A Report on Research of Lumbee Origins by Robert K. Thomas – Part 17 – Conclusion

A continuation of Robert K. Thomas’s Report of Research on Lumbee Origins.  This was transcribed from a photocopy of an original report at the Wilson Library, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC in June of 2012.   Any comments I have will be made at the end of these transcriptions and it will be evident that they are mine.  To see more about Robert K. Thomas, go to:  http://works.bepress.com/robert_thomas/

(P 65) Part VI – Conclusion

As I said in the beginning of this paper, the main reason I decided not to write an article for the Smithsonian is that I did not want to add more confusion into an already confused situation.  I feel that before any publication comes out we need to gather as much evidence as can possibly be gathered.  At this point, I don’t think that I will change my mind on the broad outlines of Lumbee history but much of our evidence is indirect evidence and to make a case on indirect evidence, you need mountains of it.  Direct evidence would be something like if in the records of Granville and Edgecombe Counties the ancestor of the Lumbees were listed as half-breed Indians instead of Mulattoes.  More, if we had a few quotes or observation about the tribal background of these frontier families we would be “in clover.”  However, we don’t have that sort of evidence and I don’t expect we ever will.  We will have to build our case on indirect evidence.  Now, I, myself, do not think that oral history is indirect evidence.  I think it is very solid direct evidence.  Many scholars, however, do not agree with me so I think that in order to make our case we have to have as much evidence from the records as possible and most such evidence is indirect evidence.

I think we need to find out, for instance, how many “mulattoes” in the Granville-Edgecombe area in the 1750s fought in Hugh Wadell’s army, if that is possible.  I think we have to find out if Colonel Nash took some people with him in the early 1760s when he moved from the Granville County area to the area of New Bern.  I think we have to do some work on the migration of the (p 66) Hatteras from the east into Robeson County.  We need to do some more diligent searching in northeastern NC land records and church records.  I think we have to do some work in Virginia and SC.  We have to make the picture as complete as possible, with mountains of indirect evidence.  Much of the material I have presented in this paper has been indirect evidence.  I think to really do Lumbee history the way it should be done, we will have to look at all of southeastern Virginia, eastern NC and central SC between 1730 and 1840.  This means that after we are through we will not only have a history of the Lumbee but also a history of all of the Indian groups in the region.  I think it is a big job of research but it will be well worth it by the time we get through.

For some groups like the Haliwa and the Meherrin and the descendants of the Nottowa (sic) of southeastern VA I think such research might be the basis of a land claim against the US which would allow these people to collect quite a bit of money.  The main thing I would like to see done is to give the Lumbee a documented, authentic history that is “nailed down,” so that all these confusions can be cleared up once and for all.

The other thing I would like to see done, as an anthropologist, is really secondary to the historic research on origins; and that is some research on modern Lumbee culture.  I don’t know very much about modern Lumbee culture, needless to say, but it appears to be very interesting; and much more distinctive and “Indian” than one would think.  For instance, the curing complex and the religion, just offhandedly and impressionistically, appears to me to be some kind of historic combination of Indian, white,  (p 67) and black patterns which then evolved uniquely among the Lumbee people in Robeson County.

Personality wise, Lumbees, to me, most resemble the Metis of Saskatchewan.  They are a folk people, but lusty and outgoing with a strong sense of personal and group honor.  I would guess that the Metis are very much the product of their French voyageur ancestors and I would guess that the Lumbees as personalities hark back to that frontier era between 1740 and 1790 when they were both forming as a people and moving on the frontier as well.  What I can glean from history about the ancestors  of the modern Lumbee point to a lusty “free-wheeling” frontier type who must have resembled the mountain men of the west or the Metis in the prairies of Canada.

The other feature I think needs some anthropological work is Lumbee English. Lumbees can usually recognize another Lumbee by his English and also recognize the dialects among Lumbee settlements in Robeson County.  Importantly, this dialect appears to by symbolic of Lumbee identity.  It is true that the Lumbees do not speak an Indian language, but they certainly speak a kind of English which has become symbolic of their identity and this in itself is interesting, scientifically.

Lumbee social organization is fascinating; one hears of the Lowery settlement, the Brooks settlement, the Oxendine settlement, and the Lockleer settlement.  These are almost small tribes which have maintained themselves through strict patrilocal residence.  There are many cultural features about the Lumbees which are probably both unique to them as a people and from which one could also get some notion of the different components which have (p 68) contributed to the formation of modern Lumbee Indian culture in Robeson County.

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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6 Responses to A Report on Research of Lumbee Origins by Robert K. Thomas – Part 17 – Conclusion

  1. Mo Fletcher says:

    This was a most interesting series this was/is, Roberta. My thanks to you for the significant education about the Lumbee people and the search for their true origin(s).

  2. Bob Whittaker says:

    Thank you for your work and for sharing.

  3. John R. Mohn says:

    My mother, Ruth Ellen Ambrose (1906-1984), always claimed to be 1/16 Tuscarora Indian. She was raised by her grandmother, Nancy E. (Donaldson) Dunn (1851-1927), who said Ruth’s grandmother on her father’s side was 1/2 Tuscarora Indian. Records show Ruth’s father, H.H. Ambrose (1882-1957) was the son of Ann Eliza (White) Ambrose, who was the daughter of Friley White (1826-1880) from Washington Co., North Carolina, and Nancy Collins (1830 or 1837). So far, I can find no records for Nancy Collins’ parents, except that another researcher says she is the daughter of James Collins, Bertie Co., N.C., and an “unnamed woman,” most likely a Tuscarora. This Nancy Collins would be the Indian who raised my grandfather. That fits perfectly with my mother claiming to be 1/16 Tuscarora.

    • If you can find a person who descends from Nancy Collins through all females, you could test their mitochondrial DNA to see if it is Native American. And as you probably know, Bertie County is definately a hotseat of Native activity. The Chowan were there, the Tuscarora and the ancestors of the Lumbee.

  4. Pete says:

    Do you have any information about one of the Hugh Waddells befriending a Thompson family and moving to Louisiana? The Thompson family very well may have been Lumbee/Melungeon/Redbone…. I believe I am a descendant of those Thompsons and my family changed their name to Waddell/Wardell because of a close affiliation with that family. I would love to discuss more if you have any information to share.

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