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Native Languages of the Americas: Lumbee (Croatan, Croatoan, Pamlico, Carolina Algonquian)

Language: The language most commonly referred to as 'Lumbee' was an Algonkian language also known as Croatan or Pamlico, but the ancestors of the modern-day Lumbee Indians also included speakers of several other languages, including Tuscarora, Catawba, Cheraw, and other Iroquoian and Siouan languages little is known about today. English was used extensively among the Lumbee tribe, both as a practical lingua franca and also as a first language (due to intermarriage with English speakers), and the original Lumbee languages fell into disuse and finally extinction. The unique Lumbee dialect of English spoken by their descendents, known as "Lumbee English," is still in use today.



People: The Lumbee Indians have been denied federal status as an Indian nation because of their high degree of mixed blood--their ancestors include Cheraw, Tuscarora, and Croatan Indians, many African-Americans (the tribe was known for sheltering runaway slaves), and, in all likelihood, members of the original "lost" colony of Roanoke. The Lumbees are recognized by the state of North Carolina if not the federal government, and they are 40,000 people strong, making them one of the largest Native American tribes remaining in the eastern US.

History: The Croatan (or Croatoan) Indians first made history when the Roanoke colony left their name carved on a tree. This supposedly mysterious carving has inspired many science-fiction books and conspiracy theories since that time, but in fact it was the name of an island belonging to some friendly Indians, and the colonists probably simply moved in with them when their food supplies ran low. Lumbee historian Adolph Dial made the case that the Croatans and their English guests were among the ancestors of today's Lumbee Indians, who resurfaced some 50 years later speaking English, practicing Christianity, and sporting the same last names many of the colonists had brought with them. Though they are lesser-known to history texts, there were also many Iroquoian and Siouan tribes inhabiting the Carolinas; however, as happened in most of the east coast, the tribes merged together after heavy population losses, and none of their languages have survived. Their descendants, however, still thrive. The Lumbee today are by all accounts a mixed-race people, so mixed-race that they were not even sent to Oklahoma with the other Native Americans of North Carolina in the 1820's and 30's. North Carolina was not the most pleasant place to live in the 19th century if your skin was dark, though, and increasing violence against Lumbees and free mulattos set the stage for the Lumbee folk hero Henry Berry Lowrie in the 1860's. Called the "Indian Robin Hood" by some, Lowrie, enraged by the assault and murder of his family, spent the next decade wreaking vigilante justice on those who harassed Indians and stealing supplies to give to the disenfranchised. He was never caught, and his legend--brave, proud, dangerous when provoked, and above all else free--remains a powerful tribal metaphor.


Lumbee Language Resources
Lumbee language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Lumbee Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Lumbee tribe past and present.

Lumbee Indians Fact Sheet
Our answers to frequently asked questions about the Lumbee Indians, their language and culture.

Lumbee Legends
Introduction to Lumbee Indian folklore.



Lumbee and Lumbee English Language Resources

Our Online Lumbee Language Materials

Lumbee Vocabulary:
    List of vocabulary words in the Lumbee Croatan language, with comparison to words in other Algonquian languages.
Pamlico (Lumbee) Numbers:
    Worksheet showing how to count in Carolina Algonquian.

Lumbee Dictionaries, Audio Tapes and Language Resources

A Vocabulary of Roanoke:
    Carolina Algonquian (Lumbee) dictionary for sale.
Sociolinguistic Publications on Lumbee English:
    Bibliography of linguistics papers on the Lumbee English dialect.
Native American Dictionary:
    Lumbee and other American Indian dictionaries for sale.

Lumbee Language Lessons and Linguistic Descriptions

Roots of the Lumbee Language:
    Origins of the Lumbee language and the Lumbee English dialect.
Some Examples of Lumbee Dialect:
    List of words from the Lumbee English dialect.
Lumbee: * Carolina Algonquian:
    Demographic information about Lumbee from the Ethnologue of Languages.
Lumbee Croatan Language Tree * Pamlico Language Tree * Carolina Algonquian Language Tree:
    Theories about Carolina Algonquian language relationships compiled by Linguist List.

Lumbee English Dialect

The Case of Lumbee American English * Ethnolinguistic Marking of Past 'Be' in Lumbee Vernacular English:
    Sociolinguistics papers on Lumbee English by Walt Wolfram.
/ay/ in Lumbee Native American English:
    Sociolinguistics paper about Lumbee English phonology.
Moving toward a diachronic and synchronic definition of Lumbee English:
    Linguistics thesis on Lumbee English grammar.
Dialects: I'm:
    Overview of the use of the verb "to be" in North Carolina ethnic groups (including the Lumbee Indians).

Additional Resources, Links, and References

  Lumbee Language:
  Lumbee links.
   Lengua Algonquina Carolina:
   Information about the Pamlico language in Spanish.
  Lumbee Tribe:
  Lumbee Indian books.



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