Reggie Brewer: Lumbee Leader and Educator
by Evan Hatch
A proud member of the Lumbee Tribe, Pembroke, North Carolina’s Reggie Brewer is a prominent Native leader in an inconspicuous manner. Reggie is employed by the Tribe as a coordinator for youth services through the Boys and Girls Club in Pembroke. The club meets in the Lumbee Tribal Building (called the Turtle), symbolic of the Tribe’s commitment to its youth.
And the tribe could have no better youth leader than Reggie Brewer. He is a fine traditional dancer in his own right who danced the powwow circuit for years. Author MariJo Moore wrote this short poem to describe the way Native American dance serves as a metaphor for life, and dedicated it to Reggie: Why we dance: To dance is to pray, to pray is to heal, to heal is to give, to give is to live, to live is to dance.
Moore says, “Reggie dances for the old people, showing them respect and honor by keeping the breath of Native ways alive. When I asked if he prays when he dances, Reggie answered, ‘Yes, because sometimes the other way of praying just doesn’t seem to work’” (Moore). Reggie has spent his life dedicated to the tribal old ways and practices. His uncle, Earl Manyskins Carter, is one of the tribe’s strongest surviving links to Lumbee traditions. Mr. Carter is a tribal fire keeper and traditional healer, and he has passed his knowledge to Reggie.
Reggie is versed in and practices traditional hand drum making, regalia crafting, blowgun creating, stickball gaming, traditional singing, and drumming. Above all of these acquired skills, Reggie knows that his most important calling is to pass along this information. Through his celebrated Culture Classes at the Boys and Girls Club, he offers youth (as well as their parents) opportunities to learn and participate in their cultural heritage. He sees this work both as a way to “pay forward” his own training and the support he gained from learning Lumbee traditions, and also a way to help Native American youth deal with what he calls “trickle-down trauma.” The culture classes formed part of a Rites of Passage program shown by the Wake Forest School of Medicine to decrease anxiety and depression among teenagers.
Reggie sees some of his earlier students having their own children now and continuing to practice and pass on traditional Lumbee culture to their families. He sees other students becoming well known themselves for their prowess as singers, drummers, or dancers. One of his protégés, Kaya Littleturtle, learned much from his family but also from Mr. Brewer. Through that encouragement, Kaya became a Culture Class teacher during the Rites of Passage program and was recently employed by the Lumbee Tribe.
Reggie also educates other communities about Lumbee culture, participating in festivals and Heritage Month celebrations and traveling to elementary schools in multiple counties to explain powwow culture and share Lumbee traditions.
Moore, MariJo. “Why We Dance.” Flat Stanley Visits Albuquerque. 27 Dec. 2010. flatstanleyvisitsalbuquerque.blogspot.com/2010/12/gathering-of-nations.html
Evan Hatch is a folklorist currently working with the North Carolina Folklife Institute in Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson, and Scotland counties. Previously, starting in 2002, he worked in Middle Tennessee documenting traditional musical and material culture. He was producer at Spring Fed Records, and he served as President of the Tennessee Folklore Society.
Original publication citation:
Hatch, Evan. “Reggie Brewer: Lumbee Leader and Educator.” North Carolina Folklore Journal 61.1-2 (2014): 8-10.