Water in the Lumbee world: A river and its people in a time of change

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This article explores relationships between Lumbee people and the riverine landscapes of their home. I draw upon my lived experience as a Lumbee person and my training as an environmental scientist to evaluate the riverine environment of the Lumbee River as both a template for change and a fragile resource. The river shapes Lumbee culture and community, on the one hand, and it is subject to human impacts, on the other. Here, I examine the bidirectional relationship between river and people in a historical context and also in the context of contemporary issues facing Lumbee people, who collectively make up one of the largest Indigenous groups in the United States and constitute the nation's largest non-federally recognized Indian tribe. I frame historical issues related to isolation and connectivity of the landscape around a novel topological analysis of historical maps. I use contemporary issues, including industrialized agriculture and climate change, to emphasize the complex and evolving relationship between Lumbee people and their riverine environment. Recent events, including Indigenous resistance to fossil fuel pipelines and flooding of the community following Hurricane Matthew, reveal challenges and opportunities faced by the tribe in the areas of environmental justice and sovereignty.




Emanuel, R. E. (2019). Water in the Lumbee world: A river and its people in a time of change. Environmental History, 24(1), 25–51. https://doi.org/10.1093/envhis/emy129

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