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Interview with Della May Hartis

Hartis, Della May
McEwen, Rosemary
Date of Interview: 
Native Americans; American Indians; American Indian schools; dirt farmers; Lumbee history; education
Della May Hartis recalls her childhood growing up within the Lumbee community in Roberson County, North Carolina. Hartis describes her family as "dirt farmers" who subsisted by growing tobacco, cotton, and corn as cash crops as well as meat and vegetables for their own consumption. Despite this hard-working life style and relative poverty, education was a significant factor of her upbringing and Hartis followed her mother into a teaching career after completing her degree at Coker College. During the interview Hartis discusses the complicated race relations between Anglo Saxon, Native American and African American groups in the Pembroke area, and also emerging issues associated with the large influx of immigrant groups into the Charlotte area where she teaches.
Pembroke NC, Charlotte NC, 1930's to 1990's
Native Carolinians and Indian Elders
RM: What is your birth date?
DH: November the 9th, I was born in 1933.
RM: And what was your name at birth?
DH: Della May Revels. I often wondered why I had that name. I once asked my father and he said "I gave you that name Della because you don't hear it too much and because my mother was named Della and she was a fine lady and I just hope that you'll be like my mother." But I usually go by Del to make it short, you know. But that's one thing common with Lumbee Indians -- you always have a double name.
RM: So the Della May, was that one name together?
DH: No, May was my middle name. Della was my first name. Now all the children in my family, my older sister is named Florence Vernell, my second sister was Cloris Muldina. I'm Della May, and my brother is William Lonnie. However, my dad's name is Lonnie and my brother is not a junior, my father is named Lonnie Gaston Revels. And then I have two younger sisters, Theresa Gwen and Rosa's name is Rosa Merle, so that's a common trait, most of the Lumbees have double names.
RM: So by double names you mean the first and middle names? But your parents would call you --
DH: Parents would usually call the full name and then that's still kindly traditional. You know that you are with family, especially a parent, if you hear that full name. Now my father will still say "Della May, Rosa Merle do so and so."
RM: Even when he's not upset with you?
DH: That's right, Della May, I'm still known as Della May. So, and I think all this comes from being quote "isolated" from other social groups, I think. It's kindly a formal thing. Kindly a close-knit type thing, you know.
RM: Would you say that's something that's still carried on today?
DH: Very much traditional still today.
RM: To have the double names?
DH: Mm-hmm. Lots of times children will get nicknames like that, and I think that those nicknames are very close to the family unity, like I have cousins, a cousin that's named Mary and we call her Hon all the time, she's a grown lady and her brother, her only brother, his name is Donald, but the oldest child, she calls him Baby. It's just a family thing, you know.
RM: No matter what the age?
DH: No matter what the age. And like my older sister, which she resents, her uncle started calling her Doodie.
RM: Doodie? I've never heard that name.
DH: Doodie. D-o-o-d-i-e. And then my brother, being an only boy, he was tagged with the name Sonny Boy. Even today, I have to think that when we're in a group, you know, not to embarrass him because you wouldn't want a 60-year-old man walking around with the name Sonny Boy, so I have to think to say Lonnie, you know. But that's the way names go, even with the grandchildren they all have double names.
RM: That's interesting. So that's a tradition that's been passed down. So you had five sisters and a brother?
DH: There were five girls in the family and one boy.
RM: He must have gone through some hard times.
DH: He was a strong boy because there again the neighbors would tease him and say, "boy if I were you I would make those girls behave, stand up to me," so we used to laughingly tease him because we created our own fun and he enjoyed trying to make us, really trying to boss us you know, so my parents would just go somewhere and leave us there, we'd fight, we'd do things you know just to test him, and of course he was testing me because he knew I loved to fight too, but we loved each other, got along really well.
RM: That's a big family.
DH: That's a big family and we were what you call dirt farmers.
RM: What do you mean by dirt farmers?
