Monday, July 14, 2008

Lumbee Refuge


Bladen County encompassed a portion of what is today Robeson County, and the Lumber River was at this time called by English colonials, "Drowning Creek." After the violent upheavals of the Yamasee War of 1715-1717, and the Tuscarora War of 1711-1715, families of Waccamaw Indians had left South Carolina Colony in 1718, and had very likely established a village west of present-day Pembroke, North Carolina by 1725. The “mixed crew” that Rutherford observed in 1754 were located in the same locale as the earlier Waccamaw settlement.

The research of the noted anthropologist, John R. Swanton of the Smithsonian Institution corroborates much of the oral tradition of the Lumbee Indians of Robeson County. Swanton posited that the Lumbee were the descendants of Siouan peoples of which the most prominent were the Cheraw and Keyauwee. These communities that would later comprise the Lumbee would also have included Siouan refugee groups of the Eno, Shakori, as well as coastal groups such as the Waccamaw and Cape Fear Indians. Interestingly, colonial migrants to the present-day Robeson County Lumber River basin came into contact with an acculturated population of Native Americans who reportedly spoke some English, owned European trade goods, and used primitive English-style farm tools in their agricultural pursuits. By then, English, Gaelic speaking highland Scots, and Welsh colonials had begun to make their way from present-day Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Laurinburg, North Carolina, and eventually, to Drowning Creek, or the present-day Lumber River. Critical to keep in mind is that at the same time that Native peoples were fleeing into the Robeson County region and seeking refuge from the incalculable destruction of warfare and disease, European colonials were in pursuit, attempting to gain a foothold, then wrest control of the resessed region of Robeson County.

By the mid-eighteenth century, Indians continued to populate the Lumber River basin area and its numerous tributaries. whites slowly moved into and established settlements, but overall, they initially lived on the periphery of those lands to which the ancestors of the Lumbee had managed to secure title with the colonial administration of North Carolina. The main Indian settlements during the late eighteenth century were Prospect and Red Banks. Individual land ownership by Native Americans had far-reaching consequences for the history of Robeson County in that Native peoples were less subject to the political and economic dominance of whites, managing to live in a homogeneous network of settlements that provided social and cultural security.,_North_Carolina#Refugees