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Federally Commissioned Reports

In the last century, there were numerous federally commissioned studies conducted by anthropologists, ethnologists, and historians regarding the Lumbee tribe.

In 1912, legislation was introduced to the Senate to establish a school for the tribe. When the bill was sent to committee, the committee requested information from the Department of the Interior. The Indian Office sent Charles F. Pierce, the Supervisor of Indian Schools, to Robeson County to conduct a study of the tribe. Pierce reported that the state and county were providing funds to educate the 1,976 school-age Indian children. He also stated in his report that "…one would readily class a large majority [of the Lumbee] as being at least three-fourths Indian".

On April 28, 1914, the Senate called for an investigation into the status and conditions of the Indians of Robeson and adjoining counties. The Indian Office sent Special Indian Agent O.M. McPherson to the county to obtain information regarding the educational system of the tribe. In his report, submitted to the Senate on January 4, 1915, he wrote: While these Indians are essentially an agricultural people, I believe them to be as capable of learning the mechanical trades as the average white youth. The foregoing facts suggest the character of the educational institution that should be established for them, in case Congress sees fit to make the necessary appropriation, namely the establishment of an agricultural and mechanical school, in which domestic science shall also be taught.

John Reed Swanton, a noted anthropologist-historian, was called upon in the 1930's to provide his opinion of the origins of the Lumbee tribe. His opinion was as follows: The evidence available thus seems to indicate that the Indians of Robeson County who have been called Croatan and Cherokee are descended mainly from certain Siouan tribes of which the most prominent were the Cheraw and Keyauwee, but they probably included as well remnants of the Eno, and Shakori, and very likely some of the coastal groups such as the Waccamaw and Cape Fears. It is not improbable that a few families or small groups of Algonquian or Iroquoian may have cast their lot with this body of people, but contributions from such sources are relatively insignificant. Although there is some reason to think that the Keyauwee tribe actually contributed more blood to the Robeson County Indians than any other, the name is not widely known, whereas that of the Cheraw has been familiar to historians, geographers and ethnologists in one form or another since the time of De Soto and has a firm position in the cartography of the region. The Cheraws, too, seem to have taken a leading part in opposing the colonists during and immediately after the Yamasee uprising. Therefore, if the name of any tribe is to be used in connection with this body of six or eight thousand people, that of the Cheraw would, in my opinion, be most appropriate.

In 1935, Indian Agent Fred Baker was sent to Robeson County in response to a proposed resettlement project for the Lumbee and an attempt to organize as a tribe under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Baker reported that: …I find that the sense of racial solidarity is growing stronger and that the members of this tribe are cooperating more and more with each other with the object in view of promoting the mutual benefit of all the members. It is clear to my mind that sooner of later government action will have to be taken in the name of justice and humanity to aid them.

D'Arcy McNickle, from the United States Office of Indian Affairs, came to Robeson County in 1936 to collect affidavits and other data from Lumbee people registering as Indian under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. McNickle stated, "…there are reasons for believing that until comparatively recently some remnant of language still persisted among these people".


photographs taken for the Carl Seltzer 1936 Report

In the 1960's, Smithsonian ethnologists Dr. William Sturtevant and Dr. Samuel Stanley describe the Lumbee as "…larger than any other Indian group in the United States except the Navajo", and give a population of 31,380 Lumbee (from North and South Carolina) in 1960.

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