What Are Some Facts About the Lumbee Native Americans?


Quick Answer

The Lumbee, with over 54,000 enrolled members as of 2003, are the largest native group in North Carolina. They are descendants of a variety of older Native American groups that settled along the Lumbee River and may also have some European and African ancestry.

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Full Answer

Traditionally, many thought that the Lumbee descended from Sir Walter Raleigh's lost colony at Roanoke. However, most modern historians believe the Lumbee mostly descend from Siouan-speaking tribes that long lived in the area prior to European colonization and were decimated by European diseases and subsequent infighting.

By the 19th century the Lumbee lived in relative seclusion, following similar agricultural practices as local white settlers and attending Christian churches. However, changes to North Carolina's constitution in 1835 classified the Lumbee as "free persons of color," stripping them of many rights, including the rights to vote, to serve in militias and to carry firearms without a license. Further injustices during the Civil War, including forced conscription as laborers, led to a small revolt led by Henry Berry Lowry and a band of supporters. Many modern Lumbee consider Lowry a local hero.

During the early 20th century, most Lumbee worked as farm laborers and sharecroppers; however, jobs disappeared as technology made them obsolete. State education was poor under the separate school system, but some attended local Pembroke State College. The federal government recognized the tribe in 1956 but has not yet offered full status, as of 2015.

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