Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Courtney Lewis


The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina is a state-recognized tribe with an estimated 60,000 citizens. From 2018-2020, the tribe closed their enrollment office so that the tribe could reexamine enrollment policies, particularly the criterion for appropriate contact with the tribal homeland. During this closure, the tribe was continuing its long journey for federal recognition, with a bill passing the U.S. House of Representatives and receiving support from then President Donald Trump and current President Joseph Biden. During the summer of 2021, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork with the tribe’s enrollment department, located in Pembroke, NC, to answer the question of how Lumbee people understand and conceptualize “appropriate contact” with the tribal homeland. I interviewed 10 Lumbee individuals, both enrolled and non-enrolled, alongside conducting participant observation as a temporary enrollment officer. From my fieldwork, I found that Lumbee people understand appropriate contact through cultural, linguistic, and biological constructions that attempt to create a distinct population within the Southeast. Further, I found that the quest for federal recognition plays a key role in how Lumbee people understand citizenship and how they conceptualize both real and imagined obstacles to obtaining this long-sought recognition.


© 2022, Timothy Blake Hite

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