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Interview with Earl Carter

Carter, Earl
Bob Caldwell
Date of Interview: 
Native Americans; American Indians; herbal medicine; natural healing; traditional Native American stories; hunting and fishing; holy man; healer; Native American ceremonies; Charlotte Indian Center
Earl Carter, an American Indian of Lumbee descent, discusses his personal background as well as some natural medicine techniques he learned from his forefathers. A recurring subject is the difference between the modern day world and the world he and his ancestors grew up in. Carter speculates on the future of his descendants and predicts a bleak world if people continue to abuse the environment. Carter also relates some personal anecdotes, as well as traditional stories he learned as a child.
North Carolina; mid-to-late 20th century
Interview Setting: 
Charlotte Indian Center in Charlotte, NC
BC: What is your full name?
EC: My full name is Earl Junior Carter.
BC: Were you named after anyone?
EC: Well I was named after my -- well, it was supposed to be my dad but it wasn't really, it was just a name that was given I reckon. 'Cause I got some brothers that's named after my daddy, they're juniors too.
BC: Junior, Earl Junior Carter, that's interesting. I've never really heard Junior, you know, as a middle name. Where were you born?
EC: I was born in St. Pauls, North Carolina.
BC: St. Pauls? Where is that?
EC: It's outside of Lumberton.
BC: Oh really?
EC: It's in Robeson County, it was a little place that they called St. Pauls.
BC: Small town -- is it still --?
EC: Well, it ain't really no town, it's just a community.
BC: Yeah, OK, kind of like it was talking about my aunt, where they're from the closest town is Troutman, but where they're from the street there is called Bells Crossroads. How long has your family lived in this area?
EC: Well, my family's lived there a hundred years or more, in that area. My granddaddy was, on my mother's side, born around Pembroke, North Carolina.
BC: That gets us to the next question. Who were your parents? And grandparents?
EC: Well my grandparents, on my dad's side, was Winston Carter and Bessie Mae Chavis. And on my mother's side, was Maddie Locklear and Hollis Strickland.
BC: How about your parents?
EC: My parents, Braddy Carter and Marcella Carter, Marcella Locklear.
BC: You said Chavis, I lost my train of thought. There's some Chavises who live up the street from me. How far can you go back in your family tree, genealogy?
EC: Well, without sitting down and looking at things, it'd be hard to do. But when they issued Indian cards and things, we went back seven generations.
BC: Do you have those records?
EC: No, I don't have any of the records, there's books wrote with all that in it. Vail's got a lot of the books that's got some of that stuff in it. On the other side of my family, they got some of the books, but I hadn't never got one of them or bought one of them, they're pretty high.
BC: Let's see. Can you remember any of your relatives speaking an American Indian language?
EC: No, I don't remember any of 'em speaking it, I know it was spoken at one time in that part of the country, but they're trying to bring it back, now.
BC: Are there some of them that know it?
EC: There's some still know it.
BC: Are you or any of your relatives enrolled members of tribes?
EC: Well all the whole family, all the people, are enrolled in it, I'm enrolled in it. The Lumbee.
BC: We went to the Mint and saw that photograph exhibition, and they were talking about something about the federal government didn't recognize the tribe, they recognized them but they weren't --
EC: They recognize them but they're not federally funded, that's what it is. From what I've gathered they say it would take a million dollars a day to operate the tribe, and that's one reason why the government doesn't want to do it.
BC: They don't want to do that.
EC: No they sure wouldn't.
BC: Do you remember any stories your relatives liked to tell?
EC: They used to tell the ones to keep you from being outside at night, about what they called the Story of Red Eyes and Bloody Buckets.
BC: Oh yeah?
EC: They used to tell that kind of story, to keep you from being outside at night.
BC: And what is that story?
EC: Way long time ago they talked about this guy cut this guy's head off, then he put all that blood in a bucket, and it got in this guy's eyes, so you'd say "red eyes and bloody buckets."
BC: That's pretty good.
EC: I tell a lot of myths and stories too, to the children, about the snake and about the beaver and stuff like that, and about the raccoon, tell a lot of them stories.
BC: Have they ever recorded you doing that?
EC: No, not really, I mean they're not just my stories, they're everybody's, but I talk about them in schools. You know the possum, he used to have a pretty tail, I tell that one. He used to have a pretty tail, and he was so proud of it, he bragged about it all the time. The fox and the rabbit got together and says, "we're going to fix him where he'll quit bragging so much." And so they got him together and combed the hair on his tail and wrapped it up in a cloth. The story goes on about how he comes to the meetings and all of that kind of stuff and he still brags about his tail and how the rabbit and fox has told him he's going to have a prettier tail, so he's bragging about his tail all the time, all the time. So when they wrapped his tail up, when they finally let him take the cover off his tail, he didn't have no hair on his tail, and that's the reason the possum today don't have no hair on his tail, 'cause he bragged so much. And the story of the bobcat, there's a bunch of little stories. Now not mine, but I just learned them, you know.
BC: What's the bobcat story?
