The Locklears of the Lumbee are like a tribe within a tribe.
They are a vast group of people united by a single surname, though not necessarily by blood. Anywhere there are Lumbees, there are Locklears.
Archie Lynch, the cultural director at the American Indian Center in East Baltimore, estimates that "easily 20 to 30 percent" of Lumbees carry the Locklear surname.
That's just his educated guess. Ruth Locklear, the keeper of the Lumbee tribal rolls in Pembroke, N.C., checked and came up with 19 percent Locklears. She concedes that it is far and away the "most common surname among Lumbees."
Other common Lumbee names are Oxendine, Hunt, Chavis, Jacobs, Dial and Lowry.
Arlinda Locklear, a very distant cousin of Ruth and the tribal attorney, calls Locklear the "Smith of the Lumbees." It may be more than that.
In the Baltimore metropolitan area phone book, there are 66 listings under the Locklear name, a higher incidence of that surname among the Lumbee population here than the name Smith enjoys among the general population.
Not only is Locklear the commonest name among the Lumbees, it might be the most mysterious. Nobody knows for certain where the name originated.
Arlinda Locklear suspects that the name might be English. Legend has it that English settlers, who arrived on Roanoke Island in North Carolina in 1586, fled inland from hostile Indians and settled in what is now Robeson County, N.C., where they mixed with local Indians. A 1790 census in Robeson County turned up 24 surnames of people from the English "Lost Colony."
But Locklear was not one of those surnames. Neither is Locklear a common name in Britain. David K. Eliades, a non-Lumbee historian of the Lumbees in Pembroke, said Locklear is a "uniquely Lumbee name. If you trace it back, most of the people who have the Locklear name have ties to this area."
Ruth Locklear said records show that tribal elders, testifying before Congress in the early 1900s, pronounced the name "Locklaha," which supposedly meant falling water.
It was a Siouan word, from the unwritten language spoken by the Cheraw tribe, the acknowledged largest of the groups that make up the Lumbee people.