Title: Interview with Ertle Knox
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00007074/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Ertle Knox
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Spatial Coverage: Lumbee County (Fla.)
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00007074
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Lumbee County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: LUM 87A

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Lum 87A
DATE: MAY 21, 1973

I: This is May 21, 1973. I am Lew Barton, interviewing for the University

of Florida's History Department, and the Doris Duke Foundation's American

Indian Oral History Program. Uh, this afternoon we are in the office of

the United States Indian Claims Commission in Washington D.C., and

hopefully this is the second in a series of five tapes on the five law

students who graduated recently. Uh, would you tell us sir what your

name is?

S: My name is Ertle Knox Chavis, the Pembroke area.

I: Uh, were you born in and around Pembroke?

S: Yes I was. I was born in Pembroke, November 19, 1942.

I: Uh huh, are you married?

S: No, I'm not married. I'm single...happy bachelor.

I: Uh huh...that's great. How old are you?

S: My age is thrity years old.

I: You're still a young man, and uh, perhaps you'll have some young ladies

out there who might be...just might be interested in knowing you a little

bit better...how about that?

S: Well, that sounds good, I'm looking forward to this. I....

I: Uh, how does it feel to be a graduate of the law school? Uh, do you have

any particular feeling at this time? That's sort of a dumb question, but



I: ...uh, I...I was just wondering exactly how you feel?

S: It's a great feeling to be out of law school...being a graduate as of

yesterday, but there's still that funny feeling of the bar exam. It...you

really don't feel like you've completed your law study until you've

passed the bar, which I have coming up the last of July. So once that

is completed the feeling is going to be better.

I: Uh, well I'm sure you'll make it. Uh, we have uh, all the confidence in

the world in you, and the other law students, that you will make it, and

you can be assured that you have our morale support, and you certainly

have the prayers of many people behind you. I don't think you can fail

it personally. Uh, would you tell us something about your family...uh,

your brothers and sister, your father and your mother, and things of

this nature...anything of a biographical nature that you want to include.

S: Yes, as I stated before, I am from Pem...the Pembroke area, Robeson County,

North Carolina. My father was Eugene Chavis, who was a school teacher,

and principle in the area for several years before his death. He died of

a heart attack 1958. He was married to the Fanny Dial Chavis, who was

also of the Pembroke area. Uh, since his death, she has remarried to

Lester Locklear, who is also a school teacher. Coming...my mother...

although she didn't finish college, she did do quite a bit of school

work, such as a substitute and a teacger's aid. Coming from school

teaching background...or...my parents...that is my parents were teachers,

I rapidly realized that this was not the profession for me, it wasn't

anything I wanted to go into, so I started looking around to find

something different.




I: How did you come to settle uh, on the study of law?

S: That's really a difficult question to answer because I guess it's just

one of those things. I think everyone in their life has...has a

certain occupation they want to enter into, or something that they

feel like they should really be, and in my case it was law. So after

graduation from college...I graduated from Pembroke State University in

1965. At that time I applied to the University of North Carolina School

of law, and owing...my application was not accepted because of uh, the

school had'already...the class had already been completed with other...

other students. At that time I entered the Navy program, uh, the Navy

Flight Program down at Pensacola Florida. And I spent five...almost

five years in the Navy. After flight training down at Pensacola, I spent

two years aboard a ship home-ported in Naples, Italy.

I: Uh huh...what...what was the name of your ship?

S: The U.S.S. Tallahachee County. After two years aboard the Tallahachee...

U.S.S. Tallahachee County, I left the Mediterranian area, and returned

to Washington D.C. to the Naval Security Station. Uh, to complete some

of the projects which I had been working on in the Mediterranian area.

After two years at the Naval Security Station in Washington D.C. I was

released from the service because I completed my tour of duty, and I

entered the business world in marketing and sales with Acme .teographic

Business Systems Incorporation. I spent three months in the New York area.

