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THE FIGHT FOR RECOGNITION It is hard to believe now that the plain and forthright flatlands of Robeson County could have hidden an entire people for generations Most every part of North Carolina used to be tobacco country But many perhaps most of the tobacco fields are abandoned now The generation that has gone off to work the assembly lines in the Converse plant down at Lumberton at Kelly-Springfield in Fayetteville or at Campbell Soup over in Maxton hardly even remembers the grueling work of plucking tobacco and twisting it up to dry in the gap-sided sheds that still stud the fields The speckled brick houses and the tidy mauve and aquamarine trailer homes the new Chevy pickups all speak of modest success and steady jobs of people suspicious of ornament who take pride in their surroundings Nothing here hints of secrets But then the hiding of the Lumbees was not entirely perhaps not even primarily a physical thing as much as it was a concealment of blood a deliberate and nuanced blending into the moral and cultural order of the place The Lumbees have done well There is little of the gritty shaming poverty that scars the human landscape of Indian communities in much of the United States Lumbees run most everything in Pembroke the Hardees the Piggly Wiggly the Rite Aid the filling station and the store that sells Christian music tapes and license plates that say such things as Expect A Miracle They have been landowners since property records were first written up in the 18th century They may be correct when they boast that they have produced more doctors lawyers and PhDs than any other Indian group in the United States Many Lumbees hold elected office and a Lumbee currently represents Robeson County in the state legislature At the same time as long as anyone can remember they have been a prickly and cantankerous folk troublemakers who
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