DH: We really, we had land, and we always had good food and we always had plenty of food but we really didn't have extras. I can remember when my father bought a car, I can remember when we got electricity, water, this type thing. And we just lived off the land you might say, and I remember my dad always going shopping for groceries on Saturday night and those groceries would only include sugar, the staples, salt, pepper, stuff like that because we produced our own milk, ham and pork chops for breakfast because we produced it, and all the goodies like that, and my mother was a great seamstress because she would make all our clothes from feedbags, bags, you know the bags that livestock feed would come in. And I teasingly tell my kids now that we were the only children, girls in the neighborhood, that our panties said "self rising." But that was from those big ol' flour sacks or corn meal and during the war we couldn't get elastic, she designed our panties and made button holes, so we managed like that, and the way we survived during the war because everything was rationed was my father always had the best sugar-cured hams in Robeson County. And of course people did black market things. When someone got a good ham, my dad would say, "well, you know, I need sugar you know," or some other product or item that was rationed. So that's, it was really dirt farmers had to design ways to survive. Farming was hard. If you've never grown tobacco, and cotton and corn, you don't really know what hard work is like, so that's what we did and I remember my, while I was growing up my grandfather owned the land, owned all the farms and the children rented, more or less lived on those farms and just barely got enough to live on, but there again my father was a hard worker and I remember him working for my grandfather for fifty cents a day.
RM: So his livelihood -- I assume your mother was a homemaker.
DH: Homemaker, she was. But my mother, she finished what was known as a normal school at the college, that was the equivalent of I think the ninth grade. But see, the college then was for Indians, so my mother's age group could go through the normal school and teach school, so my mother taught school before she was married but having a family and having to work on the farm, she was not able to maintain work outside the home.
RM: So Pembroke originally started as a normal school to train, because they didn't want Indians to go to the regular school, so they had to train some of them as their own teachers. And then that grew into Pembroke State College?
DH: Eventually Pembroke State College. But that was one of our salvations, was having that college and it was called Old Main at that time, and they still have a building there that's been renovated as a museum, but the college was, and it was established for Indians, and that was another way I guess of keeping us isolated, but yet it was a means by which we could progress somehow.
RM: Now in later years Indians were actually discriminated against at that college.
DH: Not really discriminated, I think where the media picks that up is the fact that we started letting so many students be admitted from Anglo-Saxon to -- you know, whatever -- to the college, and there again when you have a group coming in like that and you have a minority group, now you get this feeling that they're going to take over.
RM: I think that's the feeling I got from the material.
DH: Yes that is, and that's so true I think with any ethnic group where you have an institution or traditions where you feel like someone else is infringing. We realize in order to progress the college had to open up to anyone who wanted to come.
DH: So you didn't necessarily resent outsiders coming into the school?
DH: No, no, no, really no. There was no resentment of outsiders coming. But the fact that we had four schools was somewhat, you know, discriminating towards us I think. Now we laughingly tell people, the kids that grew up in Robeson County, that we have no problem with busing, we were bused all our lives. I rode the buss right by the black school and the white school to get to the Indian school. So we were subjected to a lot of trials and tribulations. But I think the main thing that helped the Lumbee people is the fact that so many of them owned land. Land is still economic security. So even though it was a hard life, a very difficult life because you had when I was growing up, there were not that many Indian men or women for that matter who were entrepreneurs, who owned businesses in Pembroke. Russell Livermore owned Pembroke. He owned the paint supply company, the grocery store, the livestock store. He was a rich white man. Indian families always had to borrow money to carry their crops through, they had to buy fertilizer you know. If they couldn't pay, what could Mr. Livermore do? Foreclose on their farms, so that's one thing. That really held us back in a way, but that still helped a lot of people to progress. Now I know my father had to borrow money from the paint supply, I guess my grandfather did too to maintain his farms and all, but they were always hard workers and they always paid back. Mr. Livermore became a very rich man through foreclosures of farms.
RM: So you're saying it held the Lumbee people back as far as they couldn't go any further than they were.
DH: That's right.
RM: Or they would step back in foreclosure?
DH: That's right.
RM: When you were growing up and going to the segregated schools, did you realize, "I'm going to a segregated school, I'm passing by the white and black school," or how did you see it? You know as a child sometimes you see things differently.
DH: Well, as a youngster I don't think it bothered me that much because I did not relate at all to the white people because they were on the other side of town, so to speak. They lived in the white section even though it was a small white section. So it really didn't bother me, but as I grew older and wanted to socialize and go to other towns, for instance Lumberton, we could not go to Lumberton and go in a regularly drugstore, they didn't want to serve us, or a restaurant, or we couldn't go to a movie theater. We had to set up in the balcony with the blacks. They had the area for the white, Indian and blacks. And they had the water fountains like that too.