Worked in marketing and sales before returning to Washington D.C.

representing the company...and...with the government accounts...civilian




S: ...as well as uh...military. Then I applied for law school again in the,

during the spring of 1970, and I was accepted in North Carolina Central,

Which I entered in September of 1970, and I've been...I've been there

with uh...the other students that recently graduated...uh, Arnold

Locklear, and Henry Ward Oxendine...who...at the same time we were in

undergrad school together. And uh, I think both of...Henry and Arnold

served as teachers in Robeson County prior to coming to law school. So

it was really great to uh...find someone also entering the uh freshman,

the first year law class, from my home town. And I'm sure uh...this

contributed to my success in law school...being with Henry and Arnold.

I: Now did you guys sort of exchange ideas and uh, plans during recreation

time...that sort of thing?

S: Well, I think it was pretty well set, that uh...no doubt about it, Henry

and Arnold had planned to return to Robeson County to practice law on

completion of law school. Uh, I...at first I wasn't sure, but I...after

thinking it over, and weighing out the pros and cons, I think that's...

that's what I planned to do also. I considered at one time to return to

the Washington D.C. area to work with the government, because that's

what my intentions were whenever I left the northern Virginia area. But

since...but being back in Robeson County, and realizing, and on my visits

back to Pembroke...looking into some of the problems that local people

are facing...I think...in best...it's in my best interest to return to

Robeson County to work with local people. A lot of people kid me about,

classmates and so forth, about not going to the city where all the

money is...where...where lawyers and doctors are...seem to be headed




S: ... these days, but uh...there's also quite a bit of opportunity in the

rural areas too that...money is not everything, and that's one of the

hangups that young people have...or people. I shouldn't say young people,

I should say...graduates have these days, about making as much money as

they possibly can.

I: Right. Uh, wouldn't that be great if the...if uh...the three or the four,

or even the five of you could go together and form a law- partnership.

have you considered anything along these lines...uh, these lines?

S: Mr. Barton, as you already know, uh, Horace Locklear is already practicing

in the Robeson County area, in Lumberton, and my plans are, if I

successfullyAthe bar, is to work with Horace. Arnold and Henry, I'm

not sure what their plans are at this time. Uh, Betty Jo is going...she

is going to re...go to the Washington D.C. area, and work with the

National Indian Projects. But I think this will probably only be for a

couple of years, and then she'll probably return to Robeson County. But

I'll agree with you, it would really be great if we could all get together

and work as a firm.

I: Uh, this would certainly uh...it would certainly be a warm friendly

relationship, and uh, perhaps you've already learned to compliment each

other, in your association with each other in law school. Is this a


S: Yes, I think it would work out very great, because uh...well as most

things, people are different, and we all have different interests. And

with our different interests in law...uh, for instance, I think it would

go great that we could put our talents together. I think we would be




S: ...very effective as a firm.

I: Well, in as much...are you the only one in the group uh, who is single?

S: No, I'm not, Arnold is also single, as well as Betty Jo, she's not

married either.

I: Why don't you marry Betty Jo?

S: Well...that's...

I: That's a good question, isn't it?

S: That is a very good question. Jo Jo and I are very good friends, but uh,

we never...I think Arnold and Jo Jo would be more of a romantic couple

than Jo Jo and myself, becuase there is a heighth problem. Jo Jo is about

six inches higher than I-am, whereas Arnold and Jo Jo are a little

closer to uh, the same heighth.

I: Well, it would certainly make for good competition if uh...uh, you and

he would both uh, make a bid for her. Heh...heh...of course I'm uh...I'm

being a little light, but I think uh, we deserve it, uh, a least you do,

after coming through that difficult law school and everything. And it is

kind of a joyous occassion...wouldn't you say?

S: It certainly is...it's a nice feeling to be getting out, and uh...I guess

I realized that more yesterday than uh, I had before, because as I

looked around and saw many members of my family attending my graduation,

that's sort of a sad thing about completions of goals...is that, by the

time you reach them...all the...with all the anticipation, all the joy

is gone at that point. You've already anticipated everything, and whenever

it actually happens, then, it's just happened. It's there because you've

actually lived the moment several times before.




I: Uh huh...it's sort of a let down you mean...afterwards?

S: Not exact....

I: Anticlimactic?

S: Not exactly a let down, but as I stated earlier, you sort of thought

about it before, and then...and all the things that's going to happen

that day, and some of the...made plans...it's just a matter of carrying

them out when it actually happens. It's not really a let down, but it...it's

great, you enjoy it, but uh...it seems like you've learned to adjust to

it by the time it happens. Uh...you just more or less...you know, it just

happens. It...it's just there, it....

