Questions about the identity of the Lumbee

American Indian tribes of North America are individually known for certain attributes, characteristics, propensities, talents, environmental practices and a host of other phenomena.

The Oglala Sioux are known as combative. The Pueblo Indians are premier potters. The Seminole are known for woven fabric. The Crow are known for their blue beads. The Navajo or Dine are known for their immense size, mountains, geis and the twins. The Washington tribes are known for their cedar craftsmanship. The Alaskan Tribes are known for their fishing skills and totems.

What are the Lumbee known for? Are we crickets? Are we a people or person? Is it a Lumbee custom to only “wear moccasins” or “be Indian” at powwows? Do the Lumbee actually live lives that represent a tribal identity and kinship that values the Lumbee bloodline and its people? Are the Lumbee known to be “talkers” or are they people of action? Are the Lumbee as a tribe people to be trusted?

What is the dance of the Lumbee? Is it a shuffle? Is it a round dance? Is it a side step? Is it a chicken dance? Does a Lumbee always try to have their feet in too many hoops?

What is the bird of the Lumbee? Is it a red tail hawk? An eagle? Or a scavenging vulture?

If I walk into a Lumbee home, what skin will I find on the wall: Do they hunt two-legged animals? Do they kill for sport of a few or do they combat dangers for the survival of the tribe?

What story does a Lumbee life tell? Is it a measure of material wealth or personal gain? Is it a story of battling one’s self in the name of creating something expected by others? Is it a personal journey to complete a single shawl? Is it a piece of a larger quilt that weaves the past, present and future of a people?

What is the culture of the Lumbee people? Are we a people whose values transcend generations and have become our cultural norms? Do we barter and borrow culture as we do regalias? Is culture defined by individual tribal member awareness and preference? Is culture prescribed by elders and if so, by what authority, experience, scholarly credibility or environmental awareness are these elders chosen and from what motivation do these elders make decisions?

Eric R. Locklear