The Southern Sun drum group performs at a ceremony marking the Lumbee Tribe's victory over the Ku Klux Klan at Hayes Pond in North Carolina in 1958. Photo: Lumbee Tribe

Malinda Maynor Lowery: Indigenous people are the original Southerners

Racial violence has prompted Americans, especially in the South, to examine their past. But who is listening to the indigenous people?

Writing in The New York Times, Malinda Maynor Lowery, a citizen of the Lumbee Tribe and the author of the forthcoming The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle, offers her take on the movement against Confederate monuments and other racist symbols:
When people see Southern history in black and white, where are American Indians? Most people believe that the American Indian genocide took place long ago. But it wasn’t completely successful. There are over six and a half million American Indians, and many of them live in the South. North Carolina is home to the Lumbee Tribe, the largest tribe of American Indians east of the Mississippi (55,000 strong), of which I am a member. We are the original Southerners, and we shaped and continue to shape Southern history.

And yet even the most progressive Americans don’t seem to realize this. The coalition organized to oppose the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., last August did not invite any representatives of Virginia’s seven American Indian tribes to participate.

When asked about his tribe’s exclusion, the chief of the Monacan Nation, Dean Branham, seemed to confirm the general view when he said, “I don’t have any problem with those statues.” He continued, “I just don’t think it’s an Indian issue.”

The “Indian issues” he deals with include how to protect his people’s lands from mining and drilling, how to promote economic development, health and education, and how to obtain, after 10,000 years of tribal history, the federal government’s acknowledgment of the Monacan as a sovereign nation (this was finally achieved in January).

Like Chief Branham, I used to believe that the monuments had nothing to do with me, because American Indians often confronted both the North and South as enemies. Usually the last mention of us in K-12 classrooms is the Trail of Tears, when five Southern tribes were forced West in the 1830s. Even though a small elite group of these Indians owned slaves, their nations had to be removed so that whites exclusively could profit from slavery.

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Malinda Maynor Lowery: We Are the Original Southerners (The New York Times May 22, 2018)