Ross Publishes New Book on N.C. Indians
In the most comprehensive
work on the subject to date, UNC Pembroke geography Professor Tom Ross
unravels the mysteries surrounding North Carolina's Indians.
in North Carolina: Geographic Interpretations" (Karo Hallow Press,
Southern Pines, 1999) is an important work for a variety of audiences
for a number of reasons.
For the scattered
and often misunderstood tribes themselves, Dr. Ross' book is the most
written about them. As Lumbee Indian and UNC Pembroke's Chancellor Joseph
B. Oxendine states in the prologue, "It surely makes a unique contribution
to our understanding of North Carolina Indians, past and present."
With more than 100
charts, tables, maps, graphs and illustrations, the 242-page text chronicles
Indian life in North Carolina from prehistory to the present. It provides
a solidly grounded discussion of the mystery of their identity as well.
in North Carolina" shatters myths on all sides of the puzzle of
the how these unique and scattered tribes survived the onslaught of
U.S. history. Dr. Ross refers to them as "Phoenix Indians"
because of their apparent resurgence in the late 20th century.
From a population
of approximately 50,000 Indians in North Carolina at the time of European
contact, only 1,516 American Indians could be found in the 1890 census.
1990, the census lists more than 80,000, and Dr. Ross estimates that
by the turn of the next century that number of Native Americans in North
Carolina will exceed 100,000, with almost half living in Robeson County
In separate chapters,
Dr. Ross discusses each major tribe as well as other groups. The tribes
include the only federally recognized tribe is the Eastern Band of Cherokee,
located in the mountains of North Carolina.The state recognized tribes
are the Lumbee of Robeson County, the Coharie of Sampson County, the
Waccamaw-Siouan of Columbus County, the Haliwa-Saponi of Halifax County,
the Meherrin of Bertie County and the Indians of Person County.
For all residents
of Southeastern North Carolina, which contains the largest concentration
of American Indians in the state, "American Indians in North Carolina"
is an important book for understanding how these tribes survived and,
ultimately, thrived in our midst.
The rise to political
and economic power of the Lumbee Indians of Robeson County in modern
times is far better known than the mystery of their origins. Dr. Ross
provides a thorough review of all theories on the origins of the Lumbee
and other tribes.
The future for the
state's Indians, Dr. Ross maintains, is far less clouded than the story
of their origins, Dr. Ross points out.
"It is clear
that the Indians in North Carolina today are not the same Indians (culturally
or genically) that were here at the time of European contact. At one
point in history, it was thought that the Indians in the United States
would be assimilated into other populations, white or black. But 100
years later, they were back from the ashes, Phoenix-like, and demanding
recognition as Indians...as the more affluent and better educated Indians,
(they) will develop a distinct, new Indian culture that reflects the
For North Carolinians,
this book an important historical treatment of the state's original
inhabitants. Dr. Ross deftly explains why these tribes have lost their
language and culture, but not their identity as Indians.
Tar Heel state contains the seventh largest Indian population in the
nation and the largest tribe (Lumbee) east of the Mississippi, despite
having only one reservation.
Dr. Ross explains
the movement to obtain federal recognition and the larger significance
of recognition efforts. Writing from the historic home of the Lumbee
Tribe at UNC Pembroke gives the author special insight into the cultural
significance of federal recognition.
In these days of
heightened cultural awareness, "American Indians in North Carolina"
offers inquisitive readers the understanding needed to navigate the
global village of the 21st century. Like the Phoenix, North Carolina's
Indians are uprising in ways that demand our understanding.
Indians of North Carolina' provides a focus on Eastern U.S. Indians,"
Dr. Oxendine says, that other texts ignore.
on American Indians during recent years have failed to focus on the
modern day Indian but have described conditions in an earlier time...
Such books tend to set' the Indian in earlier times, reinforcing
the concept that they are reservation bound or that they live in the
Southwest or Plains regions of the United States."
The story of Indians
in North Carolina is a remarkable story of survival in a hostile environment,
and in Dr. Ross' hands, it is a valuable resource for any reader.
* * *
Dr. Thomas E.
Ross is chairman of the Geography and Geology Department of UNCP, where
he has taught since 1969. A native of West Virginia, he received his
B.A. and M.S. from Marshall University and Ph.D. from the University
of Tennessee. The book may be ordered for $29.95 (which includes sales
tax and postage) by writing Karo Hallow Press; P.O. Box 1942; Southern
Pines, N.C. 28388
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