EC: The bobcat used to go fishing, he'd go fishing all the time and he'd fish with his tail, and he would sit down at the water and he'd stick his tail in the water, and the fish would bite his tail and he'd throw 'em out on the bank, so he gathered a bunch of fish and it was getting close to the wintertime, and the bobcat put his tail in the water and he went to sleep. His tail froze in the water. The lake froze. A fish bit his tail, and he thought it was a big one, and he pulled and kept pulling and kept pulling, and never did get him up and he said "That's a great big ol' fish." And finally he jerked a'loose and when he jerked a'loose he didn't have his tail, it froze in that water. And that's the reason bobcats is born with no tails.
BC: Are there bobcats down in Lumberton, do you know?
EC: Oh yeah, down there in that swamp area, bobcats, swamp cats, what they call swamp cats.
BC: Have you ever seen one?
EC: Oh yeah.
BC: Really, 'cause I've read that they're real secretive and you don't hardly ever see them. I like to go out hiking you know and try to see some animals. I'd really love to see one of those.
EC: You got to gets real still.
BC: I bet so.
EC: You got to get real still.
BC: Do you have any famous relatives, or ones you thought were outstanding?
EC: Well I don't know they're outstanding, but my grandfather on my mother's side, he used to be the mayor, of Pembroke. And his wife was that lady that, what they called midwives. That was probably as famous, say to be famous, delivered babies all over the country. He was the mayor of the town.
BC: Do you know their names?
EC: Ezra Locklear was his name, and his wife was Anna Lee, or Annaline, however you want to say 'em. People say it different ways.
BC: Yeah, I had a roommate in college from Rockingham, his name was Alex, it was spelled Alex and everybody called him Alec.
EC: Pronunciations is different, a little bit different everywhere you go.
BC: Who were your favorite relatives?
EC: Hmm. Well all my favorite uncles and things you know, kinda favorite, they was kinda favorite people. They took care of you when you got out of line. It was just like an extended family. If we had the extended family today probably wouldn't have as much problems as we do. If I got a whipping over at my uncle's house, and I got home and told 'em my uncle whipped me I got another one for being hay, mean you know. So he wouldn't whip me for nothing, you know. Always turned that way, if you went to somebody's house they'd give you a good whipping if you got into something, then if you went home and told it you got another one.
BC: What were their names, your uncles?
EC: Well, they're, the oldest would be Willis, Stacey Carter, got Willis Carter, Bill Carter -- that was about the only ones.
BC: Those are on your father's side.
EC: Yes.
BC: I have a lot of uncles on my mother side, kind of like my dads really, my dad was never around that much, but we won't get into that. What was life like when you were growing up, and what are some of your earliest memories?
EC: Well I can remember 'fore I went to school, it was just average, well until I got a little older I worked in the cotton fields, and tobacco fields, and plowed the mules.
BC: Oh really? Plowed mules? How old are you?
EC: I'm fifty-three.
BC: Really. I can remember seeing mules, they still had some up around my aunt's place, you know when I was a boy. That's interesting, I didn't know that somebody, you know that they were still doing that around then.
EC: Well, they were doing that at that time, now they don't. When I left home at eighteen, and moved up in this part of the country, they went to tractors.
BC: I guess the whole country did. Um, why did you move up here?
EC: Well, one reason on the farm down there when you finish with the farm, they wadn't hardly no work down there, at that time, and I moved up here and went to work at Little Pittsburgh Steel over here.
BC: Oh really? Over on Wilkinson?
EC: Yeah, and they called it Southern Engineering too.
BC: How long did you work there?
EC: I worked there for probably fifteen years.
BC: That's interesting, because a friend of mine is John Berry, Jr. Did you know the Berrys, I guess?
EC: Probably do.
BC: I think his family originally owned that place, but just recently they sold out to some foreign company, um, Jordan, Jordanians I reckon.
EC: Then I left, when I left that part, I come uptown here and I worked construction, worked on all the high rise buildings, most of them high rise buildings up there.
BC: What kind of work did you do at Little Pittsburgh?
EC: I worked with welding steel, on the high rise, made forms for the concrete, did that for a long time. In 1971 I left that and went into business for myself.
BC: Concrete work?
EC: No, auctioneering. I was auctioneering until, probably, '85. A little longer than that.
BC: You do the voice?
EC: Yeah I did that, for long time. After that, I got into, they started these pow-wows and gatherings and things like that. I used to just go around to them. Now I'm taking 'em, talking to schools, and I do natural medicine. I tell people about natural medicine, like, there's no such thing as a weed. It's all medicine but people don't realize it, you got cures right under your feet, cure most anything, and I talk about the different types of medicine you can get out, what you can get out of different kinds of herbs, and things like that. And so, that's what I do now, is talk about that, talk in the schools about Native Americans, lots of kids still think Native people still scout, still do raids right on, as modern as it is now, they still believe that, because of TV. That's what I do now, I talk about natural medicine on pow-wow grounds, and I bless the grounds, and put up the teepee, things like that, and do the ceremonies, and that's what I do now.
BC: Natural medicine, that's interesting to me. Could you give me any examples, any particular herbs?
