I am a Native (Lumbee/Tuscarora) talking-woman from Robeson County, NC. I have traveled across the state, country, and parts of Europe. When dining while traveling, it’s not uncommon for me to enter a restaurant and be greeted in Spanish by the host/hostess. I often smile, feel proud, think of my Latinx cousins, and proceed to hit them with a “thank you” in my southern drawl that makes them want to scratch their heads while showing me to my table. When people away from home see my olive skin, curly hair, and brown eyes, they often ask, “what are you”? They often assume that I am of Spanish descent; usually Columbian or Boricua, but never Indigenous from North Carolina.
When I was in elementary school, I took a keen interest in Mexican and South American music, cultural beliefs, languages, and food; I felt electrified at the sight of seeing Mrs. Madigan, wheel her cart into our classroom to teach our Spanish lesson for the week. I realize now that the excitement I felt in my mind, body, and spirit was the collective spirit of my ancestors- nudging, reminding, and encouraging me to explore and swing from all branches of our “Indigenous Family Tree”.
I took hold of, grasped, and embraced the concept of our Indigenous Family Tree after spending time with my mentor, Pura Fé. She is a whole Renaissance! In her song “Borders”, Pura Fé (Tuscarora/Taino) sings ever so eloquently, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” Way before the Treaty of Guadalupe and others were signed and broken, there were no borders and Indigenous peoples moved freely north and south; they were moving alongside our Indigenous Family Tree of North America.
This past weekend at my home in Pembroke, NC, my distant relatives gathered back in the woods to camp at night and then proceed to ride horses on a wagon trail during the day. They’ve been gathering back there for as long as I can remember; some days they ride for up to 20 miles in one day. Jovial men, women, and children form a caravan of bareback and saddle riders, along with horses pulling folks on wagons and buggies. I passed a few riders on my way to the interstate highway and my mind immediately went back to those bygone days; before modern transportation when a horse and buggy/wagon, one horse, or “Pat and Charlie” were the only options. Let’s slim our modes of transportation down to just one- Pat and Charlie aka your two feet….
In “Autobiography of Malcolm X”, Malcolm X addresses the beginnings of the USA as a nation built on a national policy that enforced the genocide of Indigenous Peoples:
“Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it. Our children are still taught to respect the violence which reduced a red-skinned people of an earlier culture into a few fragmented groups herded into impoverished reservations.”
Now, re-consider “Pat and Charlie” in the context of the American Indian Removal Act and the “Trail of Tears”. When it came to that trail, Andrew Jackson was the most jovial person-herder that there ever was; Natives were busy dealing with body aches and pains, sickness, famine, death and much more. Can you imagine being forced to leave your home in NC to walk day and night, for 1200 miles? Having no clue that when you left, you not only lost your sovereignty over your land and resources, you lost your sovereignty over your life? Think of our Indigenous brothers and sisters “south of the border”. Many have placed their lives on the line, by foot, in search of a better livelihood in the US. Only to find that we are standing back, passive-aggressively supporting an administration that is still herding men, women, and children into cages, demoralizing them mentally, spiritually, and physically. Here’s looking at you, kid!
Time is of the essence and we need to acknowledge that many Latinx people are actually returning home. In the eyes of the Creator we are all to be loved the same. Systems of white supremacy engrained with patriarchy, however, encourage many to believe that Latinx and Native American peoples are meant to be used to make profit, meant to be mistreated, displaced, and then erased.
Amazonian people tell the prophecy of the Condor (people of southern hemisphere) and the Eagle (people of northern hemisphere). In the prophecy the people of the Eagle will reign for centuries, utilizing the mind, the industrial, and the masculine to expand territories for extraction, wealth, and power. The people of the Condor, utilizing the path of the heart, intuition, and femininity, will live in harmony with Mother Earth. The prophecy will be fulfilled when the two groups realize their potential to fly together, creating a human consciousness that will be rooted in Mother Earth.
As we witness the climate changing before our eyes, we need to find more ground to stand in common with than not. Our identities and histories as Latinx and Indigenous peoples are intrinsic and linked by the divine. As Latinx and Indigenous peoples, we must continue to acknowledge the Eagle people for what they are instead of accepting their rubric for identifying us and ravaging our ancestral homelands. Our People have always been targets, but our duties and bloodlines have been in circulation since time immemorial because we knew and understood when we were out of balance with Mother Earth. We must work daily, within ourselves and by building better relationships cross-culturally, to restore the balance that our ancestors had prior to borders and colonization.
Charly Lowry is a singer-songwriter from Pembroke, NC with roots in the Union Chapel Community. Charly received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from UNC Chapel-Hill. Upon graduation, Lowry moved full-steam ahead in pursuit of a career as a professional musician.
In 2004, Charly had the opportunity to compete on the wildly popular television show, American Idol. She ventured through several rounds of auditions to make it to the Top 32. For over a decade, Charly has attained regional and national success as both a solo artist and lead singer of alternative rock/ soul/ folk band, Dark Water Rising. In addition to performing with Dark Water Rising, The Ulali Project, and The New Mastersounds, she was most recently featured as an opening act on Rhiannon Giddens’, “There is No Other” Tour.
Charly enjoys performing, meeting people, and educating others on the Native American experience. Charly served as a Lumbee Ambassador for the Lumbee people in 1997-98; traveling throughout the country to visit Tribal Nations while attending various conferences, powwows, etc. Her reign as Jr. Miss Lumbee was the catalyst that awakened her spirit to an inherent calling as a “Culture Bearer”. Lowry continues to work on her craft; immersing herself in the culture of American music and expanding her listening ear to various genres, all the while composing songs that give a personal account of her experience as an Indigenous woman walking in two worlds.