Revisiting the Reservation: The Lumbee Community of East Baltimore
Minner, Ashley Colleen
Williams Forson, Psyche
Pearson, Barry L
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“Revisiting the Reservation” is an analysis of the relationship between Baltimore’s Lumbee Indian community and the neighborhood where the community settled following the second World War. It is an inquiry into the roles of memory and place in the formation of identity. Vestiges of the Lumbee tribal homeland in North Carolina have become part of the built environment in East Baltimore as a result of the presence of Lumbee people. Tangible aspects of East Baltimore now also exist in the Lumbee tribal homeland. Lumbee people of East Baltimore are the living embodiment of both places. Over time, the community’s connection to the neighborhood has changed due to a complex set of factors ranging from Urban Renewal to upward mobility. This dissertation asks how the community’s identity has been affected. American Indian identity, constructed through a colonial lens, necessarily diminishes over time due to changing connections. The Baltimore Lumbee community illustrates that identity is actually an additive, adaptive process; heritage is living and culture continually evolves. This dissertation utilizes an interdisciplinary framework synthesized from the fields of American Indian Studies and Public Folklore to consider questions of heritage using a decolonial lens. The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina is introduced via the tribal homeland and the social and economic conditions that prompted a mass migration to East Baltimore. East Baltimore is introduced via an abbreviated chronicle of the presence of American Indian people and other racial and ethnic groups leading up to the presence of Lumbee. Drawing primarily on oral history interviews and archival research, experiences of Lumbee arriving to Baltimore in the postwar years are highlighted, as are the safe havens they adopted, established and stewarded to exist freely and in community with one another away from “home.” The research process to map Baltimore’s former “reservation” and develop a walking tour to commemorate its sites is detailed as a project of reclamation of history, space, and belonging. An analysis of the expressive culture of subsequent generations of Baltimore Lumbee, including fashion, material possessions, food, and speech, reveals that memory and place play significant roles in the formation of identity. As connection to place changes over time, memory of place within identity prevails. Communities must share memory to understand how to engage in a future.