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Lumbee Owned and Operated

When I was in the third grade, growing up in the Washington DC Metropolitan area, we were studying Native Americans. I remember quickly raising my hand with excitement to tell my teacher that I was a Lumbee Indian, only for her to say to me that we didn't exist and that I was not an Indian. My father was born and raised in the Lumberton/Pembroke, NC area which is the homeland of the Lumbee People, and he is considered full-blooded, while my mother is French Canadian/Irish.

My father's genes are strong. The Lumbee Tribe is the largest-known Native American tribe in NC, the largest tribe east of the Mississippi River, and the ninth-largest tribe in the nation. Still, we failed to make it on my teacher's Federally Recognized map she had taped to the blackboard. (The governmental fight continues to this day).

I went home in tears that day. When my mother heard what happened, she immediately took my hand, and out the door we went. She drove to the local library, found a book on Lumbee Indians, took me to school the next day, walked into the classroom, slamming the book down on the teacher's desk, and said " Don't you ever tell my child she is not a LUMBEE INDIAN"! and walked out. Snap, snap, snap is what I would have done if I were older. I was one of the only 3 non-Black students in the classroom, so it was a sight to see.

Being a member of the Lumbee Tribe has always provided me with a sense of belonging beyond anything else I have ever been a part of. I also come from a line of Native women whom I saw as the essence of strength, independence, and spirituality.  Although my childhood home was in Maryland, I spent my summers in Pembroke/Lumberton North Carolina, and was always greeted with open "Welcome Home" arms."

What’s so unique about Pembroke, NC is that when I was younger I would look around and notice how everyone looked related. Although it isn’t a reservation, it felt like we were the only ones in that town.  As I would walk with my grandmother through the grocery store we would stop to greet at least 5 people each time and all I remember was hearing her say.” Sooonya  ( southern version of Sondra ) this is your cousin.“ It never failed, every single trip a newfound family member would appear beyond my eyes.

Even so, maybe they weren’t really related but they were surely Lumbee, and that alone made us “family”.

From that day my mother approached the teacher, I have never been more proud to represent my culture and more proud of the Irish mom that stood up for me and my grandmothers in Pembroke as well.

Today, I do the same for my daughters. They are multiracial- Black, Lumbee, and White.   I’m proud of my girls because they truly embrace, represent, and celebrate all of what makes them who they are. For their Indigenous culture, they are both extremely proud to be a part of the Lumbee Tribe.

My oldest daughter Jazmine, won the Youth of the Year Award from Maryland’s Commission of Indian Affairs and during her undergrad, at the University of Maryland, she was the VP of the Native American Indian Student Union and has become the face, voice, and presenter of the land acknowledgment for the University as it proclaims its respect that it sits on native land.

My youngest proudly displays her representation with our tribal symbol on her back.

It will be very rare to see me on social media or out and about without displaying the beautiful jewelry pieces of the local Pembroke Designer Jewelry from Cyna's Jewelry.

In 2009, President Barack Obama signed “The Native American Heritage Day Resolution,” designating the Friday after Thanksgiving as “Native American Heritage Day.” After signing H.J. Res 40 into law he stated, “I encourage every American to join me in observing Native American Heritage Day. It is also important for all of us to understand the rich culture, tradition, and history of Native Americans and their status today, and to appreciate the contributions that First Americans have made and will continue to make to our Nation.” 

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