ROCKINGHAM — In an effort to share their cultural history, a group of Richmond County Lumbee people will hold a mini powwow this weekend that will be open to the public at the Hamlet fairgrounds.
The event will begin at noon Saturday and will offer traditional food, dance, storytelling and flute and drum playing, with many dressed in their full regalia. The purpose, said BennyLee Hinson, Sr., traditional elder and Lumbee Keeper of the Sacred Fire, is to educate not only the general public but other Lumbee who may not know their own history.
Elder Billy Jacobs, a veteran of the 82nd Airborne, taught at Richmond County Schools for about 10 years, and said every weekend he would take up to 30 of his students to a different museum or significant tribal location to keep them engaged.
“Everywhere we could go to learn about our heritage we went,” Jacobs said.
When Jacobs was teaching, he said there were only about 113 students identified to be Lumbee, which he found incredulous. He said that after he “shook some trees” he found more than 400 students with Lumbee heritage. They formed many school clubs for Native American students, even at schools with only five Native Americans.
He stressed that this history is important for people of all backgrounds to know, because skin color has nothing to do with it, saying “if skin me alive I’ll still be Lumbee — just uglier.”
Hinson said that if they can gain enough support in Richmond County, they will petition the tribe’s leadership to open a Boys and Girls Club in Richmond County and get their own building where the community can share cultural knowledge.
“When I look in someone’s eyes I don’t see their skin, I see their heart and soul,” said Hinson.
Jacobs added, getting emotional, that if they don’t keep telling their story, then within a few generations, young people will be asking “what’s a Lumbee?” and there may not be anyone to educate them.
“Tell your children so they can tell theirs and they can tell theirs,” Jacobs said.
For more information, contact Hinson at 910-730-7017.
Alex Smith contributed to this story.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]