you support
the President's American Indian Program.
North Carolina is five in the nation so far as Indian population is
concerned. And more than seventy-five percent of the Indians in this state
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are located in this immediate or adjoining area. To the extent that
there is an Indian program of suffering in this country and believe you
me there is one the Lumbee Indians share that program. And the Lumbee
Indians should certainly be considered and not forgotten when it comes
to state and federal concern. The Lumbee Indians are the second largest
single group of Indians in this country and it is high time that the
people occupying high posts in this government become aware of our exist-
ence and of our needs and of our strengths. Particularly our political
strength and our economic need. The time should be past when any politi-
cal party or faction in this area or in this state can look to this
group of some thirty-five thousand Indians and take them for granted or
mark them off as unreachable. There should be a dialogue between the
candidates and the people. The Lumbee should say individually You
listen to us, We listen to you. Then we make up our minds and we will
vote as we think we should vote. But don't ever take us for granted.
This is what political strength and political power is all about and it
is very, very important among a people of some thirty-five thousand
I mentioned to you earlier that the climate has changed in this
country. Today it is for the Indian. No one knows how long this good
climate will last. The Lumbees don't live on a reservation. Therefore,
there is very little that the Bureau of Indian Affairs can do by way
of direct help. However, there are many, many other agencies within our
federal structure that have Indian desks placed there to help Indian
people both on or off the reservation. Our people have been largely
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unaware of these Indian desks until very recent years. Many persons in
the last few years in Washington, and persons here in North Carolina have
developed themselves toward becoming familiar with these agencies of
government that have programs and funds that can help the educational
and economic situation of the Lumbee Indians. Since 1968 quite a number
of thousands of dollars have been used here in different program along
various lines. Many of you are unaware of these activities. There have
been more than two hundred adults Lumbee adults in the county who
have gone to school to learn to sign their names on applications to
become functional literates to be able to read and write to such an
extend they can apply for a job. This has been done and a few other
things have already been done through the efforts of the Lumbee Regional
Development Association, headed by W. J. Strickland, S-t-r-i-c-k-l-a-n-d.
Now I am told that the efforts of certain persons and thought the use
of the name, Lumbee, we have qualified with several agencies of our federal
government that have been unreachable, but are now reachable. And many
future good programs may be coming through in the foreseeable future.
Helen Scheirbeck, H-e-l-e-n S-c-h-e-i-r-b-e-c-k, a Lumbee Indian
occupying the Indian desk in the Offices of Health, Education and Welfare,
has been very helpful in bringing much of this to pass. The Lumbee Regional
Development Association, which I mentioned early, a local group, has been
very helpful. Others have helped behind the scenes. Things are changing
for the good.
When I was a boy and after I became a man, I heard Indians say here
in Robeson County, "That crowd in Lumberton(our county seat) will never
permit us to have a voice in county politics." Today, a member of the
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Lumberton Police Force is an Indian. A member of the Robeson County
Board of Education, by county-wide election, is Indian. His name is
Harry West Locklear, H-a-r-r-y W-e-s-t L-o-c-k-l-e-a-r. A member
of the City of Lumberton Board of Education by city-wide election is
Indian. Her name is Zelma Locklear. That's Z-e-l-m-a L-c-k-l-e-a-r.
Very importantly, a member of the Lumberton Board of Commissioners,
city-wide election, is Indian. His name is Hilton Oxendine, H-i-l-t-o-n
O-x-e-n-d-i-n-e. I know these are events that should have happened
years ago, since about one third of the population of this county is
Indian. But they did not then happen. Now they are happening and
this is good.
When I was a boy and after I became a man, I heard Indians say
here in Robeson County, "An Indian must leave Pembroke if he wants to
be anything other than a school teacher for Indians, or a farmer. To-
day, many Indians are very successful here, in other fields. There are
more and more successful Indian business men. The druggist field has
been successfully entered. Dr. Martin L. Brooks, that's spelled M-a-r-t-i-n
L. B-r-o-o-k-s, successfully entered the medical field. The political
field has been successful entered as I just pointed out. Even the
President of Pembroke State University, which began years ago as a "for
Indians only normal school" with an enrollment of less than one hundred
students as late as 1946, but with a present enrollment of some two thousand
students, is headed by an Indian, my high school classmate, Dr. English
Jones, that's E-n-g-l-i-s-h J-o-n-e-s.
