PEMBROKE — For those who did the math, yes, the total number of people counted as part of the process for drawing new district lines for Lumbee Tribal Council elections does exceed the number of people who call themselves members of the tribe.
The number of total Lumbees, the largest tribe east of the Mississippi River, is generally estimated to be about 55,000, but 3,099 people were included in each of the 21 newly drawn Lumbee voting districts, adding up to just more than 65,000.
But that number is correct, according to Larry Townsend, the chairman of the Lumbee Tribal Council’s Ordinance and Constitution Committee. Townsend and his committee were responsible for overseeing the redistricting process.
‘The 3,099 people included in each district is based entirely on 2010 census data,” Townsend said. “But these are not all Lumbees. The census numbers are not broken down by tribe and include all those individuals who reported during the last census that they are Native American or American Indian.
“You can call yourself a Native American,” Townsend told a reporter for The Robesonian, “but you are not an American Indian.”
Townsend said that getting a handle on exactly how many American Indians, and their specific tribes, is a problem across the country when just looking at census data. Native American is too general a term, he said.
Townsend, said the new districts were drawn using census data because that is required by the tribe’s constitution.
“The constitution states that redistricting will take place after every 10-year (national) census using census data,” he said.
The new districts, which increase the total number from 14 to 21, have apparently caused confusion among tribal members who now are not sure in which district they reside. Sheila Beck-Jones, chairman of the tribe’s board of elections, said her office is doing everything possible to get word out to voters about the changes and help them identify their district.Maps have been put on the tribe’s website and are available for public review at the BOE office.
Anyone with questions about the new voting districts or the upcoming election should call the Lumbee Tribe Board of Elections at 910-374-6290.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.