NativeIndians form a significant part of the North Carolina population.Over the years, they have contributed toward the cultural identity ofNorth Carolina as they interact with other ethnic groups. However,this was the case in the past. Contact with European settlers in the16thcentury had a continuously devastating impact on their culture andsurvival. The European settlers introduced new diseases such assmallpox to America which wiped out millions of Native Indians.Disputes pertaining to use of Native land also created tension in therelations between whites and Natives. This marked the beginning ofmistrust between Indians and whites which was also characterized bycultural misunderstanding. In fact, a 1834 North Carolina GeneralAssembly report stated in part that “the red men are not within thepales of civilization they are not under the restraints of morality,nor the influence of religion, and they are always disagreeable anddangerous neighbors to a civilized people" (Native Americanhistory 2015). This shows how political systems perceived NativeIndians from the very beginning.
Consequently,subsequent political declarations sought to correct the wrongscommitted by past governments and especially the colonial andsettlers’ governments. Recent federal and state governments haveenacted policies and measures to address Native Indian issues. Theyhave included political participation, recognition of injustices thatthese people suffered at the hands of previous governments,recognition of their right of independence among others. Thesepolitical approaches to addressing historical injustices haveexpanded democratic space not only in North Carolina but also thewhole country. For instance, the creation of a federal governmentIndian Affairs position within the Interior Department in 1970 hasbenefitted all Native Indians in the US although it is the Lumbeesand other Native Indian tribes in North Carolina that were mostactive in pushing for such democratic space and federal recognition.This vibrant democratic space has allowed subsequent governments toaddress racial matters more candidly.
Thesuccess of Native Indians in gaining political recognition playedinspired the civil rights movements in North Carolina and the largerUS. As reported by Oakley (2008), Native Indians have to literallyfight for their place and space in the US. They fought governmentsand the Ku Klux Klan to have political recognition and even to beallowed to form their own independent sovereign government with aspecial relationship with the state and federal government.Furthermore, it is clear that the challenge on Jim Crow segregationlaws were legally undermined by Supreme Court ruling in Brown vsBoard where the laws were declared unconstitutional. This would openup education reforms that saw state sponsored segregation diminish.However, it is the success of the Native Indians that inspiredAfrican Americans to challenge segregation and push for political andsocial rights. The Natives’ confrontation with the KKK attractedhuge media covered which had a ripple effect on their culture.
Previously,newspapers had stereotyped Lumbees as just a part of the NativeIndians. Many reporters did not even take time to understand theLumbees as a unique Native Indian tribe with some given themdifferent names. Although most majority of the newspaper reportingwas pro-Indian, factual errors on the reports portrayed lack of orpoor understanding of the Native Indian culture. This automaticallytriggered a flurry of studies that sought to understand the NativeIndians better. Again, the wide newspaper coverage over theKKK-Native Indians confrontation heightened the public interest inNative Indians. Many people grew interested in the people with someventuring on their own to understand their culture. This was somehowintended to ascertain some of the claims and rumored stereotypes ofthe Native Indians. This understanding promoted by the media hasshaped public opinion and perceptions towards Native Indians.
Clearly,the federal government has been impacted. The Indian nations createdin the 1970s have provided the Natives with better avenues to engagein nation building economically. The Native villages and nations runtheir own school and the development of these schools and villageshave often been pivotal in job creation. However, these Indiannations remain relatively undeveloped and unemployment rates in thesenations often stand above 50% which is comparatively low (NCAI 2015).This has denied the Native Indian realistic opportunities to improvetheir standard of living and cut down overreliance on federalgovernment support through benefits programs targeting members ofofficially recognized Native Indian tribes.
Today,Native Indian culture has been blended into American culturemarginally. The history of America as a country is incomplete withoutmention the contribution of Native Indians. Today, Native Indianscontribute t this cultural heritage through a variety of museumslocated all over the country. Additionally, several study programsare dedicated to Native Indian issues. Their economic involvement andnation building cannot be ignored. Native nation’s major governmentdecisions especially on issue pertaining to use of their ancestralland. Therefore, understanding the history and culture of NativeIndians is critical in understanding American history. Furthermore,the policies and laws affecting the economy, health, social justiceand education of Native Indians, especially in the past, offerimportant learning lessons to modern governments on how to developeffective policies. As a country that is faced with the issue ofimmigrants, Americans needs there is need for different ethnic groupsand tribes to coexist and learn from previous mistakes such assegregation which had devastating effects.
NationalCongress of American Indians. Economic Development & Commerce
NativeAmerican history in North Carolina. Retrieved from
Oakley,C. A. (2008). When Carolina Indians went on the warpath": Themedia, the Klan, and
theLumbees of North Carolina. SouthernCultures14(4) 55-84.