RM: So there were different sections in the movie theater? The white section then the blacks and Indians split the balcony?
DH: Yes.
RM: So did they have signs over the water fountains for the black and Indian citizens?
DH: I don't ever remember seeing any for Indian, but see the feeling that most of the Indians got was you don't really want to go in those places. If you don't want to sit in the balcony, you just don't go. If you feel like you can pass for white, you'll go to the movies in Lumberton.
RM: Now how could you pass for white?
DH: You can't look at a Lumbee I don't think, and say, "You have this feature or that feature which is going to designate you as an American Indian." We have been stereotyped so much. OK, that is one of the reasons we trace our heritage back to the Lost Colony, you had so many amalgamated tribes that was living on the coast of North Carolina. We still feel that those tribes intermarried and that is why in Pembroke and Robeson County, in a family you may have a redhead and then a real real black- headed child. The influence of the Indian tribe intermarriage, and then you've got the white Anglo-Saxon there. In fact when you hear names like Locklear, Lowery, those are not Indian names, those are English names. Oxendine, Locklear and Lowery are three very dominant surnames that you find in Robeson County, and they're basically English names. There was a great influence of the English that were living near the amalgamated tribes.
RM: How did the shopkeepers, movie theater workers, or the storekeepers know you were, in fact, Indian and therefore say, "no, you can't sit in the white section." How would they know or just as an Indian yourself, would you say "no, I'm not going in there."
DH: Usually people knew the Indians because it is such a small town and there was always some way to identify us.
RM: So that helped perpetuate the racism.
DH: And then too, even today when I go to Robeson County and go to a drugstore or restaurant in Lumberton, I have to think, "I, one time, couldn't come in here and eat, I'm dark, I'm Indian, they know I'm Indian." Can you imagine growing up with that apprehension when you go into a drugstore and ask for a fountain drink? Well they won't sell you one because you're Indian.
RM: How did that make you feel as a child? Was that just normal because you didn't know any different or did that make you feel any less?
DH: Well, it made you feel that you were somewhat different yet there again I think the strong ties that you feel within the Lumbee family was enough security to give you a sense of identification. Now I've never really felt ostracized except maybe by people in Lumberton and places like that. The only other ostracism I received was when I came to Charlotte to work. That was right after I graduated from college, majored in business, could easily type a hundred words a minute, could do shorthand and that sort of thing, met all the requirements. I went to the employment agency and applied for the job and the guy was just so content with all of my qualifications and he said, "Oh, I've got an attorney's office that would hire you." Well, about two weeks later he called and I said, "what is the problem?" I said, "is it because I'm Lumbee?" and he said, "I think that's the case."
RM: How did he know you were Lumbee?
DH: I told him. I told him where I had grown up.
RM: Would people outside of Robeson County know the Lumbee names?
DH: Yes, most of them. If you find an Oxendine and go back and trace that heritage, that lineage usually it's somewhere back in Robeson County, those names are just that dominant there.
RM: I've had some Locklears in my classes in Charlotte but did not know they were Indian until someone else in the school told me. They were mixed black and Indian but did not claim their Lumbee heritage at all. I guess that might be because the rest of the school was 80% black and as middle school students they just want to fit in.
DH: You find that a lot if people leave Pembroke if they look black or dark-skinned and they feel they're not going to fit in out in the working world, sometimes they will go with the blacks. It's just a feeling of belonging. But I think the fact that we were never put on reservations and the fact that we owned land and had some means of being self-sufficient. I don't know the government wanted to deal with us to push us around that much, you know. Of course, we realized that, I know years ago in Robeson County among the Lumbee people, most of them were farmers or school teachers. That's basically all you could become. But today we have Lumbee lawyers, Lumbee doctors, it's really amazing that in Lumberton most of the doctors are Lumbee.
RM: I bet that's really something for your 90 year-old father to see.
