I was at work today, and one of my co-workers was reading a magazine that had been written to highlight the history and accomplishments of the Lumbee tribe. In the middle of it she stopped reading and said that she could no longer read the magazine. When everyone around asked why she said because the magazine suggested that Lumbees aided run-away slaves, lived with and intermarried with the run-away, and eventually, former slave population. Now take into consideration that everyone that I work with is Lumbee, including myself. So no one was really offended by that kind of statement, except for me. I happened to be on the other side of the store when I heard it, and proceeded to ask her why she was so offended. She said that she had no “black blood” in her. Now the person was about five shades darker than I am, and has the nickname “chocolate” because her skin tone is that the color of chocolate. I was baffled at the fact that neither she nor my other co-workers understood that we as a tribe are not in fact purely Native American. In fact, no one knew our basic history. No one knew our struggle, our accomplishments, the feats we went through just to survive and maintain the same home for over 400 years.
Now, I had to give them the benefit of the doubt because I am a history major and when she asked me how I knew all that I knew and simply reply “cause I read books, i like to read about our people.” But then I took that benefit away because this was not a topic in a class or an assignment. This history lived inside of me. It lives in all lumbees. And at its basic level, its a history of survival. People believe that we as a people have no roots, and shouldn’t be recognized because of this. But our roots run from the Tuscarora, the Siouan, the Catawba, the Waccamaw, the Cheraw and the Pee-Dee in North America, to West Africa, and to Europe.
Our History shows one of peace as well as willingness to stand and fight for justice, from Helping starving Scotch-Irish frontiersmen who we brought in when they were cast out by the English, to When a Company of Lumbees volunteered to fight for independence in a largely loyalist area, to being apart of the underground railroad helping those slave who ran away safe passage through the swamps, to fighting and guiding the Union behind confederate lines, and after all that when our rights were taken away we had those that fought the government (USA and CSA) to retain it. Over the years the closeness that Native, European, and African-Americans had was soon divided by jim crow and forms of de facto racism. While race was seperated, class was what kept these communities together. No matter what those in power say, when you have nothing color means little. In a century, our people created a Town, a school to educate its people (later to be UNCP), and place where we could culminate our culture into what it is today. Over the years, we’ve struggled to fight for Recognition, struggle with the racism of the south that has existed (defeating the only attempt the Ku Klux Klan made in Robeson county, in 1958), and have done nothing but succeed and progressed as a people.
This whole thing was a rant I jut had to get off my chest. I was mad when it first happened, but in retrospect, it does nothing but inspire me as a future-teacher and a historian. To see where you are going you must know where your from. The past can teach us that at the end of the day, we are all human beings and we are linked by our pasts at some point. I look around and see my people of all shapes, sizes, and hues, and instead of seeing what others call mix bred, or mullato, or any other slur thats thrown around. I see a beautiful people that are the products of some of the darkest times in this Nation’s history. I look out and see the results of America Genocide and Slavery but we are still here, and because we are here, it makes us stronger. At one point I was ashamed of who I was, in elementary school I used to be the only Lumbee child in my classes, and even at some points when my classmates had arguments about race (and yea for some reason we had arguments like that in like the 2nd grade) I had to to choose a side; either black or white. It even got to a point where I thought that to be Native American (Brown) meant you were White and Black mixed. Over the years I have lived around intolerance and ignorance. There have been times where my tribe and my ancestry was insulted on the daily. I have come to be proud of who I am and where I’m from. Im proud that no matter where I go in the world, people of my tribe can spot one another and relate to our common ancestry, but I can also go out and tell people about who I am and where I am from. This was just something that I wanted to write down somewhere, so hear you go readers.
COARSEGOLD, Calif. — The six-page, single-spaced letter that Nancy Dondero and about 50 of her relatives received last month was generously salted with legal citations and footnotes. But its meaning was brutally simple. “It is the decision by a majority of the Tribal Council,” the letter said, “that you are hereby disenrolled.”
And with that, Ms. Dondero’s official membership in the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, the cultural identity card she had carried all her life, summarily ended.
“That’s it,” Ms. Dondero, 58, said. “We’re tribeless.”
Ms. Dondero and her clan have joined thousands of Indians in California who have been kicked out of their tribes in recent years for the crime of not being of the proper bloodline.
For centuries, American Indian tribes have banished people as punishment for serious offenses. But only in recent years, experts say, have they begun routinely disenrolling Indians deemed inauthentic members of a group. And California, with dozens of tiny tribes that were decimated, scattered and then reconstituted, often out of ethnically mixed Indians, is the national hotbed of the trend.