EC: Well, take the dandelion for instance. Everybody's wanting to spray and kill all the dandelions. Get 'em out of my yard, you know. And that's the best medicine for women, for PMS.
BC: Oh really? Why?
EC: Uh, and the other thing, it's a natural laxative for other people. Herbs don't work the same all the way around, you know, like the lady will have PMS, that kind of smooths them out, but some people can take it and it's a natural laxative for 'em. And it's a good headache medicine, it's good for wasp sting.
BC: For what?
EC: Wasp stings. You take a wasp sting and take them little blossoms and rub 'em into the wasp stings and it won't swell up, it won't hurt like it would if you would just leave it, and most people would just leave it or go get a shot or something, and you just take and put that on it, rub that flower right into it. It'll stop the stinging and it won't swell up. A lot of people it don't swell up, I've put some on 'em. And it's a good natural drink to drink, it's got vitamin A, and C, and B-12 in it. If you really extract the different, like the roots has got so much different stuff in it, the leaves and flowers, it's just good salad all the way around. See, if you go get lettuce, for instance, lettuce has no value whatsoever, but if you go out and gather you some dandelion leaves and make you a salad you got all them vitamins in it, and you ain't got no water buildup, and white oak trees is an astringent for a lot of people, and it's good for poison ivy.
BC: Oh really? How do you do that? I get poison ivy all the time.
EC: Well, you take the bark of the tree and you boil it, and you take a bath in it, put it on wherever.
BC: From a white oak?
EC: Yeah, white oak. It does a lot of things. If you come right down to it, the antidote for poison ivy is poison ivy. I got tablets out there in the truck now, that people sometimes ask me what's good for poison ivy, and I say poison ivy, and I got tablets made out of it.
BC: Did you make them?
EC: No, I didn't make them, but I have made them. I didn't make the ones I sell. I get them from a company that deals in a lot of herbs.
BC: Have you ever thought about writing a book? Seems to me all that about natural medicine, that'd be something a lot of people like'd to know. I guess there are books like that.
EC: There are a lot of books out there about 'em, but what they'll tell you in the books, this is not recommended to take anymore. This is good for this or this or this, but it's not recommended. Because, well, the doctors don't really like it. Because, really, the herbs I take, I've been taking them a long time, and I never have the flu, never have a cold, never been to the doctor for anything, except a checkup.
BC: What do you take for colds, or for the flu?
EC: Well I recommend, kindly towards the fall of the year, start eating a clove of garlic.
BC: Oh really, seems like I've heard that before, heard garlic's good for a lot of things.
EC: Yeah, and garlic is kindly amazing, kind of herb. If people have high blood pressure, it'll bring it down. If it's really low it kind of keeps it normal. So it's a pretty good herb all the way around.
BC: I went to the student health center, on campus the other day. I've got this bump on my finger right here, and they x-rayed it, and said, they said, the woman said she thought it was a cyst, she wasn't a doctor, she was a physician's assistant. And she said well you could go to a doctor and they'd stick a needle in it and draw fluid, but she said you know it probably wasn't anything to worry about. But it's kind of tender. I do a lot of construction work, that's what I do when I'm not in school. I work for a pool company. We did a lot of concrete work, but I'm getting ready to go do that again and it's kind of tender, you know, and I'd kind of like to do something about it, because you get out there and start working all day and it's, it starts bothering you, but I don't like to go to doctors, because a lot of times lately when I've gone, they just, it's just all a business.
EC: Well it is all a business.
BC: And they're so quick and a lot of times I just don't think they know what they're doing.
EC: Well, they don't, really.
BC: Yeah.
EC: They -- it's just like mechanics in stores, they know how to take you apart and put you together and all that, as for as the inner man or the healing part of it, they don't -- they give you something and try this, and if this don't work come back and see me and try this. On the average if you eat a natural foods -- I don't eat a lot of, I don't eat hamburger.
BC: You don't?
EC: I don't eat pizza, I eat a lot of vegetables, I eat a lot of broiled chicken, and fish. Stuff like that. I eat, uh, sardines ever once in a while.
BC: You have a garden?
EC: Yeah, I have a garden, raise a garden, but I eat a lot of canned food. Some of the canned foods got so much preservative in it, it's not really good neither, but on average if you get, raise you a little garden, get that kind of stuff, then you never have any problems, I wouldn't think. Unless it's something that was inherited. Stuff that was inherited is kinda hard to get rid of. Every morning when I get up I take bee pollen, I take ginseng, and garlic, and some fish oil. Spoonful of fish oil. Do that every morning. And I ain't had no problems yet, but one of these days I might have, I might have some, because I'm getting up on the high side now. But as far as anything from back, I hadn't had it.
BC: Do you buy that fish oil?
EC: Yeah, I buy fish oil.
BC: Where do you get stuff like that?
EC: Well a lot of that stuff you can get at the health food store. You just get you a book, and if you're getting a little touch of sore throat, challumus, challumus root is good. It's a flower that grows in the water. It's like an iris, do you know what an iris is like?
BC: A flower? Yeah, kinda green then they got the --
EC: Purple, pretty flower.
