Lumbee council supports pushback on institutions calling for haircuts
PEMBROKE — Six-year-old Edward Chavis stood before the Lumbee Tribal Council Thursday showing off his braided ponytail approximately 10 inches in length.
Chavis was introduced as one of the faces of the resolution of support for cultural identity affirmation, which was unanimously approved by the Lumbee Tribal Council.
The resolution reads that some prisons, workplaces and public and charter school systems force American Indians to cut their hair “in an effort to strip them of their cultural identity while showing dominance over them.”
“Many tribes believe that a person’s long hair symbolizes a strong cultural identity that promotes self-esteem, self-respect, a sense of belonging and a healthy sense of indigenous pride,” the resolution continues in part.
Lumbee Tribal Member Tammie Jump introduced Chavis as her youngest grandchild.
She told the council that her daughter, Chavis’ mother, received a call from the headmaster of Columbus Charter School on March 14 notifying her that Chavis’ hair length was not in compliance with the school’s policy.
“We were told that if he didn’t go back on March 29 with his hair cut above his shoulders that he would be sent to the office and sent home,” Jump said.
Jump said that Chavis has been enrolled in the school for two years.
“Before he was enrolled in the school, my daughter went to the school to make sure he was in compliance with their rules and that he could either have a bun, he could have braids or he could have a ponytail,” Jump said. “We’re not totally certain why, after this length of time, that this is no longer acceptable to them.”
“They are trying to kill the Indian and save the child,” Jump added.
Tribal Councilmember Wendy Moore said Chavis and another student of the Waccamaw Siuowan Tribe in the Leland area are the faces of this legislation.
“These are 6-year-old children and they are so proud of who they are. I just can’t imagine us taking any other stand but to stand along beside them,” Moore said.
Lumbee Tribal Councilman Jody Bullard asked if it would make sense to tie the resolution with another that supports state House Bill 166, which allows American Indian students to wear cultural adornments like Eagle feathers when graduating.
“I think the situation is so serious and dire that they need to stand alone,” Tribal Councilman Alex Baker said.
In showing their support of Chavis, each tribal council member stood when casting their “yes” vote for the resolution.
Secretary Pamela Brewington Cashwell’s visit
Also Tuesday, Lumbee Tribal Council members heard from N.C. Department of Administration Secretary Pamela Brewington Cashwell who shared information relevant to tribal communities.
Cashwell was joined by Greg Richardson, the executive director of the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs, and its staff and board members.
Cashwell began by encouraging the young people and community to be active in public service, following a presentation recognizing Purnell Swett High School Beta Club students who competed and placed at the recent Beta State Convention.
This was the second in a series of listening sessions with the state’s American Indian tribes and organizations. She discussed the areas of the state government which her office of the Department of Administration oversees.
Her presentation also included a discussion of jobs, certifications and how her office could help with information to assist our tribal members to seek state contracts. Secretary Cashwell also discussed the digital divide in Robeson County communities and the importance of American Indian families participating in the foster care system.
In other matters, the tribal council voted to appoint Eric Freeman to the Lumbee Tribe Supreme Court. Chief Justice Mark Brooks swore Freeman in while his wife and children were present.
The council also approved amending the budget allowing for the
In other actions, the council:
—Approved a resolution allowing the use of the Lumbee seal for a car racing poster.
—Approved a resolution allowing the use of Blue Stone Strategy as a research study to promote economic development.
—Approved a resolution of support of the FIGHT4ME FOUNDATION INC.