DH: It really makes him feel good to see that we have survived so much discrimination, so much isolation. Now I did not go to Pembroke State University, I graduated from high school in 1954, a Lumbee school. I felt that I had taken all of the business classes that the high school offered. At that time Pembroke did not have a very strong business education department, I don't even think they offered a teacher's degree in it, so I went to Coker College in Hartsville, South Carolina. It's a private college. I guess some people might say that that's a very big step for someone that really had no money. My friend and I, we went to that college. It was a liberal arts college, it was small and had very strong courses in social studies, business and religion. It was very hard for me coming out of a situation where I knew, for instance I had Spanish two years in high school and I thought I knew a little bit of Spanish but there again that isolation and keeping everything I learned right there and not being exposed to other social organization and things like that. I had a difficult time that freshman year. In fact, I had to go back and repeat Spanish, but it was a challenge for and I did it. Even though they had a lot of very difficult courses, you see Coker had a civilization course that you had to take for four years, all four years, and it encompassed so many things that I had really not been exposed to like classical music, classical artists, their work you know, just even certain areas of science and mathematics we studied a lot about the Greek civilization, the Roman civilization, things like that. When I graduated from Coker I had a major in business education and social studies through that civilization course. It helped me so I took two more civilization courses and got a major in social studies. But sometimes I look back and think how did I survive ever having to study. But I had to study, I had to get special help, but I was determined and of course when I got into my junior year, when I got into my major, by that time, I really felt that I had the ability to do well in my chosen field, so I made very good grades.
RM: So you had spent the first two years proving to yourself--
DH: That I could do it, that I could pass those difficult courses even though I had not really been exposed to learning styles, learning situations with quote, whites or other groups of people.
RM: So that was also your first experience of going to school with other people than Lumbee. Now did they realize that you were Native American?
DH: Yes they did.
RM: Was there discrimination there?
DH: We did not find any discrimination.
RM: That must have been very strange for you. What about in the town itself?
DH: No, we did not. I really felt free. Because anywhere in Hartsville, anywhere in South Carolina I could go and be accepted but still there's that fear when I go to Lumberton and go into some of the dress shops, we get this feeling that still they want to recognize you as being lower, the whites. It's something we've learned to live with and something that we've almost fought for, but we've done it through education really and proving to ourselves that we can learn and we can be self sufficient and we can do what anyone else can do. Now my father, even though my mother taught school, my father never went beyond the third grade.
RM: Was that normal for that time?
DH: Yes, for that time, because he came from a large family and his mother became ill and he had to take care of her at eleven years old and there again he worked hard, his mother died and there was like five children and at that time you could farm out, that means that a parent could take this child and say you can go live with the Taylors and farm but I get the money, that's what that meant. You could be farmed out so my dad was farmed out when he was fourteen to go live with a family in Fairmont, a white farming family and he said they never really treated him well, they never really paid you know, didn't pay like they were supposed to so he came to live with my maternal grandfather who owned two or three farms, he came there as a farm worker and that's how he met my mother. He came to live with her parents and farm, do day work.
RM: So she was a little better off than where he had come from.
DH: Yes. Strictly because my grandfather owned farmland and had established credit and this type of thing.
RM: And she was also more educated.
DH: She was trained as a teacher, more educated. But then, like my dad and all his brothers were self learners, you couldn't fool him with any type of money. You can't cheat him out of money. We taught him how to read well, how to write you know. That was his focus within the family, education. Education, no matter what, he said, you know I didn't get it but I want all of you girls and Lonnie to have an education. He worked toward that goal and we always realized that. We were never ones to play hookey from school because if your parents found out about it you had to stay home and farm, pick cotton or something, who wanted to do that? It's too hard. There was a real motivation there. You had to be alert because like I said when you went to the paint supply store and you bought your crops' fertilizer, you had to know how much fertilizer you purchased, how much it cost, and how much interest you had to pay back on that loan. Being a very good learner, my dad has managed well, his brother at one time one of the most progressive motel businesses on 301 and of course when 95 came through, 301 in that area was cut off, but still he was smart enough to develop a business which he has really done well with and that's selling used car parts. And then of course I have another uncle who went into the military at a very young age and learned a skill in the air force and became a very good photographer and is well read, the most beautiful penmanship you have ever seen. He lives in what is another Indian section down below Lumberton called Magnolia or Saddletree. Another Lumbee community, and that's where my father grew up and where my two uncles live now. And of course my grandfather was a brilliant man. He was always well dressed, a very handsome man and he was always interested in the school system. Now I'll tell you about Smilings. When you have an ethnic group like that and you feel that whites can really discriminate against, lots of times you will have other ethnic groups that will say well that's a group I can fit into well, and a black person may do that, that's happened here in Charlotte, we've had black people to say, "well I'm Native American," or "I've got one-fourth Native American."