I: Uh, what is your opinion of our young people? Uh, I myself am a fan of

our young people. Uh, working with the Poetry in the Schools Program, I've

been priveleged to work very closely with uh, teenagers, and I...of course,

you know what my opinion of them is. Uh, but how about...do you have

anything to say uh...with relation to this, or to young peole...uh, you


S: I'm really impressed with young people today. They're challenging things

that my gen...I shouldn't say my generation, but people my age did not

challenge, or asking questions why when they rightly should have been

done so. Uh, I think it's great. Uh...needless to say, as every gen...as

every...as people come along, younger people are getting smarter. There's

no doubt about that. I'm sure we can both stop and look back over our

lives, and realize that children...kids behind us are a lot sharper, and

have been for quite some time now. I...a lot of people think tfhaELyoung-




S: ...kids...young children...young people are going to the dogs, but I

deffinetely don't think so. I...I admire them.

I: You don't think moral standards are any lower than they ever were do


S: No, I don't. Now that you mention this moral issues, it's not really

the young people who set up the moral issues the country now...for

instance, right now, as you know, we're going through an age of

pornography, and things of this nature, movies, x-rated movies,

literature which is being sold, various shops in large cities, as

well as small cities and rural areas. But whenever you stop to think

about it, it's not really young people putting this materialrtogether.

It's younger peo....it's older people. And naturally, the people, today's

people, young people are getting blamed for it, but it's really the older

people who are doing this...not the young people.

I: Uh, well I'm afraid our young people get blamed for a good many things

that uh they're not really responsible for. Don't you think so?

S: Yes. Once again, it goes back to being a victim of circumstances. If

it happens...if it happens on your watch...being an ex navy man, I think

you are too...if it happens on your watch, uh, you get the blame for it,

and unfortunately, the young people who are standing the watch of today,

of course things...they're getting the blame for some of the bad things

which are happening. It's not necessarily their faults.

I: Um huh. Do you think...uh, that the attitude, that the general uh, social

attitude toward sex and other matters of this nature is uh, to lax today,

or is it...should it be more restricted, or do you have any thoughts

along that line?


S: I don't know that the sex uh, attitude is any more lax today, than what

it was when my parents were coming along, or yourself, because uh, sex

wasn't born yesterday, it's been around for quite some time now. I just

think uh, more people are talking about it. It also comes down to this

communication thing which we have today. Of course there are better

communications because of the different uh, medias we have...television,

movies, and...and it's...I think people are just talking about it more

freely today. Not necessarily practicing it any more than what it has

been in the past.

I: Uh, if you had an opportunity to change anything about uh...Robeson

County, for...for example, or maybe some other place you might think

about...uh, do you have any idea what thing you would rather change

than anything else?

S: That's really a difficult question. Uh, if I could change anything, I

would like to try to make people more equal. Which is...especially, trying

to bring more harmony between the different races. But then again, maybe

you stop and realize, that it took a hundred years. Slavery and the

racial thing took a hundred years to go as far as it did in this country.

It's got...it's not going to leave over night, I mean you just don't uh,

uh, the United States Congress just doesn't pass a law and say they're

going to have integration, and everybody is going to go together, and

things are going to work out that way. It's also going to take a period

of time for it to work out. Things...things are better today certainly

in Robeson County as well as the United States...racially that is. But

yet there is still a lot of prejudice that does exist. Although we people

do go together at school, say...socialize more, there's still that prejudice




S: ...exists there. I mean for instance, uh, when parties are given, and

there are blacks and whites and Indians as well there, the party is

sort of a formal thing you have to do. And the real partying began

when the different races leave, and go back to their homes and have

their own party Whites go back to their home, Indians go back to their

homes, and the blacks go back to their homes, and have their parties

afterwards. And that's where the real partying is...the real closeness,

which uh, races should have. Uh, I think when we all learn to respect

each others backgrounds, and cultures, that's when we're really going

to be able to live together. And until we do, uh, we're just not going

to be able to understand other people, and we're going to have

dissention, and other various things which are going to hold us back.

I: How important do you think it is that we...we do learn to get along

with each other?