BC: Yeah, I wouldn't have really known, but my neighbor the other day I was telling her her yard looked good and she said how do you like my irises. And I ought to know that stuff, cause I used to do a lot of landscaping.
EC: Well any plant like that is really good, that iris root is what they get challumus root out in the wild, that's the same thing, that's a good thing to just eat on, to chew on.
BC: Speaking of landscaping, what do you think about all these Charlotte landscapers, you know, that use all the chemicals, and they kill.
EC: They don't know that they're killing themselves and killing other people neither.
BC: Yeah, you know I think that's a bad thing, it's just going to get worse. I've had to do some of that, you know you're working a job and they put those backpack sprayers on you, got you going out -- they spray the yards to have this green grass and they kill all the clover and stuff but eventually, that soil, you know it's not going to have anything good in it, I wouldn't think --
EC: No, it won't have anything in it, because there's natural little bugs in there, that works the soil, just like human beings working the soil and keeping it -- I don't put any kind of fertilizer on my garden, and I have a pretty good garden. I put compost.
BC: I don't either. I've got a small garden.
EC: I take leaves --
BC: I keep a little pile, I don't have a good one, but I've got a little compost pile, and that's what I use -- my mom, I live with my mother, and you know, she doesn't, she doesn't understand that, she thinks you have to put fertilizer, she has my cousin, who runs a landscaping place, she has him come over and spray the front yard, and I don't like her to do that.
EC: Mmm. 'cause it just go right in the garden, don't it?
BC: Well, the garden's in the back, but yeah eventually it might get around there, and uh, like, it's going to go back in the creek, behind the house and kill what's down there, and I saw, I saw a hawk, back behind my house the other day, and that's unusual, because I live in central Charlotte, and I thought about spraying something for the poison ivy back around that creek, and I thought what if that hawk gets in that, that could hurt that hawk, I saw it in my back yard, and I've got a dog, and I saw it and it was huge, real big hawk, and I was wondering what my dog was doing, but she was asleep, she didn't know it, and I thought that was really neat, to see that hawk, right there in my back yard.
EC: You see, the hawk, he eats rats, and rabbits, and they eat the poison ivy, and he'll eventually get it.
BC: Yeah, that's a shame.
EC: But man, he just -- I think about it a lot of times, no reflection on you, but, in ten thousand years Indians lived here and everything was pretty and green, and in five-hundred years, destroyed it. So if in five-hundred they've done it that way, what's it going to be like in the next three, four hundred.
BC: I know, doesn't seem to be getting any better.
EC: Well, probably less than that really, because, I listened when I was little to some elder people, chiefs, would say, have this gathering and people would be around listening, and he said, in a hundred years, in fifty years, he said you'll pay for water, and they said, nah, no no no, water's free. Water was free then.
BC: I've heard news stories like that, lot of places around the country where the water's so bad.
EC: And now, you pay for water, and, I tell a story sometimes to the children, they might get scared sometimes, probably, another fifty years, a hundred years, you might be walking around here, working, if you were in a building you wouldn't have to have it, but when you go outside you'll have to wear a tank, oxygen. He said at that time we had 35-40% oxygen. Today they say we got 15-20%, so you see how much that's cut. But these things they spread, and we don't need them, because there's plants out there will do the same thing, keeps bugs occupied, away, in my garden I don't spray anything, I spray soapy water.
BC: That's what my Aunt Rachel told me to do.
EC: Yeah, it's not really that bad, even, go to town and buy you some cigarettes, and soak that in the water, spray your garden with it, you won't have anything, so that's natural.
BC: Yeah, I read that in a magazine, said you could take cigarette butts and just get that nicotine out of there, and it makes a natural insecticide.
EC: So it's all out there if people will use it, but they spray them yards, want to kill all them dandelions. Good medicine, really good medicine.
BC: As a child, were you thought of as quiet, a troublemaker, silly, funny?
EC: Well, I reckon I was the quiet one, because I learned a lot about the old things by being quiet, and the rest of 'em go out and play and I'd be around listening, and that way I picked up a lot of things, and then my grandfathers, they taught me a lot of things about medicine, lot of things that I don't have to, people be talking to, people say they have this problem, that problem, I can just pop right off and tell 'em what kind of herbs to take, and what they have.
BC: What do you think I ought to take for this cyst?
EC: Well, I would try some sweet gum.
BC: The tree? Are those the ones where the bark peels?
EC: No, it's got them balls on it that fall, people don't like them too much.
BC: Yeah, I've spent hours blowing them, they use those backpack blowers and have us blow them.
EC: Well that's what they make flavoring out of, what they make chewing gum, places they got 'em growing like they use a lot of that, take that berry and squish it, get a lot of flavoring like that. But that'll do it, put some of that on it, or a mullein plant, if it was a cut, I'd say put honey on it and wrap it up, it's a natural healer, you can't get this clear honey, that honey bee, get that real dark stuff, and all that stuffs left in it. If you would take one teaspoon of honey a day, you probably wouldn't have any kind of allergies.
BC: Really. Well I need to get some then.