RM: Because they feel kind of a kinship in the way they've been oppressed?
DH: Been oppressed you know. The Smilings we always considered black people that came in to Robeson County, now this is something I don't think many of your history books that you read about the Lumbees, but we had what was called a blood committee and my Grandpa Godwin was on that committee. And that was to try to keep Robeson County quote, just pure Indian I guess. It was a way of trying to eliminate that kind of thing happening, blacks coming in and wanting to go to our schools and wanting to be part of our social organization.
RM: Why did they come in and want to go to the Indian schools and not the black schools?
DH: We don't really know.
RM: How did they look?
DH: Some of them looked black.
RM: So the Lumbees saw them all as black?
DH: And that blood committee was developed to try to eradicate anything like that happening. As I look back and see how some of our forefathers tried to prepare us for a better way of life, I really appreciate it, even though white people might say well that was discriminating against a group, but an ethnic group has to develop means of getting along, of surviving on their own really. It's just like you have your Greek communities here, now look how close knit they are, but how well they assimilate though. So I think we've learned to assimilate, but yet we've got this traditional thing that we are Lumbee, that we have a heritage, that we have a way of life that's very distinct and that we can also assimilate.
RM: How did the black citizens of Robeson County see the Smilings?
DH: Well we never really had any trouble with the black citizens of Pembroke or Robeson County for that matter. But I don't really know how they viewed the Smilings coming in there. Really I don't think the Smilings came from Robeson County. I think that they came from South Carolina.
RM: Are they still in Robeson County?
DH: No. We don't have a Smiling school anymore.
RM: Was Smiling a family name?
DH: It was a family name. I think there's still some of the Smilings around you know, and some of them will admit you know, oh, the Lumbees didn't want us. And you find that true even here in North Carolina. Up in one of the counties not far from here you have a Maherin group, they say they're Native Americans, but they're black. But they're basically black, most of them are black. So, this is true even out in the Midwest. We traveled out there in 1990, spent three weeks and for some reason so many people want to be Indian and if they can identify in any way, some of them are, but we had a hard life.
RM: Well, it's really the only ethnic group that you have to prove you're part of that ethnic group. Well, when you went away to college did you then go back to Robeson County after you graduated?
DH: No I did not go back to Robeson County to work. I went, I taught school in Rutherford County for a year and I wanted to work in the Charlotte area, I think because of my business interest. There were more business opportunities. Office work I really enjoyed. There was just not that many jobs in Robeson County except for teaching school.
RM: Well did you also have the idea in your head that "I don't want to go back there and face what I did growing up"?
DH: Yes, yes, that was true. Because at that time the only schools that would have been open to me would have been just those Indian schools. And see there was just an overflow of teachers. You had to know someone, you had to be bureaucratic to get a job so I just never did bother.
RM: Did your parents discourage or encourage you to come back to that area?
DH: No, they always more or less let us make those choices you know, go where we wanted to, go where we could be self sufficient. Because my parents felt that, my dad he worked hard enough to give us opportunities and if we didn't take those opportunities then it was us that suffered. So at a very early age you looked out for your future, you thought about a career, unless you wanted to farm and not many people wanted to stay on the farm.
RM: It's really such an accomplishment of parenthood to plant that seed of success in your children.
DH: That's what I see missing in our social system today. Children grow up with so much, they never really want for anything. And growing up on that farm, I could stand in that tobacco field and daydream about an office job making a hundred dollars a week or forty dollars a week. Then that had to be a challenge to me to get out of that field and seek all the education I could get.
RM: As you know ninety-nine percent of the kids in this area don't come from farms so how do you think you could put that same yearning for an education in place?
DH: Well, I think that parents have to establish some means of saying to their children, you've got to achieve in some way, to be self supporting and to be a good contributing citizen to your neighborhood or to your community you know. But parent are so busy making money, so many mothers having to work until children are basically free and we compensate by giving them things. So I don't see that many challenges, and I guess if I had been brought up like that I would have not struggled through that civilization class say, through trigonometry, trigonometry and algebra courses that just really taxed everything that I could put forth, all my effort you know, so I think it's just a change of times you know too. But one good thing I like to see about when I go back home, I see Indian people working in all areas of professional careers you know.