S: Well, it goes back to this thing, uh, "United we stand, divided we fall."

I think that's exactly what's going to happen to this country. We're

either going to live...learn to live together, or we'ee going to be

destroyed uh, separately. If not by our...if not by ourselves, by other

countries, other stronger forces.

Uh, do you think if we don't learn to uh, live together, and work together

in closer harmony that uh, the country will eventually break apart at

the seams...is uh...is this what you're saying?

S: Yes, that's part of what I'm saying. Uh, we can't continue to exist with

uh, breaking different groups down into separate unities.




S: Referring to not only races, white black, red, yellow, but as far as

different sections of the country...southerners, northerners, westerners,

we all have to learn to respect each other's backgrounds, the part of the

country they're coming from, and learn to live together.

I: Uh, during the time you spent away from home, uh did you find that

Indianness was a liability, or an asset to you?

S: Very few times have I uh, ever run into that problem. It seems like the

only time it's bad to be an Indian, is when you're on the reservation, or

in an Indian community. Any time you leave that area ti's really an asset

to be an Indian, because people are really surprised to meet, or really

excited to meet one of the first Americans. Uh, throughout my career...I'll

have to admit I never was one that would wear an Indian band, or even a

bolo, or any sign of Indianness. I sort of let people take me for what

they wanted to, what they chose to. And...I'll have to relate one incident

to you...in...while I was in the Navy, in my travels, we were in uh,

Beruit, Lebanon. One night we went out to the casino, and in...in the

casino they don't let the Jewish people...jewish race go in to participate

or socialize there. So, the man...the security gaurd at the door, he took

one look at me, and he said, "You're American Indian, aren't you?" Now that

really surprised me because no one else in the party I was in...I was the

first one in the party to enter the casino, so no one could have

possibly told the man that I was American Indian. And...that was really

a surprise. But getting back to your question, I definitely think uh,

it's really an asset more than it is a liability, to be an American I

Indian as you travel.




I: Uh, well you being a fellow ex-Navy man, uh, I want to ask you about a

situation that seems to exist in the Navy, and perhaps in the other

branches of the service too. As you know, Norfolk, Virginia is home base

for a good many ships, and when I was in the Navy, uh, and we went into

Norfolk, Virginia...this seemed to be the city most prejudiced against

sailors, of any city I ever hit in my life. And uh, my ship mates felt

the same way. Uh, so I'm trying to relate that to these areas you mentioned

awhile ago, where uh, perhaps there are large numbers of a certain kind

of person. Do you think there's some relationship here, that where there

are large numbers, uh, maybe people might feel threatened or uh-think

they might be overrun by a certain kind of person, if you want to put it

that way, or a certain uh...you know what I'm driving at?

S: Yes Mr. Barton, I'ver heard stories from other sailors, ex-Navy men, who've

talked about the problems they've had in various Navy ports. Especially

in the one that you mentioned in Norfolk. Uh...I know when...no one likes

to see strangers come in and run over their land, or property, and I think

this was one problem that might have caused the feeling among local people

in Navy towns, that sailors did come in, uh, they might have done some

things which did not fit too well in the community because they were

there on a temporary basis, not respecting the property of others as they

would have done back in their own homes or states. But I don't think the

feeling is...is hostileAas it was before. I think uh, people who do live

in Navy towns, they realize that uh, the economy of their city relies gr

greatly on the Navy, or the Army, whatever the case may be, whether it

be around a port, or a base. And uh, they had second thoughts about it,




S: ...now they learn to live...well, it's not really a problem, I think now

what they're doing, they are providing social activities, and getting

more involved with Na...service men. And uh, they're eliminating some of

the problems they had in the past. I think the...there's much more harmony

between uh, civilians and service men in these areas.

I: Uh, as a...as a single man, and a very handsome;single-man'; uh, have youlhad

any rpoblems, or have you done any inter-racial dating, or would you

rather not comment on that? It is a...it is an interesting question, uh,

but we don't want you to comment on anything you don't want to comment


S: Well, thankyou for the compliment on my appearance. Uh, I have, as I've

traveled I've dated various people from other races, various countries

as well as this one,-theaUnited States.

