A Few Research Updates

March 9, 2021 Off By Mira Pickus

Hi All. I’m getting this post up a little later than I intended, but it’s here.

As I jump into the writing process, I wanted to dedicate a post to some of my new research updates. When I did my initial research at the beginning of the year, I focused mostly on the Occaneechi’s history from a few centuries ago – their ties with Bacon’s rebellion, John Lawson, and other tribes such as the Shakori, Tutelo, Eno, and Saponi. I read up about the archaeology of the Occaneechi settlement along the Eno in Hillsborough and tracked their movements between southern Virginia and North Carolina as closely as I could, focusing mostly on the time period of 1700-1900. But after speaking with Mr. Lawrence Dunmore, who was tribal chairman while the Occaneechi sought recognition during the 1990s and early 2000s, I’ve realized that I need to know much more about the Occaneechi’s more recent history.

A few basics first. The Occaneechi fought a 12-year battle for recognition beginning in 1990 and ending in 2002. They began by seeking recognition through the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs made up of representatives from several North Carolina recognized indigenous tribes. In order to be recognized as an official tribe in North Carolina, one must meet five out of eight criteria that prove one’s legitimacy as an indigenous tribe, provide a tribal roll with names, addresses, and kinship ties of current members, and trace its genealogy 200 years back in order to prove that the tribe resided in North Carolina 200 years ago (OBSN vs NCCIA 1998). Although archaeologists, anthropologists, and local city authorities felt that the Occaneechi met five of the eight requirements, the NCCIA did not agree. In the end, the Occaneechi took their case to the NC Court of Appeals and won their recognition in 2002.

To contextualize the Occaneechi’s path to recognition, I’ve been researching Forest Hazel who was the tribal historian in the 1990s. Hazel received a BA in anthropology from UNC Chapel Hill. At UNC, he helped found the Carolina Indian Circle in 1975– essentially UNC’s indigenous student affinity group that is still active today. While at Carolina, Hazel also wrote several columns in the Daily Tarheel with particular attention to the lives of indigenous students on campus. The Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s prompted other minorities to fight for their own rights – including indigenous peoples. Indeed, the American Indian Movement (AIM) was founded in 1968. Hazel’s articles written during the 1970s speak to the movements of indigenous rights popping up around the same time. As the Occaneechi began seeking recognition in the 1990, the context of the 1970s is critical to understanding not only the broad factors that brought about Occaneechi recognition, but also the personal motivations of people like Mr. Hazel and Mr. Dunmore who attended college in the wake of the Civil Rights movements and the creation of the AIM and then continued to fight a twelve-year battle for Occaneechi recognition. As I move forward, I’m planning to do some further research on the American Indian Movement 

I’ve also been researching a bit about the Lumbee Tribe’s path to state recognition. The Lumbee have recently made national headlines in their efforts to become a federally recognized tribe, but have been state recognized since 1885, an entire century before the Occaneechi. In studying both the Lumbee and Occaneechi paths to recognition, I’ve become more curious about the general process of tribal recognition in the United States. Some questions I have going forward include: who sets the recognition criteria? How does the criteria differ on a state and federal level? And lastly, one of the newspapers I’m able to access for primary source research, The Carolina Indian Voice is based in Pembroke, NC where the Lumbee population is quite high. Each of these findings is critical context for the piece I’m about to write. 

That’s all for now. I have a few more research leads to explore as I start writing. More soon!