EC: Well on allergies, anything that bothers you, if you know what bothers you, that's what you need to eat, get it into your system. Honey has that processed in it, but a honeybee gathers all this stuff, they like to gather pollen, people hate pollen, right now they just crying, but a honeybee gathers that stuff and puts it in the honey.
BC: That makes sense.
EC: You get it in your system, and it won't bother you anymore.
BC: Because that's what they do with allergy shots.
EC: Uh-huh, yeah, anything that bothers you, except cats, if you go to the doctor and cats bother you, they ain't much you can do about that.
BC: I just stay away from them.
EC: But fer as out here in nature, it's just, get the pollen from the bees, you can buy the pollen already processed if you want to buy that, I get mine by the pound bag, put it in the capsule. I get mine from the Amish people, they don't have no motor vehicles whatsoever. They do have horses, stuff like that.
BC: What, do you order it through the mail?
EC: Yeah.
BC: What schools and churches did you attend?
EC: When I was at home, or now?
BC: Both.
EC: Well when I was at home I went to Methodist Church. Now I go to a Baptist Church.
BC: In Waxhaw?
EC: Yeah.
BC: What about schools?
EC: I attended school in Robeson County. I went to different schools around there; in that area you moved a lot, went to all schools, so I went to different ones, and I finished up at Ashpole School.
BC: Who was your favorite teacher in school?
EC: Didn't have too many favorite teachers. Well the principal, he was fairly decent, but he would give you a good whipping if you got out of line. But most of em was pretty fair, all the way around.
BC: What did you do for recreation when you were growing up?
EC: Oh, we'd ride the horses, or play ball, roll the wheel, get an old car tire that somebody done wore out and roll it around, and stuff.
BC: Who was your best friend?
EC: The best friend I had, I reckon, would be my granddaddy. And I had some friends in school, we stayed around together, but we didn't go out on the town or anything, I never did get out that much, I stayed at home.
BC: You still have any of your old friends from back then, that you still see?
EC: No, sure don't.
BC: What were some of the values that your parents, or grandparents, taught you?
EC: Some of the values? Well, not to steal anything, not to be angry at anybody, never be angry at anybody when you go to sleep at night. Never take that with you. Them kind of values, that's what I try to teach the indian people today, is the values, that's the reason I hold circles and things, talk about spirituality a lot, about creation, about how it's working, that's the kind of values I was taught about, about plants and animals, you don't take anything out of nature, like a lot of people today, I got some people who live around me, they turkey hunt and deer hunt, and they go get a deer, and that be enough, that be enough for anybody, but they keep going back and killing them but all they do is they mount the heads.
BC: They don't keep the meat?
EC: Well, I don't know what they do with all the meat, whether they give it away or not, but a fella who goes out and kills that much, they really don't need to. Well last week, a friend of mine, well a neighbor, they killed four gobbler turkeys, roosters, out of one place.
BC: That'd take 'em all, wouldn't it?
EC: Yeah, you know, they really didn't need that many turkeys. But they do it because it's hunting season, and what is the next generation of turkeys going to do when there ain't no males.
BC: Yeah, if you take 'em all then you're not going to be able to hunt them later, because there's not going to be anymore. I finally saw a wild turkey, I think it was, I was hiking up around Uwharrie, up north here a little bit, and I heard this animal making a noise, and then it took off flying, and I'd never seen a bird like that before, and I'm just guessing it was a wild turkey, it must have been because I've never seen anything like that, it was pretty low,and it was big, and it clucked at me or something before it took off, you know, but first I saw it on the ground and it was big and it was walking around and I couldn't tell what it was, but I mean I never see any turkeys, you know I've seen some one time when I was down in South Carolina.
EC: Yeah, well that's where they killed them, and I skinned 'em out for 'em, they didn't know how to skin 'em, well they give me the feathers, you know that's -- I didn't skin 'em out just to get the feathers, but that many turkeys, there ain't that many gobblers.
BC: So, you don't hunt anymore?
EC: Well I do, but I don't, if I go get a turkey, well I ain't hunted this year. I deer hunt, I hunt with a bow when I do hunt, and if I would get a turkey I wouldn't get but one, I don't need but one, and those guys got four out of that whole slew of turkeys down there, I know there ain't no more, there might be some gobblers somewhere else, still if they come in there they'll still get them, because turkey season won't be over with until the last of April. You get a turkey every day?
BC: Last of April, so turkey season's right now?
EC: Mm-hmm.
BC: I try to avoid hiking when they're hunting, especially deer, afraid one of 'em will shoot me. But you can't hunt on Sundays, isn't that right?
EC: Yeah, lessen there be somebody out there, you know --
BC: Just doing it anyway, yeah. What person influenced your life the most?
EC: Well, my grandfathers I reckon, taught me a lot of things.
BC: Is that on your father's side, mother's side?
EC: Mother's side.
BC: And what was his name?
EC: His name was Braddy Locklear.
BC: Braddy?
EC: B-r-a-d-d-y, I think that's what he said.
BC: What goals did you have as a teenager?
EC: Well, I had a lot of goals, and I made a lot of 'em, I reckon. I always wanted to fly a plane, and I learned how to fly.
BC: You did that? Really?
EC: Yeah, I did that.
