Glenn Hunt was born and raised on the Long Swamp, a nickname for his rural farming community in Maxton, North Carolina. “They say there wasn’t no one here at one time but Indian folks,” he says, “and when you come to Long Swamp they didn’t know but one thing, and that was to work and cook, and eat.” Long Swamp is one of many settlements built by Lumbee Indians around schools, churches and relatives in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Robeson County. Today more than 50,000 Lumbees call Robeson County home. They continue to live and thrive off the vast farmland, rivers, and swamps of Eastern North Carolina, as they have for centuries.
Despite outsider attempts to push labels and identities, the Lumbee have endured shifting challenges to their authenticity as Indians; this is how they survived. Lumbees have always defended their culture and identity against stereotypes and questions of what Indian is or what it should look like. A poignant truth reveals itself: Lumbee Indians were here first; the land shapes their identity. They speak of culture when they speak of kin, community, and food. The true questions framing Lumbee identity are who are your people? and where do you stay?
The stories documented in this project reveal Lumbee identity from their own personal stories, experiences, and traditions. The interviews here demonstrate how one pot of chicken bog draws in an entire neighborhood, how the true meaning of standing in line for a collard sandwich at Lumbee Homecoming (a family reunion-type event held in Pembroke, NC each July) is actually about reuniting with kin. These interviews are a testament to the fact that when a Lumbee builds a plate or restaurant for his or herself, it lifts family and community.
~ Sara Wood
This project was conducted in collaboration with the Southern Oral HIstory Program at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.