Families are identified by the communities in which they live. Each community consists of large extended families tied together by marriages. The oldest adult often heads these families. Decisions were made by the oldest members of the family. And in times of crisis, these elders came together to make decisions for the tribe as a whole. Intra-tribal marriages strengthened ties between families and communities. The 1987 Lumbee Petition described Lumbee communities as follows:
[They] were linked together by their extensive kinship ties, church affiliations, their sense of themselves as Indians, and their control of their educational system, all of which served as a mechanism for defining tribal membership and maintaining tribal boundaries.
Communities are basically self-governing. One form of self-governance in the early 1900's was exhibited by a fraternal organization known as the Red Men's Lodge. By 1914, there were lodges in Prospect, Magnolia, Pembroke, Saddletree, Oxendine, and Union Chapel. Lodge members maintained social order, carried out ceremonies, marched in parades, and conducted funerals. The 1987 Lumbee Petition states that, "[w]ith so many prominent leaders it is easy to understand how the lodges could maintain order and, at the same time, protect the tribal members from organized violence from whites in the area".
Present-day tribal districts preserve longstanding community boundaries.