I: Uh, do any incidents stand out in your mind as uh, you know, that make

you remember that some people might disapprove of this? Or did you have

any uh, incidents of this kind occur to you? Of course with your

appearance uh, it's doubtful that you run into any serious complications

along these lines.

S: No, as I can think back uh, I can't...I can't recall any events or any

situations where I was not approved of dating someones daughter, or

friends. If this problem has ever existed it certainly hasn't been

brought to my attention.

I: Well that's very int-ereing, uh, that you haven't run into problems

of this sort. And uh, this is a socio-psychological sort of thing, that

I personally like to explore, because I'm doing a work called,




I: ...The Nature of Human Prejudice. And uh, it's my theory that if we

truly understand the nature of human prejudice, which is not confined

to any one group, uh, that maybe we'll be able to get to the bottom

of this", and eliminate it. Uh, do you think this is a good idea, or.

maybe I'm just uh, you know, dreaming a hopeless dream...this is a dream?

S: Well, drea...dreams are necessary before you can have reality, and what's

a dream today is reality in years to come. And I think it's a great

dream. I...I...I certainly think...I think it's going to happen. It's

going to...it's going to be a matter of time. As I stated earlier, uh,

this prejudice which was built up in this country was done over a

period of a couple hundred years. So it's going...it's going to take a

while to get it out. It's uh...can't...we can't force integration, that's

not the answer. It's just...we have to look into other...different races

have to respect other races for...for their backgrounds, and they have to

sort of look into them, and try to understand them. And uh, I think uh,

this is the way we're going to solve the problems, by just sort of...

feeling people out, meeting people. But this is the way harmony is going

to come, it's not going to be through a forced integration thing.

I: Uh, do you think uh, that the American Indian, as some have said, is in

the midst of the most benevolent period toward the American Indian in

american History? And do you think we're going to have a great American

Indian renaissance, or do you think the renaissance is already in the

making, or uh, do you think people are willing to listen, and eager to

listen now to what American Indians who were silent for so long want to





S: I think people are definitely listening to American Indians more now

than what they ever have. Uh, a good example of this is the Wounded Knee

thing, which just took place recently out at Wounded Knee South Dakota.

Uh, had people not...if the American Indians had not had the majority of

the American opinion, I'm afraid it would have been more disastrous for

the Indians than what it was. I think uh, Federal Troups would have been

moved in immediately, and probably...maybe even...might...maybe even

another massacre there of the Indian people. But because Americans are

aware...are in sympathy for the American Indian, I think that's the only

reason that the AIM...American Indian Movement was able to uh, hold

Wounded...the Wounded Knee Reservation as...as long as they did. I

definitely think people are becoming more aware of the American Indian

problems. In the past, the only way they could relate to Indians, are the

guys on television they saw killing the settlers, or shooting up the

soldiers of the Seventh Calvary. But uh, this...this is changing just like

everything else is in today's world, dh, I don't think the...I'm not sure

just...I'm not sure about how much renaissance is going to come forth from

the American Indians, because we are such a minority group. Where I think

uh...and I'm not sure about this, but I think we're less than one per cent

of the uh, total nation population. And when you're talking about people

of this numbers, and scattered as far as we are, or all over the United

States, uh, I'm not sure just about how much of a movement we can get

together. Uh, in various areas, there...Indians are getting together and

doing great things these days...which I'm really proud of. This is very

true in Robeson County. There...Indian awareness is something which really




S: ...hadn't existed down there that long. Because it's only been a couple

of years now that people have really been proud to be an Indian from

Robeson County. In the past, uh, as you probably remember yourself, our

people, some...they varry from uh...some of them look white, and some of

them are very dark. And-those who were light enough to pass for white,

they...that's the way they went. Once they left the county they could

pass for white people, and those who couldn't, well, they were in a

different boat. When...they...they were embarrassed, they...they were

ashamed as they traveled around the county, or even left the state. But

today, with the new Indian awareness thing, everyone is proud to say I'm,

I'm an Indian from Robeson County. And I don't think...I don't think

you'll find too many people trying to pass for white now, even with very

light skin...Indians from the county.

I: Well this is a very great change...uh, I...I'm sure you're right. And uh,

we recognize this change in attitude, uh, this sort of new pride in our

heritage. Uh...uh, how do you account for this, I mean what...what

brought this about do you think, do you have any ideas along those lines?

