Justin Jacobs on Finding His Lumbee Tribal Heritage

Justin Jacobs Special Agent

Special Agent Justin Jacobs started his career as a local police officer in Greensboro, North Carolina, close to his hometown of Pembroke. His career in law enforcement grew out of his interest to learn more about his local community. He often worked on cases nearby small towns that were riddled with crime and poverty, much like where he grew up.

Motivated by his sense of service, Jacobs decided to pursue a career with ATF to enhance his support of community-oriented policing efforts and to make a difference in some of the hardest hit areas. Agent Jacobs was assigned to the Washington Field Division after completing special agent basic training and he works closely with local law enforcement agencies to reduce violent crime in the Tri-City area of Virginia.

Early Days at ATF

Special agent Jacobs often partners with the Hopewell Police Department (HPD) to reduce the number of homicides, investigate drug and gang related incidents. Jacobs also trains local law enforcement on anti-firearms trafficking tactics and the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN).

One of Agent Jacobs early cases included working with the Virginia State Police and Hopewell Police Department on a case against an up-and-coming street gang in Hopewell. Their work paid off and it led to 8 arrests, in which 5 were prosecuted in the state and 3 were prosecuted in federal court. The team also seized six firearms along ammunition, crack, cocaine, fentanyl and heroin. Each defendant received sentencing that ranged from 18 months-36 months.

Honoring His Origin Story

Although Jacobs was born and raised in Pembroke, near his tribal community, his parents did not discuss their Lumbee heritage or culture. At the age of two, Jacobs’ family moved to Virginia. As he grew older, he began to wonder about his ethnicity. In sixth grade, Jacob’s parents decided to move back home to Pembroke where he found out his family was a member of the Lumbee Tribe.

Talk about culture shock! In Pembroke, Jacobs had become known as the fair-skinned kid that looked different, similar to other Lumbee Tribe members in the area. However, he didn’t speak or act like other kids with Lumbee ancestry. His lack of knowledge about his heritage or the history of his tribe made it difficult to fit in. This was a stark contrast to his childhood in Virginia where he just a tan-skinned child that no one treated differently.
Jacobs believes that people need to have a sense of worth and belonging to help shape their identity.

He and his wife, who is not Lumbee, are equally passionate about raising their kids to have pride in their Lumbee culture. Jacobs has one great lesson to share with others during Native American Heritage Month: heritage is not defined by one’s looks. It is about knowing the history of your people and the journey of your tribe. Although his work takes him away from home, Jacobs continues to actively participate in tribal activities with family and friends.

Last Reviewed February 13, 2023