PEMBROKE — The chairman of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina painted a bright picture for the future of his tribe during his annual State of the Tribe address on Friday, which was held on the penultimate day of the 15-day Lumbee Homecoming.
Harvey Godwin, delivering his second State of the Tribe address, won applause from some of the approximately 200 tribal members and others gathered at the Pembroke Boys & Girls Club when he said that long-awaited federal recognition is near-at-hand.
“It’s time for federal recognition now,” Godwin said. “It’s time for recognition today.”
In addition to Godwin, U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, whose 9th District includes all of Robeson County, and a field representative for U.S. Sen. Richard Burr came to the podium and supported the chairman’s statements by pledging to see that companion Lumbee recognition bills now in the House and Senate win congressional approval quickly.
“Truth prevails,” Pittenger said. “It is right that the Lumbee Tribe get federal recognition. Americans need to honor the Lumbee Tribe.”
During his 20-minute speech, during which Godwin addressed recent achievements and his hopes for the future, the chairman pointed to the success of programs aimed at providing services for the tribe’s military veterans, tribal youth attending the tribe’s seven Boys & Girls clubs, and tribal elders.
“We have new employees and staff, and with these new additions we are able to administer successful programs and services,” Godwin said. “Even with facing budget cuts (from HUD), we are doing more for our people with less. We’re able to do this because we are very good at spending prudently.”
Godwin cited a number of tribal achievements during the past year that included: paying off the cost of constructing the Tribal Housing Complex on N.C. 711, just outside of Pembroke; providing for the first time $500 scholarships for 25 students pursuing higher education; handling financial matters in a way that for the first time has resulted in no annual audit of tribal records being conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and an improved working relationship between the Tribal Council and the tribe’s administration, which has opened doors to positive new tribal ventures.
Godwin said that well-developed partnerships between tribal entities and other agencies and organizations were instrumental in the successful recovery of housing and the Lumbee Cultural Center from the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew. He praised the efforts of tribal staff and volunteers who in the aftermath of flooding caused by the hurricane made sure that food, water, shelter and other necessities were made available to those in immediate need. The tribe is still working to provide long-range disaster recovery for those who need it.
The chairman also stated that the Lumbee Tribe, with its large voting population, is becoming a significant factor politically.
“We don’t have a lot of money, but we have the number of voters that can make a difference,” Godwin said. “In 2016, our impact was that we swung a national election. That’s incredible.”
Several tribal members told The Robesonian after the chairman’s address that they feel good about the way Godwin is leading the tribe. They cited his emphasis on developing partnerships with entities outside the tribe as a good way of fostering regional economic growth, spurring job creation and improving educational opportunities for the region’s young people.
Lumbee Homecoming continues today with, among other events, the parade that draws thousands and a fireworks show tonight.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.