The Lumbee by Many Other Names

The history of the Lumbee has been a rocky road with their official identity changing from time to time.  This “label crisis” stems from the fact that the early records of the Lumbee fail to unquestionably identify their origins, and they appear to have moved to the Robeson County area as either an offshoot or remnant of another tribe or a mixed racial group.  Tribes in that time were in a state of crisis with the encroachment of Europeans into their traditional territories.  There is no consensus within the tribe, and to say it has been and remains a hot potato would be an understatement.

Because of this, prior to 1885, they were not known by a specific name, although in the 1860s there is documentation that their members said that at least some of them were descended from the Tuscarora.

In 1885, they were given the name of the Croatan Indians by the North Carolina General Assembly as a result of the efforts of Hamilton McMillan’s to obtain a separate Indian school for their children.  To do so, he suggested that they descended from the Lost Colonists and the Croatoan Indians and in honor of that, the tribe was named the Croatan.  Today, this causes confusion, because when people see records with the name Croatan, they assume that the records refer to the Hatteras Indians on Hatteras Island.  Unfortunately, the name was shorted to Cro and became pejorative.

In 1911, the General Assembly changed the name from Croatan to the “Indians of Robeson County.”

In 1913, the name was once again changed to the “Cherokee Indians of Robeson County” which made the Cherokee tribe quite unhappy.

In 1924, there was an unsuccessful attempt to have the Lumbee recognized as “Siouian Indians.”  Although this was not successful, I do sometimes run across the tribe referred to by this name.

In 1953, the name was once again changed to the Lumbee, in honor of the Lumber River along with they were originally found, and that remains their name today.

You can view a timeline of significant Lumbee events on their Lumbee webpage.


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Cherokee Indians of Robeson County (later Lumbee), Croatan (Later Lumbee), Indians of Robeson County (later Lumbee), Lumbee, Tuscarora. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Lumbee by Many Other Names

  1. Angie says:

    Hi Roberta,
    I think, although the Hatteras Indians are considered the ones reported, the coastal Indians were all right there when the colonists arrived. Plus, we all realize that there was previous contact from other caucasians before that time. To imagine that none of the other coastal Indians did not make contact with white people would be pretty hard to accept, considering there were many lost ships that could be seen wrecked in the ocean, and whiter than normal skin among the Indians already. In fact, wasn’t there a recent article about a group of Irish who were there in the 700’s as noted in Spanish records? Also, didn’t Columbus and DeSoto remark at all of the different colors from white to black upon seeing the native for the first time? It is important to note that for centuries the Indians relied on oral tradition and it was always acceptable. Not everything is written down. It would be nice if it could all be documented but not likely that every single thing that is history is written down. In my opinion, the Lumbee/Cheraw and any other coastal tribes were all likely to have come into contact with the white man during the 1500’s or earlier. I believe, just looking at the information we have about our ancestors, gives us a big clue as to where we were, who we were and how we got to where we are. Put that together with the written history, it makes perfect sense to me. I think the Lumbee are Indian, they have a history on the coast of VA, they have ancestry to back up their accounts and they are primarily Cheraw with some other tribal mix such as Keyauwee, Tuscarora (among others). All of the tribes on the east coast became a mixture. At the time we are referring to, these tribes have begun to speak each other’s languages or use some of the same words to communicate. It happened just like it does today, with so many learning English.

    Lumbee is the name our tribe recently chose, even though all of the names certainly fit the profile of the tribe. It does not negate the history going back to VA and back to the coastal Indians, however.

    As for DNA, Cherokee and many other tribes have the same DNA in the majority of their tribal rolls as the Lumbee, yet no one ever argues about their true blood. I believe there has been so much contact over hundreds of years with the Indians, who knows, maybe some of the earlier mixed ancestors who were already here are also mixed into this pool of Indian blood called the Lost Colony? How can you ever figure all of that out when there is proof of the white man’s existence over here before 1500’s? I would be interested in your response.

    • One of the things I do is to document actual early references to Native people in the earliest existant records. There are so many rumors. So if you have actual documentation and references to where Columbus and Desoto remarked about the different Native colors from white to black, I’d certainly appreciate a pointer to those original records. Same with the Spanish noting the Irish being her in the 1700s. I have not seen anything authentic. Not saying there isn’t – I would just like to find it and document it. So far, neither the Lumbee nor the Cherokee tribes have participated in DNA testing, so we don’t really know what the enrolled members DNA would look like. Of course, there are different levels of relatedness too – related in a genealogical time frame or related over the past 1000 years or related over the past 10,000 years, which are haplogroups. And there is also different kinds of DNA testing. I would surely love to be able to study all of that, but until the tribes decide to participate, that’s not going to happen.

      • Blue Ridge Blue says:

        They haven’t tested as a tribe, but a few individuals have tested at 23andme. I saw the results of one person whose paternal is Oxendine and maternal is Hunt and also related to the Locklears. Quite a mix

  2. Pingback: The Lumbee by Many Other Names | Native Heritage Project | Cherokee Cousins

  3. Sally Wrightea says:

    There are serious problems with the tribal and individual identity of the Lumbee claimants.
    Credible Prominent experts in the area of genealogy, who
    have reached a conclusions concerning Lumbee identity that should not ignore.

    Dr.Paul Heinegg, whose work has been recognized by The American
    Society of Genealogists is an Award winning prominent researcher and Genealogist along with Genealogist Dr.Demarce concludes that the Lumbee are an invented North Carolina Indian tribe, and that many of the
    persons who first self-identified as Indian in Robeson County, North Carolina, are not of Indian ancestry.
    Primary sources such as Land patents and deeds filed with the colonial administrations of Virginia, North and South Carolina during this period show that individuals now claimed as Lumbee ancestors migrated from Virginia, where they were born, into southern North Carolina in colonial times along the typical routes of migration with other pioneers from Virginia. They obtained land deeds in the same manner as any other migrants. Research in court, tax, indenture and other records in Virginia has shown that most of these mixed-race ancestors were free in the colonial years;
    the large majority were descendants of free white women (and the children took their status under the Virginia law of partus sequitur ventrem) and African men, who were indentured servants, free or slaves.In the first federal census of 1790, the ancestors of the Lumbee were enumerated as Free Persons of Color
    An article in the February 1872, New York Herald, titled “The Mulatto Capitol” lists Robeson County, Scuffleton, (Pembroke) North Carolina as the “Mulatto Capitol” and as an “Immemorial Free Negro Settlement”. “A Homogenous free Negro settlement”.
    Kings Colonial census counts surveys list the residents of Robeson/Bladen county as “is all Mulatto and Negro,No Indians”.
    There is no Indian archaic language or customs among the Lumbee,an invented name also after a Cherokee and Croatan,Lost Colony identity failed to gain them federal dollars and casino.
    Lumbee regional Dna project, Dna results tend to mirror this research of a predominantly European and African American origin.Native American Dna haplos are lacking to very little in the Lumbees dna.

    • dee says:

      I have seen a few of those dna results as well. They are about one quarter black and about 2 percent Native. You will find a few of them on 23andme

  4. Jessica nicole Emanuel says:

    Would like to find surnames of Emanuell in the lumbee tribe, thanks. Jessica jessica

  5. Danny says:

    I wanted to know what the Term CIR on the WWI Draft registration cards meant in ref. tom Race.

  6. richard blackwelder says:

    Because of this, prior to 1885, they were not known by a specific name, although in the 1860s there is documentation that their members said that at least some of them were descended from the Tuscarora.
    Where can I find this research

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