RM: Do you think the Lumbee children in school today still have those challenges because of their heritage?
DH: I think a lot of the older traditional families still maintain the fact that, with their children, that you can be anything you want to but it can only be by educating yourself. Of course, there again we have Lumbee families that have become very, very prosperous and we still, we have a lot of problems of young people not achieving, not working up to their potential but on the whole I think that when you look at the large families and when you look at most of the children, you see how well most of them have educated themselves and become good community citizens and all. But I think through hard work and the fact that we were isolated so long till we feel that we don't mind accepting a challenge you know.
RM: That isolation really benefitted you, and probably the non-existence of government intervention that other tribes went through. Well, do the Lumbee parents of today tell their children "how it used to be"? Or would you tell your grandchildren if they lived in Robeson County?
DH: That's one of the things the teachings that come through, now we have something called L.R.D.A., now that's the Lumber River Development Association, now there's grants from the government there, now that has been a very good program to educate Lumbee children to give them some type of challenge, to give them the opportunity to venture out, for example to being able to plan trips to go to Washington, New York, places like that and also to participate in the government, to become pages, which I was not exposed to. We do have organizations that are really maintained for the Lumbee children, and they have so many opportunities now.
RM: A way of passing down traditions also?
DH: Yes, yes.
RM: Now does a language exist?
DH: No as such, we never -- unlike the Cherokee had a Lumbee language. I think it's because there was so much influx of the English you know and the fact that our history was not recorded or anything that early. So I think that we have never really had a language to call our own.
RM: Do you think being a Native American or a Lumbee effected the way you taught throughout your career?
DH: I think I was, by being a member of a group, a distinct ethnic group, I think it really made me more aware of the individual need of the students, you know all students, students come from all backgrounds until you've got to actually see what, where that individual is coming from you know, so I think I was a lot more sensitive to my students than let's say the average teacher.
RM: Do you think you could identify with them more?
DH: I could identify with them more.
RM: Particularly with the black student? With the black student, I could identify with the student in poverty, a student that did not have very much, I could identify very much with the student that sat in the back of the class and couldn't learn very well. In fact, when I first started homebound teaching in Charlotte, I did lots of private tutoring right here at home and people would identify students that had reading problems and I would tutor them here and so often I found that if it was a child that was left out, maybe because of poverty or maybe the student was not too assertive or aggressive. I know one little boy I taught, the teacher would tell him to draw and I said to him, "Tommy what are you really interested in?" You know, you try to pick an interest of this child. It maybe very minimal. And he said, you know, "I love trains," well now my husband worked with the railroad, but my son was never interested in trains, so here I go up in the attic and I take that electric train down and I set it up right here. We built vocabulary, just worked, everything had to do with the railroad and that young man became one of the best students in his school, because he was shy, and the teacher thought he was a slow learner and he couldn't read so I think that growing up the way I did that I can see the individual as a real, real person you know.
RM: Would you say it affected your teaching techniques?
DH: Well, not really I don't think, I think a lot of my teaching methods came from the fact that I was able to, when I went to college, that I was able to blend in and to accept and to modify and use all those because they did have a super education department you know and I know when I did my student teaching, my dean came to the door one day, and I didn't see him. There was a glass door there and he stood there for like thirty minutes then he said, well you were teaching that class just like it was your own you know. I said, I was loving it, But I don't really know whether it effected me. I think the only thing, and my generation realized, the only way you could achieve anything was through hard work, and dedication, and commitment. You had to be committed if you were going to succeed.
RM: What do you think about some of the contemporary ideas and buzzwords in education like cooperative education, multicultural education, and the fact that you really can't give the student an F or a D, that you've got to pass them on.
DH: Here again we've become such a melting pot so that we're going to have to do something to reach every culture of every student. Look around you, you can hardly tell, for instance you've got the Cambodians, you've got the Laotians, you've got all these Asian groups, they've got a culture, they're ethnic groups. But they want a better way of life, and I can easily sympathize. You know you hear some people say, well we don't need all these ethnic groups coming in here, taking our jobs, getting our education, and I even sympathize with the Mexicans, if I lived in Mexico I'd try to get out because look at the government.
RM: That's what I say. If you were a parent wouldn't you do anything to make a better life for your child? Whether it be crossing a border at night or fleeing on a boat?
