PenderROCK is a name coined to represent the modern descendants of eighteenth and nineteenth century persons who lived in what is now Pender County NC. It stands for Pender Reunion Of Colored Kindred. That’s the best I could do for folks who want to know our “Indian tribe”. The name is long lost; and it was probably never one tribe. We are amalgamated African, Native American, and Scottish. We’re colored. We’re kin. We’re from Pender. That’s the simple story.

Renaming ourselves at this point will be a fruitless exercise. Most PenderROCK people are culturally African American at this point, and happily self-identify with that community. The ones who chose their Native American or European ancestry are happy there as well.

Conversely, when our cousins claimed Indigenous American names in the late 1800s, it was a crucial exercise. Although it did not stop the brutality against freed slaves, it did remove our cousins from suffering alongside the freedmen.

Since Native Americans used the waterways as highways, villages were often on the banks of the rivers, lakes, and creeks. European conquerors often named the waterways the same name as the people. Thus:

• Our Sampson County kin took the name Coharie from the Indian-named creek in Sampson.
• Our Robeson County kin took the name Lumbee from the Indian-named river in Robeson.
• Our Columbus County kin took the name Waccamaw from the Indian-named lake in Columbus.

If PenderROCK people were to take another name, the logical choice would be Burgaw. The town of Burgaw is in the section of Pender County [previously New Hanover County] where free colored Jacobs were living at least as early as 1761. These Jacobs were the cornerstone of not only the PenderROCK people, but the other counties as well – spreading out from New Hanover to the other counties in the late 1700s. The town was named after the Burgaw Creek, which in turn was named after people found living on the creek prior to 1728. Perhaps, the same people who were named ‘Jacobs’ and taxed there in 1761 – our ancestors.

So, if the PenderROCK people followed the same logic as their cousins – one hundred years later – they would name themselves the Burgaw Indians.

How would that feel?

Would they feel less Black? Would they approach the story of the Indian-fighting Buffalo Soldiers differently? Would they give to the American Indian College Fund? [Yes, there is one] Would claiming ‘Indian’ constitute a betrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King? Or bring his dream to a higher level? Would their hearts ache over the abject social poverty still on many western reservations, just as they do over inner-city and rural Black poverty? What would they mark on the census? Even if it meant the percentage of ‘Black Americans’ in the country would be less? Would they study the Trail of Tears like they do the Middle Passage? Would they feel compelled to marry Indian, or Black, or not compelled at all? Would the colonization and current marginalization of the indigenous people of South America be as upsetting as that of the African people? Would they continue to root for the “Redskins” when native people take affront to the name?

Who are you?
        Now? One-hundred years ago?

Whose traditions are you bound to uphold?
What elders do you follow?
What poetry moves your Soul?
What songs lift your Spirit?
What stories touch your heart?

I propose:
We don’t have to stop being this to be that. We simply grow in understanding of our historical selves so that we can better comprehend our current selves; honor all of our re-claimed traditions; and love and respect a broader range of people.


Dorcas Hopkins
# Dorcas Hopkins
Friday, November 19, 2021 8:37 AM
It is always good to know YOUR history.

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