BC: You ever do that anymore?
EC: I'll take a ride every once in a while. And I built a little one-man helicopter, one of them.
BC: Really, wow. Do you fly it?
EC: I flew it a long time, I still got it.
BC: Built it yourself?
EC: Yeah, built it myself.
BC: Was it a kit?
EC: Yeah, it was a kit. Dr. Benson, in Raleigh, he was a medical doctor way back then, he designed the thing. You can still buy them, but you have to buy them from California now. That was a copter that was made in North Carolina, was designed here in North Carolina and built, but now you got to get 'em out of California.
BC: Do you have any other things you do like that, any hobbies?
EC: Other hobbies, I'm like you, I like to fish.
BC: What kind of fishing do you do?
EC: I just do average fishing, I don't care what kind of fish it is, just fishing.
BC: Any particular places that you like to go?
EC: Well I went to Cane Creek; a lot of times I go down home, at the river.
BC: The Lumbee River?
EC: Yeah.
BC: Yeah, I talked to Vail about that a little bit, because I know the sign down there, it says Lumber River, and he called it the Lumbee River, and I always wondered about that. Right down there on 74 there's a little pull-off, you know the river goes underneath there, like a lot of times I'll pull off down there, I used to have a girlfriend down in Whiteville, and I used to go down to Wilmington a lot too, and I tried fishing it a few times when I pulled off, just with a little ultralight, but I had no idea what kind of fish were in it, or how to fish it.
EC: Well there's catfish in it, and they bream, robin, what they call the robin.
BC: I'd heard about those, but I'd never seen those.
EC: On average, they got what they call pike fish, that's about on the average..
BC: That's a beautiful little river, I really like that, like to go on it sometime, canoe or something.
EC: Yeah, I wouldn't mind to ride it myself.
BC: I noticed down there in that area, a lot of fellows, I'd see 'em going out, and they'd have these little small boats.
EC: Called John boats.
BC: Well, you know those John boats are like those metal boats, but they had some small wooden boats that were even smaller, they were real short, and they weren't particularly in the river, I saw 'em looked like they were going in some of those canals you see, look like they're going back in the swamp, and you know I thought that looked really --
EC: Well the canals has got fish in 'em too, they ditched the canals back to the swamps and everywhere you know, if you go down, further down towards Lumberton; when they dug the canals down there, the Indian people down there in that area, they raised catfish -- for the houses -- they took the canals and made some money out of 'em. On the average, that's about the hobbies I do.
BC: What led you to do the type of work you do?
EC: Now?
BC: Yeah, I guess -- well I'm curious too, how'd you get into the construction work?
EC: Oh the construction work, well that was just --
BC: You just started working for somebody then work your way up, cause that, seems to me like working on high rises, that'd be pretty tough.
EC: Well my dad was a foreman on the job, and I got a job doing that, then we worked for different companies.
BC: What about the work you do now, how did you --?
EC: The things I do now, the ceremonies and things is something that the old people did, and probably, I've been in it probably nineteen years I reckon, and people ask me now to do ceremonies, and bless the grounds, and do Indian weddings, and all that, old ceremonies.
BC: Did you learn that from your grandfather?
EC: Well I did, I picked that up from my granddaddy and grandmother, the medicine and the ceremonies, and I didn't use it, I didn't bother with it until they asked me to start doing these things, and so Peggy Gibbons, when she started the pow-wow downtown she named me as the, as her medicine keeper, you know, medicine man, I don't call myself a medicine man, but everybody else calls it a medicine man.
BC: I wondered about that because the professor, she referred to you as a holy man.
EC: Well, that's what I was fixing to get into, and two years ago she designated me as being the holy man, so now everybody's picked that up, and now see I'm the firekeeper for the Lumbee people. Well, Vail got me into that, and started about the fires, and now they call me their keeper of all the spirituality, and the medicines.
BC: The firekeeper? What does that mean?
EC: I keep the fire for the people, the people in whole, it's not just for a few, the whole tribe, and what I do I build a fire, and I put seven different kinds of wood in it, from all the sacred trees, and we burn that fire if we have a gathering for three days, I burn that fire for day and night, never let it go out, rain or shine, stays burning tilt those three days is up, and we gather ashes out of that fire, and keep 'em till the next time we build one, then we put the ashes back in there, and it's called a continuous fire, then that way, but it don't burn all the time, it's symbolic of a continuous burning when you take the ashes out of an old fire, and bring it to the new one.
BC: So I guess you know your trees pretty well.
EC: Yeah.
BC: I wish, I don't know trees well at all, I wish I did, I wish I knew a lot more about the animals and the herbs and which trees, which is which.
EC: There's a lot of 'em out there. I asked that girl in there, she wanted me to give her an Indian name a while ago, what she'd have to go out and remember what trees is what.
BC: How did you learn that?
EC: Well way back there we was taught about trees, what trees is good -- all trees is good, but what has a good value in 'em for building things and doing things, and we was taught what the names of the trees was, how they was, I try to teach that today, but people don't pay that much attention. You got, oh, five different kind of pine trees, you got -- one, two, three, four -- you got six different kind of oak trees.
