The Maryland Historical Trust seeks to document the state’s long history of Indigenous people

The Maryland Historical Trust will use a $50,000 grant from the National Park Service to document the accomplishments and stories of Indigenous people in Baltimore City.

These stories are important, said Heather Barrett, administrator of architectural research of the Historical Trust in Crownsville.


“It’s about the people who make up the state of Maryland,” Barrett said. “There are rich histories of [Indigenous people] to be told from various communities in our state. We’re just working to really document sites related to histories and provide further documentation.”

The Historic Trust plans to hire a consultant by February to oversee the project and hopes to complete it by next September.


“We’ve been working hard to really tell some diverse stories of American Indians in our city and underrepresented communities,” Barrett said.

In addition to library and newspaper archives, a key component is the forthcoming Ashley Minner Collection at the University of Maryland Baltimore, County, she said. Ashley Minner is a community-based visual artist serving as assistant curator for history and culture at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. The collection is named after her because her research inspired the collection.

Between 2,000 and 7,000 Indigenous people settled in the Upper Fells Point and Washington Hill neighborhoods in Southeastern Baltimore in the 1950s and 1960s.

Indigenous people who settled in the city were predominantly members of the Lumbee Tribe and were from Robeson County, North Carolina, Minner said. They came to Baltimore seeking work in construction and factories as well as to start their own businesses.

Dr. Ashley Minner is a visual artist who is part of the Lumbee Tribe and has done research on Indigenous people in Baltimore.

Today, the majority of those Lumbee tribe members live in such areas of Baltimore County as Dundalk, Essex and Rosedale. Many left Baltimore following the killing of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and subsequent outpouring of violence, Minner said.

Governor Worth Locklear was the earliest documented Lumbee member to come to Baltimore and was an 1893 graduate of Baltimore University School of Medicine, she said. Herbert Locklear, Elizabeth Locklear and Rosie Hunt, all Lumbee members, founded the American Indian Study Center in 1968, now called the Baltimore American Indian Center & Heritage Museum. Other institutions started by Lumbee members include the South Broadway Baptist Church and East Baltimore Church of God.

“All of them helped people find jobs — anything you needed when you came to a new place, they were here helping people,” Minner said.

Indigenous people lived here for millenia before Europeans, but explorers such as Christopher Columbus are often credited with discovering the Americas. In the subsequent reckoning over his complicated legacy, eight states and more than 100 cities, towns and counties have changed Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day, including Baltimore in 2019.


“We’re here. And we’ve been here. We’re an important part of society and culture here,” she said.

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A Lumbee Tribe member, Minner grew up in Dundalk and graduated from the Maryland Institute of College of Art. She is hoping to be named to work on the historical trust’s project to document Indigenous people’s stories and accomplishments in Baltimore.

Minner, along with her colleague, Elizabeth Rule, a Chickasaw Nation member, created a free mobile application called “Guide to Indigenous Baltimore” that takes users on a virtual walking tour. She also helped created, an online expansion version of the illustrated print guide to what it calls East Baltimore’s Historic American Indian “Reservation.”

Jeanette Jones is a retired project manager of a Baltimore City Public Schools’ program for Native Americans and Minner’s aunt. A Lumbee member, Jones supports the historical trust’s project, and would like to see more people educated about her community and some of the myths about Christopher Columbus.

“[Native Americans] weren’t lost. We were already here. So, he didn’t find us,” she said.

Jones said that Native American identity is often lost amid the ongoing protest movements, such as Black Lives Matter.


“My grandson said to me, ‘What are you? You’re not Black. You ain’t white. What are you?’ People don’t realize that there are Native Americans,” she said. “It’s important for people to know that there are a large population of Native Americans living in the State of Maryland.”

This article is part of our Newsmaker series that profiles notable people in the Baltimore region who are having an impact in our diverse communities. If you’d like to suggest someone who should be profiled, please send their name and a short description of what they are doing to make a difference to: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Editor Kamau High at