DH: I certainly would so I think that by being a Native American I'm more sensitive to the needs of Asians or immigrants or other ethnic groups you know. And I have lots of white friends that are still very, very prejudice. I have teachers that say, well I don't know what we're going to do with all these Asians or Mexicans coming into our school system, taking our jobs, having to set up another language you know. But I say, wait a minute now, we're the melting pot of the earth and your ancestors came here didn't they and we were already here, we let you come in. [laughs]
RM: That's interesting coming from you when you were here long before and yet you're the one that can sympathize with the immigrants and for example someone like myself with Anglo-Saxon ancestors, the other teachers cannot.
DH: I don't mind speaking up now. But it's so intriguing to be in a group of people and hear some of the prejudices. Well, I just think there's too many opportunities here in the United States, be it education, be it economics, whatever, religious, we have to accept all religious beliefs and learn to deal with it, and I just think there's too many opportunities for us to still be so prejudiced towards other ethnic groups you know.
RM: That is so interesting coming from you after the discrimination you went through and, do you think most Lumbees feel that way or do some of them carry a bit of resentment?
DH: Oh yeah, in fact you will find Lumbees, I'll say you will find Lumbees that left Robeson County in the late 40s, middle 40s and late 40s, they, in order for them to come to the city to get jobs more or less, they had to become white in order to get a job, and you still have some of those people that do not want to relate to the Lumbees and it's sad, I think it's sad. I have friends like that.
RM: That have always "passed", as white, and don't really want to have anything to do with their heritage?
DH: But then do you think of yourself as an individual? Do I know who I am? Am I proud of who I am? Do I have self-esteem? Do I have confidence in myself and you will find a lot of Lumbees that do not have that.
RM: Would you say they are in the minority?
DH: Yeah, I would say in the minority but like from different generations, and I don't ostracize them for not claiming their heritage or anything, but I understand why, why they had to lose their identity in order to survive in the city you know. Now in the 50s you had young men, those that didn't go to the Korean War or military, went to places like Detroit and Baltimore to get jobs with General Motors and car dealerships and things like that and they succeeded, most of them.
RM: Did they have to pass or--
DH: Most of them had to pass as white.
RM: Would you say the Lumbee are still strong today in keeping their heritage, their culture alive?
DH: Very much so and that's one of the things we're trying to do by getting the culture center down there in Robeson County because we're realizing that tobacco farming will eventually go due to the health, medical research into smoking you know, and I think our people, are smart enough to realize that we've got to seek some other means of being economically stable and by being that close to 95 I think that our culture center will really be a means of us keeping the Indian heritage alive and provide jobs basically, but there's a lot of history there.
RM: And also a chance for outsiders like myself to learn.
DH: People don't really know that much about the Lumbee. We are survivors, we've had to be.
RM: Would you say there were many factors that helped the Lumbee survive like lack of recognition by the U.S. government the swamp land around Pembroke?
DH: Yes, yes and the fact that right there in Pembroke we only had one white man that really owned, or had the means of helping us, but we also realized that he also had the means of taking away from us. So when you think about those two ideologies you're really dealing with a situation in which you're saying, well how can I best solve this situation, and like I said it's been hard work, education, a strong belief in family, family unity, family tradition, and the Lumbees can fuss, fuss with each other, but I dare you to talk about one to a white man or something like that. You might say we're somewhat clannish and we are, but basically like some of your other ethnic groups.
RM: I guess you've realized over the years that you've got to be that way to survive, to stay together or you're going to be ripped apart. Now your husband is not Native American?
DH: No, in fact he says he's the only white man from Indian Trail, he's from Indian Trail, who married an Indian. Now in high school I only dated Indian boys because that's all I knew. Of course by going to college I dated white boys.
RM: Would you have been able to mix or to date white boys in high school?
DH: Yes, if the whites would have mixed with us.
RM: Oh, so it wasn't OK on their end?
DH: No, but it was OK as far as the Lumbees. It just a situation of you learn to survive, to more or less do your own thing in order to plan for your future so that has never really been a problem, my sister, my older sister married a Lumbee and my younger sister Theresa married a Lumbee. And of course my brother married his high school sweetheart who was of course a Lumbee. And she heads the Guilford Native American program in Greensboro.