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A Master’s thesis written by Malinda Maynor on Croatan, or Lumbee, Indians in Bulloch County and the ways in which they maintained their identity after leaving Robeson County, North Carolina.
In 1890, Croatan Indian men and women, now called Lumbees, began leaving Robeson County, North Carolina to work in turpentine camps in Bulloch County, Georgia. There a Croatan settlement emerged that re-created many features of their North Carolina home. In this period, Georgia, and the South as a whole, legally encoded racial segregation and threatened to force Bulloch County Croatans into a black or white identity. But rather than assimilate into the larger black or white communities of Bulloch County, Croatans maintained an identity as Indians and eventually returned home to Robeson County in 1920. The story of their sojourn in Georgia raises questions about how Croatans perpetuated a sense of themselves as a distinct "Indian" people.
Indian communities mark their own identities according to a mix of factors, not just the "blood," "land," and "community" constructs that are meaningful to European-Americans. The Croatan community in Georgia maintained their sense of distinctiveness by maintaining kinship ties to North Carolina, by controlling their labor, and by building social institutions-a school and church-which were independent of place yet reinforced community loyalty and identification. These institutions also took advantage of Jim Crow and helped Croatans maintain community autonomy.
I hope that the story of this community-their initial involvement in turpentine, their transition to cotton farming, their construction of a school and church, and their decision to return home to North Carolina-helps students of both Native American and Southern history think about the interaction of racial and economic status, the various ways that Indian people demonstrate agency in preserving their communities, and the fundamental role that places can play in historical analysis.
Bulloch County Historical Society
Native Americans, Bulloch County Historical, Society, Croatan Indians.
Bulloch County (Ga.), Bulloch County Historical Society, Banks, Smith Callaway, Lumbee Indians, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Department of History
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Maynor, Malinda, "Croatan Indians in Bulloch County" (2002). Bulloch County Historical Society Publications. 38.