ETHNONYMS: Cherokees, Croatans, Indians of Robeson County, Scuffletonians

The Lumbee are English-speaking descendants of the remnants of various Native American groups who now live principally along the Lumbee River in Robeson County, North Carolina, and in adjacent counties in North and South Carolina. The Lumbee number about forty thousand, making them the fifth largest American Indian group in the United States and the largest in the East. Today Lumbee are found in small concentrations in Greensboro, North Carolina, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Detroit, although most migrants do return to Robeson County. Lumbee ancestry includes tribal groups that largely disappeared from the Carolinas in the eighteenth century and perhaps some African and European intermixture as well, leading to their classification as American Isolates. Lumbee oral tradition traces their ancestry to Sir Walter Raleigh's lost colony at Roanoke. Today, Lumbee self-identity is based on having a socially defined Lumbee parent and no socially defined African-American parent.

In the nineteenth century the Lumbee shared a common culture and life-style with their White neighbors that included landownership, farming, and Baptist and Methodist religious affiliation. Until 1835 they also shared the same civil rights, but in that year the Lumbee, along with other "free persons of color" in North Carolina, were stripped of most of those rights and began to suffer discrimination and impoverishment at the hands of Whites that persisted until well after the Civil War. In the 1880s the prejudice they faced lessened to a degree and some of their civil rights were restored. During the 1960s Lumbee began to develop a pan-Indian consciousness and increasingly became politically active.

From the late 1800s well into the twentieth century the Lumbee were employed mostly as farm laborers and sharecroppers and occupied a depressed social stratum in a society dominated by White farmers and landowners. Beginning early in the twentieth century the modernization of farming in the region reduced labor demands, resulting in unemployment and underemployment for the Lumbee. In the 1960s industrial development in Robeson County offered some hope. Most Lumbee, however, were not able to take advantage of the new job opportunities as they lacked the necessary skills and education, a product of more than a century of "separate, but equal" schools. In the 1960s Lumbee began to move into white-collar and skilled blue-collar occupations, but those doing so have been forced to migrate to urban areas to find employment.


Blu, Karen I. (1980). The Lumbee Problem: The Making of an Indian People. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Evans, W. McKee (1979). "The North Carolina Lumbees: From Assimilation to Revitalization." In Southeastern Indians, edited by Walter L. Williams, 49-71. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Makofsky, Abraham (1980). "Tradition and Change in the Lumbee Indian Community in Baltimore." Maryland Historical Magazine 75:55-71.

Also read article about Lumbee from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Walter Gat
The Lumbee/Croatan have no native American Indian language ,have no Indian words or names and have never spoken any native American language.
The people now calling themselves Lumbee are a mixed race group who are mostly White-Black with a smidge of Native blood(of indeterminate tribal affiliation). They had to downplay their African or mixed heritage and highlight their "Native American" identity because of the intense racism in the past. They have been identified as mixed ancestry from the 1700s and were speaking ENGLISH even in the earliest historical references. A considerable amount of genealogical research shows the majority of the founding "Lumbee" families descend from free black males and white females that came down from early Virginia settlements.
They participated in colonial life as "individuals" not as any recognized tribe. Paying taxes, buying property, mustering in colonial and American militias same as all other colonials.
Early colonial records list Lumbee ancestors "as is all "free negors "and mulattos" on kings land and that "no Indians "live in Robeson County area.
They were never identified as an intact tribe that entered into a treaty with the US. They initially put forward an origin story that they were the descendants of the "Lost Colony." Then it was Croatan then a Cherokee origin

In response to the Southern White backlash to Reconstruction and the tightening of racial laws, the people now calling themselves Lumbee really began to assert their Indian identity. They petitioned for federal recognition as Cherokees. Then a splinter group began to identify as Tuscarora. Now they claim to be descended from Cheraw or "Siouan" people. Their claim of origins has historically been changing for centuries. The Lumbee DNA project indicates that the Native American element makes up only a small component of their ancestry (both on the mtDNA and Y-DNA lines). The bottom line is they are a distinct people with some small degree of mixed ancestry, but there is really no indigenous culture or Language that can be pointed to and definitely no "full bloods" around.The Cheraw origin is a new theory but has no scientific backing.The cheraw went extinct in the early 1700,s.The Lumbee in 2010 joined with a Casino firm Lewin Int.LLC to work on getting gaming and a Casino.

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