When I was a boy and after I became a man, I heard Indians say here in
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Robeson County, "There is no use trying to get ahead. The white man
won't let you."' Today, we have Lumbee Indians throughout this land
who have been successful very successful receiving all sorts of
recognition and honor in many fields, including the education field,
professional field, business field, entertainment field, the field of
government. I do not have to name them. You know who they are. You
have read about them in The Robesonian, spelled T-h-e R-6-b-e-s-o-n-i
-a-n. And that brings me to another point.
Robeson County Indians say, The Robesonian (the leading newspaper
in the county) never mentions an Indian unless it is reporting about
his arrest or trial concerning a crime. Today, The Robesonian is con-
stantly reporting and apparently proudly so, the many achievements of
the Lumbee Indians. Ordinarily, newspapers print news. They print the
bad and the good. If it is mostly bad, that will be reported. If it
is mostly good, that too will be reported. People say to me, "The
Robesonian has changed." I answer: "The Lumbees have changed." They
are achieving now and it makes the news good news! This is good.
I spoke earlier of Pembroke State University. I understand there
are perhaps no more Indians attending it today than there were in 1957,
though the enrollment has vastly increased since that time, and this has
occurred right here in the midst of the Indian community. This causes
concern. There are perhaps several reasons for it. Many Indians take
pride in now being able to send their children to college away from home.
I share that pride. Come next fall, my wife and I are sending our daughter
to a college away from home, so to speak. We are sending her to Pembroke
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State University. I might add she is anxious to come. Janet, J-a-n-e-t,
loves our people here. Though she was not born here, she considers Pem-
broke her second home and she considers the University a great institution.
The decision was hers and hers alone. I might add, however, that her mother,
Dorothy, D-o-r-o-t-h-y, a native of Kingsport, Tennessee, might have
prompted her a little.
Understand that another reason why no more Lumbees attend the Uni-
versity is because quite a number of high school graduates can't pass
the entrance exams. This is not good. I suggest the answer as being,
don't lower the University requirements, but raise the educational abili-
ties of the secondary Lumbee schools. Let us not compromise downward,
but rather let us advance onward, upward and achieve. Anybody can be
mediocre. I am all for Pembroke State University. Let its standards
rise not lower and let the Lumbee Indians inhabit its walls by the droves
and meet all the requirements at the same time.
One other thing I want to mention and this might be somewhat contro-
versial. That is the term "Lumbee." During recent years, some of my
best Lumbee friends have said to me, "I am not Lumbee. I am Cherokee,
or I am this or I am that." Listen, and I am very serious, we are all
Lumbees. Let me explain. From time to time we have been known as
Croatans, C-r-o-a-t-a-n-s, Cherokees, C-h-e-r-o-k-e-e-s, Siouans, S-i-6
u-a-n-s, and perhaps a variety of a dozen other Indian tribes. That has
always been one of our big problems. All of us belong to no one parti-
cular tribe. But many of us can trace our ancest-ry back to various and
sundry tribes. It has, therefore, been impossible for the entire group
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to agree on any one Indian tribal name. Everytime one group would
label us with a name, another group would come right back along a
short time later and change it to another tribal name. In 1953 a
workable solution was found. The North Carolina General Assembly,
through the efforts of Reverend D. F. Lowry, D. F. L-o-w-r-y, and
others, was persuaded to name us the "Lumbee Indians of North Caro-
lina." A few years later the United States Congress did the same.