S: Well, I think there's been more search for everybody, not only just among

Indians, but between...among all American people that go back, and

they're looking for their heritage I mean. At one time in our lives it was

just a matter of uh, getting through school, getting educated, and trying

to make as much money as you possibly can. But I think the emphasis is not

on this now as much as it is. It's trying to uh, find out uh, people are

more concerned about others, and they're doing more research in the

various backgrounds of different people. I think uh, the Indians are




S: ...certainly a part of this movement. Uh, I think this is one of the

great, I think this is one of the many factors which are lead...which

leads into uh, the present day situation, from the change in uh, in

searching into uh, your background...ancestors and so forth.

I: Uh, there's been an attitude, a socio-psychological attitude, it seems

to me among our people in the past. Uh, as you referred to a minute ago,

uh, a feeling of inadequacy or a feeling of inferiority perhaps. Uh,

and uh, according to what you say, I'm sure this is true, that this is

changing somewhat. Uh, but do you think that uh, even today, that some of

our people may feel in themselves that maybe they are not quite as good

as somebody else? Or do you think this is strictly in the minority, those

people who entertain such feelings?

S: I would think this would be in the minority of people who think that way.

For instance now, I can remem ber the time, and...if you'd go down to

Lumberton, the county seat of Robeson County, you would see an Indian,

they would go into a store and maybe buying...making a purchase, or

dealing with the uh clerks in the store, they would of probably accepted

anything that the clerks uh, tried to force on them, or any remarks made

by the clerks. The Indians would probably...would of probably taken it,

but now they're tlaking...they stand up for their rights, and they talk

back, which is really great. I admire them for doing so. And they're

acting more...people are...they stand up for their rights more now than

what they have in the past. And I don't think uh...the only...I don't

think anyone really ashamed of being an Indian. I don't think they really

do feel inadequate now. They're beginning to realize they're human just




S: ...like everyone else, just like the movement which the blacks have gone

through. And the Indians now, they realize that uh, they do have to stand

up for their rights...uh, I think some of the Indians may be disappointed

with...that they didn't receive more formal education than what they did.

That they...but as far as being an Indian, I definitely don't think they're

ashamed of that fact. I don't think that they're...that they're

suffering from the fact that they are Indian.

I: Well, that's certainly interesting. Uh, I...I think you're right. Uh, do

you think we should conciously...uh, for example, uh, The Carolina Indian

Voice which is the only newspaper among our people, which we can identify

with as being ours, do you think we should uh, continue to try to publish

those articles which do generate pride in ourselves, or which make us

proud? Do you have any suggestions along those lines?

S: I definitely think The Carolina Indian Voice is a good thing for the

community. One of the problems we've had in the past in the Indian

community, is not congratulating and praising fellow Indian people as we

should. In the past, and I'm sure you've heard the expression too, working

with the Indians, they're like a bunch of uh, crickets in a jar. Everyone,

every time one starts up towards the top, one of the crickets pulls him

back down to the bottom again. And I think this has existed among our

people for...for some time now. And that...that certainly been one of the

weak...weaknesses of...of the people of Robeson County...the Indian people

that is. And I think, getting back to The Carolina Indian Voice, I think

that's a good thing. I think uh, I know there's several articles in

there praising Indian people, and it's something that's necessary.




S: I think there should be more of it. I think we should take time to

recognize others success and good fortune, and tell them so, instead of

being jealous or envious of what they have. Should uh...because the

minute you sit down and think about it uh, the more you help others, the

more you help yourself. And whenever you destroy others, your not only

destroying them, but you're destroying yourself too. And that's something

which are people have to realize. I definitely think The Carolina

Indian Voice is a good thing. I think there...we should also work towards

a radio station in Rbeson County for Indian people. And uh, even a

television program once a week on some of the local television stations

would be a good thing to look into. Also, those are-the.kind of things

which are necessary, and where praise can be given in the Indian


I: It seems uh, very ironic to me, and always has, that the people who can

identify with the first Americans on the American Indian side, and also

the first American people on the side of the colonists, have been

discriminated against uh, much derogatory material has been written

against them in the past. Uh, and they've been regarded in a negative

way for so long. Uh, does this strike you uh, as very incongruous, uh,

that should have been the case in the past, and of course we are getting

away from that, but we still have our detractors, and those who would

say uh, derogatory things, and uh, this sort of thing?