BC: What about hunting, did your father and grandfather teach you?
EC: Yeah, we was taught to hunt, and what to eat and what not to eat, stuff like that.
BC: Yeah, I've never really hunted, I wrote a story about one time I went squirrel hunting, and didn't know how to clean it and made a mess of it, you know and my uncles taught me to fish, but they were older, by the time they did, and they weren't hunting anymore, and one of them was an alcoholic and he got to where he hardly didn't fish, so I never learned to hunt, and I've always wanted to but, like this fellow who went out and shot the turkeys and didn't know how to skin them out, I wouldn't do that, I wouldn't you know if I don't know how to do it I'm not going to do it, so I've always, I've, if I knew somebody to go with, I would go, that knew what they were doing, I would go, but I think a lot of guys go out there and don't know what they're doing at all, and waste it. 'cause I've heard if you don't know what you're doing it will just ruin it.
EC: Yeah, well a lot of people should know, I've been to places where people used to take me because I could do things they'd take me, they'd say let me go show you where some deer is kilt, and nothing but the bodies was laying there and the hind quarters is gone and the head's gone, and they'd say you know who killed this, it was a lawyer who killed this, or it was a doctor who killed this, that's all they wanted, you know, and that was just a waste, a plain old waste.
BC: As a child, did you have chores?
EC: Oh yeah, I had a lot of chores.
BC: Like what?
EC: I fed the hogs and the mules, fed all them.
BC: Did they used to butcher the hogs?
EC: Yeah.
BC: My mothers told me stories about that, she said when she was little, she was next to the youngest so she didn't do a lot of that, you know, they let her, she was the smart one in school they said, and they didn't make her do a lot of work on the farm, but she said they would take the bladder from the pig, I guess, and they would blow it up and tie it off and make a ball out of it, you ever heard of that?
EC: Oh yeah.
BC: I thought that was really fascinating.
EC: Yeah see, back then there wasn't a lot of things in town to buy.
BC: Yeah, and she said they used to take eggs to the store and trade them, for candy bars and whatever.
EC: But a lot of people don't do that anymore, and the government don't like that because they can't get any taxes out of it.
BC: I know.
EC: They don't like that bartering business, but we do have that, father's day weekend, I build the sacred fire again, and there's no money involved in it, what you do, well really there is money involved in it in one sense or another, you just go to the store on the way down there, and buy you a can of beans, or a couple cans of beans, you know different variety of things, and you take 'em out there to the gathering, and they gather 'em up for needy families, and you can go to the table and eat all you want to all day long, and then the next day you come you bring another can and you can eat all you want all day long, and they have all the natural foods cooked, they would have, well last year we had turtle burgers, and we had buffalo burgers, and we have some deer, and we had all types of vegetables -- just go over there to the table and they take your ticket and you just go down the line.
BC: Sounds good.
EC: And we have that again father's day weekend, we have 5 days of it, 4 days of it.
BC: Where is that?
EC: That'd be down at Pembroke, on the grounds, what they call the Culture Center grounds, or the Indian grounds down there.
BC: I rode through the college one time, just looking around, when I was down there.
EC: You ever been in Old Main? It's got pretty much old pieces from the back years.
BC: That's on the campus? I didn't go in anywhere.
EC: Yeah, well we're having that gathering father's day weekend, and it'll be pretty good, and this gathering we're having out here next month, it'll be -- it won't be like that down there, but it will be pretty close.
BC: My professor, they're going to something, maybe Bladen Community College for some thing coming up, this month I believe -- do you know anything about it?
EC: That pow-wow? Yeah, I go there.
BC: Is it any good?
EC: Yeah, it's pretty good, l have a little something to do with each one of them. They'll call me a week or two ahead of time, say I want you to do such and such.
BC: Did you serve in the military?
EC: No, didn't have that task to do.
BC: Well here's one you've already touched on -- can you remember any home remedies you used? Used to use or still use today?
EC: Well the old home remedies, yeah. Used to use, you can't use it now, used to use kerosene and sugar together; they would take a match and light it, and they would burn that and it kind of crystalizes, and you'd take that and it'd be good for strep throat, and it'd get rid of that, used to use a lot of black draught, the old catnip tea and stuff like that.
BC: What is black draught?
EC: The black draught is made out of a lot of different kinds of apples and peaches and a lot of that mixed up together. Now I use natural herbs, somebody come up with their babies and have problems I tell 'em give 'em some catnip tea, catnip tea is kinda good if you have problems sleeping, take a cup of that and you sleep, like a baby. So everything that a doctor'll give you, it's out there in the herbs, in the natural medicine, it's out there, for instance, if you take penicillin, people look at penicillin, and they get it in their system, but if they knew what it was made of, they'd probably frown of it.
BC: It comes from mold, doesn't it?
EC: Yeah, so you take a piece of molded bread and get all the penicillin you want.
BC: I eat blue cheese a lot, isn't that just molded cheese?
EC: That's right, molded cheese.
BC: Maybe I got enough penicillin.
EC: Yeah, stuff like that.
BC: What you said earlier about lettuce having no --
EC: No value whatsoever.