We are now called Lumbees for this very simple and wise reason: We
are a group of Indians coming from several tribes that long ago occu-
pied this big general area and involving more than one state. We
are settled here along the banks of the Lumbee River. We know we
are here. We know the Indian name for the river is Lumbee. So why
don't we all Croatans, C-r-o-a-t-a-n-s, Cherokees, C-h-e-r-o-k-e-e-s,
Pamunkeys, P-a-m-u-n-k-e-y-s, Siouan, S-i-o-u-a-n, Cheraws, C-h-e-r-a-w-s ,
Waterees, W-a-t-e-r-e-e-s, Tuscaroras, T-u-s-c-a-r-o-r-a-s, or what have
you, get under the same unobjectionable name of Lumbee? There is one
thing that some of us apparently do not yet understand. The term Lumbee
is a big enough umbrella for all of us. Lumbee really means a group.-of
Indians from different tribes who have joined together along the banks of
the Lumbee River. You still have the personal priviledge of being Croatan,
Ziouan, Tuscaroras, Cherokee, or whatever tribal name you want to claim.
Lumbee only means that you are a part of the big group of Indians who
have joined together. It is about like being a citizen of Robeson County,
but also a citizen of the state of North Carolina. It is my opinion that
never again will the name be changed. It is truly our name. And it is
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time we had one that we can all accept.
When I was a boy and after I became a man, I heard Robeson County
Indians say, "The Indians of Robeson County will never get together -
there are too many factions." Today they are getting together and al-
ways under the unobjectionable name, "the Lumbees." Let us take that
name and imprint it favorably upon the mind of all America. It is only
by choosing a common name that we can have numbers and with those num-
bers deal with the various state and federal agencies of government and
help our people.
In closing, I refer back to one of my opening remarks. A new day
is dawning for the American Indian. Including the Robeson County Indians.
I must say this, the big change in attitude, the big change in the climate,
would not have been possible without the help of our white friends. Their
attitudes have changed, too. Without their help the climate would not
have changed. You don't see, for example, certain restaurants, restrooms,
and bus station signs that you saw in the county seat thirty years ago.
We have all changed. This county is a tri-racial county and the relations
today among the races are such that I would put up our county for racial
understanding and cooperation as the top such county in this nation.
This required a good feeling on the part of all three races and this is
good. Let us encourage the feeling and promote it.
I leave you with this one thought.^ I am Lumbee and I hope you
are, too. God Bless you!
END OF ADDRESS
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A good many things have changed since that speech was made in 1971,
among them a hardening of attitude on the part of many of us. Examining
our problems at close range, we have been compelled to face reality as
it really is. One thing that has not changed however, is faith in the
name Lumbee by most of the middle-class Lumbees. Although since 1971
two small groups of Robeson Indians labeling themselves as Tuscaroras,
have had the lion's share of newspaper publicity, most of us still
see the name Lumbee as the only logical solution to our dilema. I
give you here by permission a letter written April 15, 1974, by Indian
Claims Commissioner Brantly Blue which is addressed to the ibnorable
D. F. Lowry, Pembroke, North Carolina. Reverend Lowry is the man
largely responsible for the name Lumbee in the first place. Here is
Honorable D. F. Lowry
Pembroke, North Carolina 28372
Dear Reverend Lowry:
I want you to know that I.have not forgotten or overlooked the
fact of your calling upon me at my mother's home when I was a Pembroke
a few weeks ago and requesting certain information from me about present
federal Lumbee programs.
It would be very difficult for me to run down all of the financial
assistance that has flowed to the Indians of Robeson County over a period
of years, from federal sources,because of the existence of the present
"Lumbee Bill," which you fathered, sponsored and guided from Pembroke,
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to Raleigh, and then to Washington, in such fine fashion that it was
passed into Law by the United States Congress in 1956.
Indeed, that bill has been extremely.helpful through the years.
First, it gave our people an identity "Lumbee"-- that really
should not be objectional. It avoids all of the usual tribal names,
none of which a majority of our people would ever accept. It is sort
of an umbrella type name that includes all tribes and that most all of
our people can easily accept.
