A UMBC Professor is Documenting the History of the Lumbee Indian Community in BaltimoreHistorians in the News
tags: Baltimore, urban history, Native American history, Lumbee
Ashley Minner included only three stops at first on the tour she created of the Lumbee Indian community of East Baltimore: South Broadway Baptist Church, the Baltimore American Indian Center, and the Vera Shank Daycare and Native American Senior Citizens building.
Then in October 2016, as she gave the tour to a group of students, a Lumbee elder, Linda Cox, told her that El Salvador Restaurant on South Broadway used to be a jewelry shop called Hokahey Indian Trading Post. It was co-owned by members of the Lumbee and Coharie tribes.
The discovery left Minner, an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe, with a burning question: “How can I find what we used to have?”
Finding the answer led the folklorist, visual artist and American studies professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County to start mapping and reconstructing East Baltimore’s historic Lumbee Indian community. She is creating an archive of what she finds.
Minner said the archive is not purely academic. It is also an urgent project of reclamation — of history, of space, of belonging and the power of collective memory.
“You almost disappear if you buy into what people think about Indians in Baltimore, because no one expects to see one,” Minner said. “Nobody believes we’re here. Half the people in the United States think we’re extinct. It’s really important to have the ability to point and reference that we have this history, we’re a people, we have a culture.”
The Lumbee are the ninth-largest tribe in the country and are indigenous to North Carolina. But they have been in Baltimore for over a century, Minner said, arriving in search of jobs and a better quality of life.
After World War II, many members of the Lumbee Tribe migrated to Baltimore’s Upper Fells Point and Washington Hill. By the mid-1950s, at least 2,000 Lumbee lived in East Baltimore, Minner said. Some estimate the population was as high as 7,000. Elders estimate that 400 Indians lived on each of the city blocks that made up the heart of the area around E. Baltimore and Ann streets.