BC: I heard a girl who was a biology major, she said that it has no nutritional value.
EC: No nutritional value, no value whatsoever, but they sell it, pretty high stuff, but it don't have anything, it's just the taste, and ladies trying to get rid of weight, and they eat lettuce, that's what puts weight on 'em, cause of the water, water weight -- so dandelions, go out and get 'em some dandelions and make you a salad, and have a better, use the flowers and everything.
BC: This is one I didn't know about -- it says to ensure a seventh generation to come, what values should we be teaching our children today -- could you tell me what the seventh generation is?
EC: I think we would be, well I would be probably the seventh generation, the eighth generation is what we need to be teaching, we need to teach them the values, we need to teach them, you know, I'm not the, you know prejudice or anything, I would really, if you, if the creator separated us long time ago, I think we should still be separated.
BC: As far as marriage, things like that?
EC: Yeah, and that's what he's talking about there, after a while there won't be any Indian people, what you might say Indian people, there's a lot like that now, and they feel out of place, so that's what we need to teach the children -- stay with your own kind, I reckon, that's probably what he's thinking about there.
BC: When you say that you're the seventh generation, are you dating back --
EC: Yeah, when they checked my records to put me on the Indian roles, I was the seventh generation, that's what he's talking about there, we need to start on that generation and teach the other generation the values and the other things about, well you go around and a lot of people do come up to me, they talk about it, well I come to see Indians dancing, I didn't come to see black and whites dance the Indian dances, but I have a lot of people that does, I know big dignitaries, "I come out here to see Indians dancing, I didn't come out here to see this."
BC: See what?
EC: This mixture -- and they talk about that a lot, and we see it but it's not nothing that's uh being prejudice, you got to be good to everybody, but when you're born out of the, way out here somewhere and then you come back here and try to do these things, then you're lost out you know, I mean it's just like, it wouldn't be right if I did have Irish in me or what for me to go up there and put me on a skirt to dance with the kilts you know -- stuff like that, that's probably what he's talking about, that's the only thing I can figure out about the seventh generation, teaching them, the way the values, really, the values is what I try to teach them, they gonna marry who they gonna marry anyway -- teach them the values the old ways, people a lot of times say what you want to teach the old ways for, but it's the values of things, love the land, the land you living on, it's not just for you, it's for the next generation, and if you keep destroying it there won't be nothing for the next generation, that's the way I look at it, that's for everybody, that's just not for the Indian people, or for myself, it's for everybody, for the next generation. So they don't like me to talk about that and the values of things like that -- might get a kid around, talk about things they do, things they put in their bodies, some of the people don't like that.
BC: What do you mean, things they put in their bodies?
EC: Well like all kinds of chemicals and things -- I reckon that's the reason that I can go like I can go, I ain't never, never done any al-kee-hol, never done any, any kind of off-the-wall stuff, never done any of that, but there's probably a lot of 'em around me that have.
BC: What have been the major accomplishments in your life?
EC: The major accomplishments, well like I was talking about flying, I reckon that could be a good one.
BC: I think so.
EC: Yeah. Flying and auctioneering.
BC: Was it livestock, or --
EC: Well I did all that, everything you could think of, I worked at Godley's out here, seemed like eons, Godley Auction Company, out here on north, got a lot of tractors that they sell, they got an auction barn that does run cattle and things, but I done some cattle, cattle auctions, I done car auctions, I done land auctions, farm equipment.
BC: If you had your life to live over, would you do anything differently?
EC: I wouldn't think so -- I wouldn't think so, maybe get a little more education, do something for my people, really something for my people, I reckon I'm kinda a guider now, but maybe I could do a little bit more.
BC: Anything particular as far as education, that you'd be interested in?
EC: Well, not really, uh, well if, like I say I'd be a judge or lawyer, an advocate for the people. I reckon I'm an advocate enough for the people.
BC: Yeah, but a lot of times, you got to know the law, to get anything done, looking ahead, what things would you like to accomplish?
EC: Well I'd like to see, like to accomplish getting all these Indians back together, I'd like to do that. We've got four different groups around Charlotte here that's doing different things, and if we could get all them four groups to do the same thing, and work at the center here and do the things they're doing together out there separate, and do them together, we could turn this town upside down, if they all work together, put all that combined together, there could be a tot more accomplished, build something out in the country, have horses, a swimming pool, lakes -- work together and have all that, I'd like to see that, I really would, that's the only thing right now.
BC: That's like this next one, what do you dream for your people?
EC: Yeah, that's what I would want, getting together.
BC: Are there any thoughts you would like to add?
EC: Well, not right offhand, well I hope whoever listens to this thing, talks about the values of things, live your life, love your life, bring it all together, be in harmony with everything, if you do that -- like a lot of people really don't know theirself, and once you know yourself you can understand other people, the ways, bring all that into harmony.
BC: How do you know yourself?
EC: Well, you just, in one sense you know who you are, and how you was made, you know, and the next person, you know he was made the same way but he's not got the same values and looks as you've got, you got to understand his and he understands yours, just go on down these paths together and be in harmony, the harmony of nature and yourself.