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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Barry Nakell, October 1, 2003. Interview U-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tuscaroras split from Lumbees

Nakell explains why Tuscarora Native Americans rejected the Lumbee name: the federal government's 1956 Lumbee Act recognized the tribe but failed to give it the full benefits of this designation. Tuscaroras, then, saw the Lumbee name as a barrier between them and these benefits. The Tuscaroras may have needed help more than Lumbees—many of them were rural and uneducated. Nakell regrets that the Tuscaroras and Lumbees could not work together.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Barry Nakell, October 1, 2003. Interview U-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

MM: Why was that the source of their problems? BN: Let’s see. This is taking me back a little bit. Generally I think that they thought that Lumbee was a name given to the group by white political leadership. I believe there was a statute, state or federal, that first used the term Lumbee and then another statute, state or federal, that used the Lumbee. They thought there were a number of original tribes. Tuscarora being one. Croatan being another. There were several others. I’m trying to remember them. I know at least one other tribal name, and they thought that the Indians in eastern North Carolina were actually members of these several tribes; that they had been amalgamated together in consideration by the government as Lumbee; that as Lumbee they were non-tribal or non-reservation Indians, and really non-tribal Indians. This was just a name that was taken from the Lumber River and was not a name that any of the Indians groups had used before the name was given to them by the white man. They thought that, and they were quite right that, the Indians in eastern North Carolina were not federally recognized. There was a statute that called them Lumbee didn’t give them all the rights of recognized Indians, and so they thought that this name deprived them of their identity and was the reason they couldn’t get their rights. I think they also thought that back in the Roosevelt era some Tuscaroras had been tested, blood tested by the New Deal government to determine whether they were really Indians and had been found to be Indians. They thought that the descendants of these people had particular claim to federal recognition. They were among the Tuscaroras. So they thought the Lumbee name actually denied them, deprived them of their identity and that the Tuscarora name and the Croatan name et cetera were more descriptive, more accurate about their tribal history and background and that by, if they used the Tuscarora name rather than the Lumbee name, they would be more successful in getting federal recognition and the rights that they were entitled to. MM: So it’s a historical difference sort of interpretation difference. BN: Historical, right. MM: Is there, were there other differences that you observed, political opinions or economic realities or--? BN: Well, generally speaking, my sense was, that generally speaking the Tuscarora were less educated than the Lumbee. That’s not, there were less educated Lumbees also, but the more educated Indians tended to be Lumbees. The Tuscaroras tended to be largely farmers and skilled workers or unskilled workers et cetera. So I think there was also an economic disparity between them. The Lumbees were talking about people who were all exploited, but the Lumbees were a little better off than the Tuscarora generally, and politically I’d say that the Tuscarora were more radical, more action-oriented than the Lumbees. So— MM: Well, it’s interesting— BN: But I think, I’d like to make clear that although I started out with the Lumbees, they’re the people who first contacted me, I began working with the Tuscarora, and as long as I was working with the group, I think I was supportive of both and working with both groups. I thought both groups were working in the common interest even though from other directions. I just thought it was kind of sad that they couldn't work together, and it’s kind of the human condition I think that when you get a little bit of power you start dividing it. They didn’t have much and even when they didn’t have much they were fighting over what little bit of power they’ve had. I think some of those power struggles have been hurtful to the Indians in the same way they are to other groups.