Second, this unobjectional name Lumbee is known throughout this
land today as referring to a large group of Indians in eastern North
Carolina, who constitute one of the five largest groups of Indians
in this country ans the largest group east of the Mississippi. It
is also known(Lumbee) as being the most educated and most progressive
group of Indians in this land. The fact of the matter is, there is
considerable jealousy we encounter from certain other Indian groups
in the country.
Third, even with the objectionable last clause, in the present
"Lumbee Bill," which seeks to prohibit us from receiving any federal
services, which was added at the suggestion of the Department of the
Interior and without your knowledge, we have received and do receive
today many federal services because of the recognition afforded us
under the present "Lumbee Bill." (note: Commissioner Blue here is
referring to the Lumbee Bill of 1956 passed by the United States Congress
and passed in 1953 by the General Assembly of North Carolina.)
As I indicated above, it would be an extremely difficult task.
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to ascertain and to pinpoint all of the federal aid, moneys and services
that have flowed to Lumbee Land as a result of the present "Lumbee Bill";
but I will now speak to one ear:
Fiscal year 1973, from one department the Department of Health,
Education and Welfare, the total amount is almost one million dollars.
This was pointed out in the attached statement by Stanley B. Thomas,
S-t-a-n-l-e-y B. T-h-o-m-a-s, Junior, Assistant Secretary for Human
Development, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, as he testified
before the Indian Affairs Sub-Committee in the House of Representatives
on April 8, 1974, with regard to amending the present "Lumbee-Bill.!"
You will note on page two of his actual statement that he refers to
two hundred and ten thousand dollars per year for the past two years,
provided by the Office of Native American Programs; he refers to six
hundred and seventy-five thousand, three hundred and seventy-seventy
dollars, to seven schools in Robeson County for the education of Indian
children and seventy-five thousand dollars to L.R.D.A. for special
programs and projects to improve educational opportunities for Indian
children. This total is nine hundred and sixty-four thousand dollars.
There were, of course, other federal programs in existence for the
All of the above had the present "Lumbee Bill" as the base for
authority....even with the clause in it.
The present efforts to simply get rid of that clause, in my opinion,
deserves the support of all Robeson County Indians.
I am also attaching statements by Morris Thompson, spelled m-o-r-,
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M-o-r-r-i-s T-h-o-m-p-s-o-n, Commissioner of Indian Affairs; Gene
Anderson, G-e-n-e- A-n-d-e-r-s-o-n, from Governor Holshouser's office;
Janie Maynor Locklear,J-a-n-i-e- M-a-y-n-o-r L-o-c-k-l-e-a-r, and
Henry Ward Oxendine, H-e-n-r-y W-a-r-d O-x-e-n-d-i-n-e, made before
the House Committee on April 8, 1974, all in favor of striking the
clause of prohibition now contained in the "Lumbee Bill."
I wish, Mr. Fuller, M-r. F-u-l-l-e-r, as I have always called you,
to take this opportunity to express to you my deep conviction that the
programs and the moneys referred to above, involving the year 1973, and
other similar programs and projects, and in fact, our identity itself,
would not be what they are today, in any way, except for the efforts
and the success ier you spear-headed some years ago.
You are, in my book, Pembroke's First Citizen. You have been a
great Indian leader, way ahead of your time, with remarkable vision,
and you have been a rare man; you have lived long enough to see some
of your fine efforts reach the point of paying off, reaching fruition
in your own lifetime. Most great men do not live long enough to experi-
ence the fruits of their efforts. You have been exceptionally idealistic
and well blessed.
The most amazing thing of all is that you are still concerned,
you are still involved, you are still interested and you are still
P.S. By the way, Mr. Fuller, we have a good crop of young Indians, Indian
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leaders coming up. They are great! Many of them are already firmly
established as persons who have to be dealt with. I know that you are
as proud of them as I am. They are great in number, strong in mind,
and unexcelled in dedication to what is right. I see a good and
bright future for our people! It makes one's spine tingle, doesn't
This is the end of the letter,