Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Lumbees for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students
and teachers to visit our main Lumbee
website for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often
asked by children, with Lumbee pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages. Photographs are the property of the sources
we have credited.
How do you pronounce "Lumbee?" What does it mean? Lumbee is pronounced LUM-bee ("lum" rhymes with "gum,") and it comes from the Lumber River, which runs through the Lumbee homeland.
Many people believe that the river's name comes from a Carolina Algonquian language, and may have meant
"dark water" (umpe meant "water" in the Pamlico dialect.) Others believe that it just came from the English word "lumber."
The Lumbees are sometimes also known as the Croatan (CROW-uh-tan) or Cheraw (CHAIR-aw)
Indians, after two of the bands they trace their ancestry to.
Where do the Lumbees live? How is the Lumbee tribe organized?
The Lumbees are original residents of North Carolina, especially Robeson County. Most Lumbee Indians still live there today.
The Lumbee tribe owns their own land and has a strong community, but they are not federally recognized.
That means the Lumbees do not have a reservation or sovereignty rights like other Indian tribes. The Lumbee tribe is governed by a tribal council
and chairman, but this leadership is unofficial as far as the US government is concerned. Many Lumbee people are dissatisfied with this
situation and are working to change it.
Who are the Lumbees, anyway? Where did they come from?
The Lumbee tribe has mixed origins. Coastal North Carolina was originally the home of Algonquian Indian bands (Pamlico, Hatteras, or
Croatan,) Siouan Indian bands (Cheraw and Catawba,) and Tuscarora groups. But many Indians of the east coast died
from smallpox and other European diseases after colonists first arrived. So the survivors merged together as best they could, and
many original tribal distinctions were lost. The Lumbee people today trace their origins to Tuscarora, Siouan, and
Lumbee ancestors also intermarried with white, black, and Cherokee people--including, possibly, the 'lost' colony
of Roanoke, who the Croatan Indians may have adopted.
Did the Lost Colony of Roanoke really join the Croatoan Indians?
Nobody knows for sure, but many Indians believe so. As you probably know from your schoolbooks, the Roanoke colony
disappeared during a difficult winter, leaving behind the word Croatoan carved into a tree. When other Englishmen found it there, they
recognized "Croatoan" as the homeland of some friendly Indians. Since there was no distress symbol carved on the tree, they assumed the
Roanoke colony went to the Croatans for help. After that, English historians never mention them again. However,
English historians did mention a group of North Carolina Indians who spoke English fluently, practiced Christianity,
and called themselves the Croatan Indians. There were also twenty or thirty English surnames in the Croatan tribe that existed in the original
Roanoke colony. This could be a coincidence, but many Indians have passed down the story of the Croatoans adopting the Roanoake survivors.
What language do the Lumbees speak?
Lumbee Indians all speak English and have spoken English for a very long time. In the past, their ancestors spoke Carolina Algonquian,
Carolina Siouan, and/or Iroquoian languages like Tuscarora. Usually when people talk about the "Lumbee language" they mean the Algonquian language
(also known as Pamlico or Croatan,) because we barely have any records left from the Siouan language.
Here is a short glossary of original Lumbee words
from the Carolina Algonquian language.
What was Lumbee culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is a link to the Lumbee tribe's homepage, where you can learn about the Lumbee
people past and present.
What was Lumbee clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
We don't know exactly what the Lumbee Indians originally wore, because they switched to European
clothing so early in their history. The Croatans wore a beaded headband with
a feather or two in it, like the Powhatans. The Cheraws probably went bare-headed.
Lumbee women probably all wore knee-length skirts and Lumbee men probably all wore breechcloths.
The Lumbees definitely wore moccasins on their feet.
And Lumbee men and women both wore tattoos on their bodies.
Here are some photos and links about Native Indian clothing in general.
Today, Lumbee people wear modern clothes like jeans instead
of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers in their hair on special occasions like a dance.
What was Lumbee food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Lumbees were farming people. They harvested corn, squash, beans, and tobacco. Lumbee Indians also hunted for deer, wild turkeys and other animals. Originally Lumbee
women probably did most of the farming while the men went hunting, like other Algonquian and Siouan tribes. However, after their contact with
Europeans, Lumbee farming and hunting both became primarily male jobs. Lumbee recipes included soup, cornbread, and stews. Here is a website with more information
about traditional Indian cuisine.
What kinds of stories do the Lumbees tell?
There are lots of traditional Lumbee legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to Lumbee Indian
culture. Here's an interview with a modern Lumbee storyteller.
Here's a website where you can read more about Lumbee legends.
What about Lumbee religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately
in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about
Lumbee spirituality or this site about
Indian religions in general.
Can you recommend a good book for me to read? If you are a teenager, you may enjoy
Nowhere Else on Earth,
an interesting work of historical fiction about the Lumbee hero Henry Berry Lowery and his young wife. Younger kids
may enjoy the Lyon Saga, the fictional story
of a girl from the Roanoke colony who joins the Croatan Indian village. If you want to know more about
Lumbee culture and history, one wonderful source is
The Only Land I Know, written by a Lumbee author.
You can also browse through our recommendations of American Indian books in general.
How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and
Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization
working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization
here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in
Thanks for your interest in the Lumbee Indian people and their language!