S: Well it's definitely been unfair and much injustice done to the first

Americans. No doubt about that. Uh, there's no way to justify it at all,

by uh, ancestors of the colonists...other people with...of their ancestry.




S: Uh, I don't hold a grudge...I don't...there's no use holding a grudge

against the colonists. I mean what has happened, it's over with. They

discovered the country, they discovered us. Uh, all I can say at this

point is that there's certainly an injustice, and I don't...it's...it's

uh, something the government, although they...I know they've been working

on it, I know treaties have been made. Most of those treaties were not

upheld. In fact quite a few of them were broken. The only way some of

this justification can be done is that the government work out various

federal programs, which they have some, and I think there should be

more for American Indians. Because uh, if anyone should be blamed for

the condition of the American Indians today, it would certainly be the

United States...well, I shouldn't say the United States Government, but

I should say the uh...well, the American Government. I...it is the

American Government, becuase they've the one...they're the ones who put

them on reservations, put them in isolation where they could not uh,

participate of the economic benefits, as the other country has done so.

Other people in the country have done so. So I think the United States

Government does owe to the American Indian uh, federal benefits, in

order to compensate for some of the wrongs and injustices which were done

by the early colonists...as they discovered the country.

I: Uh, I'm one of those people who have always taken pride and as I always

said, I'll be damned if I'll be ashamed of being a first American, or uh,

the descendant of first Americans. And I've tried to do something about

it by writing and expressing myself in a way that is acceptable. Uh, to

some extent I've been successful. Uh, but do you think this has ever been




I: ...overdone? Uh, I've always wanted to glorify my people. I'll be very

frank about that. I wanted other people to see them as I see them, because

I felt that if they did, they would love them even as I love them. Uh,

but do you think we can go too far in that direction, or do you think we

have gone too far in that direction in the past?

S: I do not think so Mr. Barton. Uh, some politicians say that over-exposure

is bad, but maybe I'm not following their reasoning on that. I...I don't

agree with that philosophy. It's...as long as someone is out there...as

long as you see a face, it's just like tele...commercials on television,

the more you see that commercial, the more it's going to stick out in

your mind when you go down to the grocery store to make a purchase for

that particular article or item. Getting back to the question uh, I don't

think...I've read most of your writings that you've done in the past. I

can't say anythinglbut uh, high praise for them, and very good. You...in

fact as I think back, I can't recall many other writings in the county

which have given the Indian people as much prise...pride and praise, as

you have in your writings. I...I think more people should uh, with a

writing interest should participate in this type of projects. Maybe you

have had young people to express their interest or asisstance to you in

this type of work. I certainly hope that uh in the future...that they will

do so.

I: Uh, well, yes they have. Our young people are more uninhibited perhaps

than the older ones. I can recall that at one time, that when I said

anything, the reason I was tollerated was because everybody knew I stood

alone. This is just one person, lew Barton speaking, and uh, doesn't

necessarily mean anything. Nobody pays any attention to it anyway, which




I: ...isn't a surprising attitude. But uh, I believe that people are

responding more to the...they're addressing themselves to the problems

in the community. They're less afraid of doing so. Uh, so...uh, I'm

not patting myself on the back. Uh, I simply did what I felt uh, I just

about had to do in order to live with myself, because I guess I was made

up that way. Uh, but uh, our young people are coming out, uh, and other

people are....







I: Mr. Chavis...Mr. Chavis uh, when the tape ran out, and we were

interrupted in our discussion, we were saying that more and more people

are coming out among our people to speak up, and they are speaking out

more and more, and uh, perhaps you can recall where we went from there,

because uh, some of our discussion was uh, errased by a mechanical

effect on the other side, and I apologize for this.

S: Yes Mr. Barton, you're absolutely correct on that point. More of our

people are speaking out more and more about different issues today.

