Haladay, Jane, and Scott Hicks. “By the Lumbee River with Chad Locklear’s ‘Swamp Posse.’” Narratives of educating for sustainability in unsustainable environments, edited by Haladay and Hicks, Michigan State UP, 2018, pp. 17-34.
Jane Haladay and Scott Hicks use the short story “Swamp Posse” as the first course text in their Environmental Literature course at UNC-Pembroke because it effectively serves several functions: (1) eliciting, through classroom discussion, the knowledge of Lumbee students in the class about Robeson County names, physical features, and interpersonal dynamics; (2) introducing the ecocritical questions that will be discussed throughout the course; and (3) using the story’s Robeson County setting, where there has been a history of violence and trauma, to discuss social sustainability.
The authors describe what they knew about Robeson County prior to coming to UNC-Pembroke, compared to what they knew once they arrived as faculty. They also provide an overview of the political events and social factors that convince them that “for many residents, our students and coworkers alike, Robeson County is no easy place to live” (p. 23). They also note, “Inequities for, and discrimination against, Robeson County’s poor residents of all races figure in ‘Swamp Posse’ through specific characters’ jobs (or lack of work), experiences with violence, and limited education” (p. 21).
The essay provides a detailed, insightful literary analysis of the story that a range of readers will find illuminating—including people interested in understanding Robeson County and the Lumbee, as well as people who teach environmental literature. The analysis skillfully interweaves questions and comments that Haladay and Hicks incorporate in classroom discussion of the story; for example, “Can there ever be authentic environmental justice . . . without social justice?” (p. 26). The essay also describes a follow-up assignment that Haladay and Hicks give their students: Conducting an environmental oral history project with local elders.
In their perceptive conclusion to the essay, Haladay and Hicks explain why Chad Locklear’s “Swamp Posse” is “the best and worst of texts with which to begin tackling the issues of sustainability” in their course. The story allows them to “affirm the Lumbee heritage of our institution and local community” and also “confront . . . the problems that beset our community: racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence.” For the Haladay and Hicks, this story “forces us, as faculty, to think deeply about our own responsibilities to the landscape in which we teach and to the students who call the region home . . . .” (p. 31).