Thursday, February 26, 2004

Nowhere Else on Earth

Last week, I finished reading NOWHERE ELSE ON EARTH by Josephine Humphreys, a historical fiction novel about the Lumbee Indians of North Carolina and how they survived the Civil War. It was a fascinating story that, even though it was based on a true story, I didn't know anything about before I read it. And I'm glad for that because it made me enjoy the book even more. The story is told from the point-of-view of Rhoda Strong, daughter of a Lumbee mother and a Scottish father. Her brothers, along with other young men from the community, go into hiding during the Civil War to avoid being conscripted as laborers at a nearby fort or worse, killed by the Confederate Home Guard. The leader of the gang in hiding is Henry Berry Lowrie, son of a prominent Lumbee businessman, whom Rhoda is destined to marry. Henry and Rhoda dream of a life together after the war when tragedy strikes in more ways than one. Surrounding the tale of the colorful cast of characters that make up the "Scuffletown" settlement is the history of the Lumbees and the theory that the tribe may be the lost descendants of Sir Walter Raleigh's first Roanoke colony.

After I finished reading, I did a couple of quick searches online and that’s when I found out the book was based on historical accounts of the real Henry Berry Lowrie, who is a folk hero to the Lumbees, and his wife, Rhoda. A few websites even had photos or paintings believed to be of Henry and Rhoda. The most useful website is the official Lumbee Indian website, which documents the Lumbee’s attempts to be recognized as an official Native American tribe by the federal government.

Coincidentally, the subject of the Lumbee Indians came up just this week during the performance of American Idol semi-finalist Charly Lowry, who is a Lumbee Indian.