Many...this is not only during...men in robeson County...among the

Robeson County Indians, but also among the women. The Indian women are

not sitting back like the traditional squaws as we think of them, taking

care of the teepee and things, domestic things. They're beginning to come

out now and take a very active part in politics. I'd likezto-take this

opportunity to mention some of the names. Brenda Brooks, Jeanie Maynor,

and other women who have helped them have been very active in voter

registration down in Robeson County during the past election. And uh,

I'm not even going to try to mention the men who've been very active in

speaking out for the Indian people, and leading some of the movements

which have been started in the past couple of years in Robeson County.

But the Indian people of Robeson County are definitely becoming leaders,

speaking out and raising issues that have never been raised before.




S: And not only are they speaking out on these issues, but they are getting

results in various occa...situations. Now I think you're going to see

more and more of this, especially when we get more legal people, in the

legal profession back in Robeson County, working with them. And can be...a

lot of people have things they'd like to say, and like...things they'd

like to do, but they don't know how to go about doing them. And as we get

more people in there to guide them, to show them the direction to travel

in, you're going to see many more results, as a result of their of the

Indian movement which is taking place now.

I: Well that's why Mr. Chavis, it's so encouraging to me uh, to see you and

the other fellows graduating from law school. Because this is something

that we've needed so desparately for so long, and we have not had. I

remember when the poverty program was introduced a few years ago, one of

the things I recommended very strongly was that one segment of the

poverty program be devoted to legal protection of...of poverty-stricken

people. Because this is one area where they suffer so much. Because uh,

just starting from the ground up uh, they don't even have any way of :'

enforcing the laws, even if they're on welfare they don't have anybody

to help them they're not able to hire legal talent, and too often uh,

judging from the comments of our people themselves, they can't trust the

lawyers that are in existence uh, you know in other places. I don't mean

uh, our lawyers, but they're...at least they're afraid to trust anybody

else, uh, because they uh, they feel-rather justly or unjustlythat they

don't get fair representation even from the lawyers they hire when they

hire them. And I think this is a very tragic situation, and...that now




I: ...we're beginning to see hope...uh...a beacon of hope, that our people

uh, whom we can trust, uh, and I'm not giving a blanket condemnation to

all lawyers who are non-Indian by nay means. But uh...at least we can

have con...more confidence in our own people, and we believe, and if this

sounds prejudiced uh, so be it, but our people feel that they can trust

their own people if they're lawyers, and that they will work harder on

their behalf, and that they will get fair representation, and I can't

see anything in history that disproves this.

S: Yes, I hope uh, that we will be...that people will uh, develop a trust in

us as lawyers in the community...they will trust us and cooperate, and

work with us, as well as we intend to-do so..with-them. And by working

together, that we can bring a certain amount of change in certain problems

in Robeson County. I'm sure uh...we're...we're very excited...all very

excited about it. We're looking forward to getting back working with the

people. And I just hope that uh they will have faith in us, and...and uh,

come to us with their problems.

I: Well I'm sure that they will, and uh, we're all looking forward to this

with a great deal of hope, and uh, I know this sounds all very optimistic,

but this is one of the most significant areas in the lives of our people,

and we're studying in this program the lifestyle of our people. Uh, this

is going to mean that the average person who is not truly represented in

the past, and I'm sure this has happened on occasion, uh, but I'm not

condeming all non-Indian lawyers as I said a minute ago. But this gives

us a...a reason to have more faith, and we feel, and this may sound

prejudiced too, but we feel...I feel personally that if I go to you I




I: ...will get a fairer deal than if I go to any other lawyer from any

other group. I would rather...I would rather go to somebody I know,

and who has an interest in my own personal welfare. This is not to

say that other lawyers are dishonest or any of that, but if I'm

going to uh, to an attorney, I...I would feel more at ease, or more

confident to go to one who understands my problems, andknows how often

we have been uh, unjustly treated in the past. On behalf of the Doris

Duke Foundation, and also on behalf of the University of Florida's

History Department, we want to thank you very much for this very in-

formative interview. And again our congratulations, and God speed to


S: Thankyou very much Mr. Barton. Ooooh! that was long.

I: You know I believe I'll let it run just a little while, it errased some

of the, you know, if we did go along a little bit farther we had...we

lost some of our material, and that was...that was very sad.

S: That was on the...just on the second side I1/ -, v<-,.

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