excavations now being performed throughout Robeson County
reveal a long and rich history of widespread and consistent
occupation, especially near the Lumbee, or Lumber
River since the end of the last Ice Age. The Lumbee, or
Lumber River winds its way through Pembroke. Indeed, precursor
settlements to what is now Pembroke sprung up alongside the
river's banks, and artifacts found there have been dated to the
early Woodland period. This suggests that Native American
settlements along the river were part of an extensive trade
network with other regions of what is now the Southeast of the
United States. After colonial contact, European-made items, such
as kaolin tobacco pipes, were traded by the Spanish, French, and
the English to Native American peoples of the coast, and found
their way within Pembroke's reach long before Europeans
established their settlements.
and artesian wells provided an excellent supply of water for
Native peoples. Fish was plentiful, and the regions lush
vegetation included numerous food crops. "Carolina bays,"
creeks, swamps, pocosins, and longleaf pines continue to mark
the distinctive wetland landscape of Pembroke.
In 1725, colonial
English surveyors for the Wineau factory mapped a village of
Waccamaw Siouan Indians on the Lumber River, a few miles west of
present-day Pembroke. In 1754, North Carolina Governor Arthur
Dobbs received a report from his agent, Col. Rutherford, the
head of a Bladen County militia, that a settlement of 50 Indian
families were living along Drowning Creek and in the same
vicinity of the Siouan Waccamaw settlement. These are the first written accounts of
the Native Americans from whom the
Lumbee tribe descend.
Bust of Henry Berry Lowrie
By the beginning
of the nineteenth century, the settlement was named "Scuffletown".
Toward century's end, the town was named for a railroad
official, Pembroke Jones. A
Lumbee Indian from "Scuffletown", Henry Berry Lowrie, who, during the post-Civil War
years, appropriated white Revolutionary doctrine to gain rights
and freedoms that were being denied to Indians in the Pembroke
area, as well as throughout Robeson County. Lowrie become a
Lumbee culture hero, representing those cultural and political
boundaries that marked the Indians of Robeson County as a
community of self-determining Native American people. Henry
Berry Lowrie is the protagonist of the outdoor Lumbee drama,
"Strike at the Wind".
Statue of Hamilton McMillan
In 1885, Representative
Hamilton McMillan (August 29, 1837 - February 27, 1916),
of Robeson County, introduced legislation in the North Carolina
General Assembly giving the Indians of Robeson County a legal
identity and schools of their own. On March 7, 1887, the General
Assembly enacted legislation, sponsored by McMillan, creating
the Croatan Normal School (now
The University of North
Carolina at Pembroke).
Fifteen students and one
teacher composed the initial complement. With the goal of
educating Native American teachers, enrollment was limited to
the Native American Indians of Robeson County.
In 1909, the school moved to its present location, about
a mile east of the original site. The name was changed in
1911 to the Indian Normal School of Robeson County,
and again in 1913 to the Cherokee Indian Normal School
of Robeson County. In 1926 the school became a
two-year post-secondary normal school; until then it had
provided only primary and secondary instruction.
In 1939 it became a four-year institution, a change
followed in 1941 by a new name: Pembroke State College
for Indians. The next year, the school began to offer
bachelor's degrees in disciplines other than teaching. In
1945 the college was opened to members of all federally
recognized tribes. A change of name to Pembroke State College
in 1949 presaged the admission of white students, which
was approved in 1953 up to forty percent of total
enrollment; the Brown v. Board of Education decision of the
following year eliminated all race restrictions.
In 1969 the college became Pembroke State University,
a regional university which was incorporated into the University
of North Carolina System in 1972. The first master's
degree program was implemented in 1978. On July 1,
1996, Pembroke State University became the University of
North Carolina at Pembroke.
As of 2003, UNCP has 204 full-time faculty members and an
enrollment of 4,472 students engaged in fifty-five undergraduate
programs and fifteen graduate programs. The university's profile
and attention has increased recently as the result of an
aggressive statewide advertising campaign, in which billboards
and radio advertisements have touted UNCP as a place "where
learning gets personal."