The decision by the Lumbee Tribal Council last week to move ahead with the purchase of the land that is home to the now defunct North Carolina Indian Cultural Center represents a grand dual opportunity for that government — the chance to demonstrate to the people it serves its functionality, and a chance for the administration and the council to unite for a common purpose.
It also made for a rare positive headline.
For many moons, Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks and the Tribal Council have been engaged in a very public and debilitating feud, one that has lengthened even further the seemingly endless pursuit of federal recognition. Currently there is a recall effort to remove Brooks from office — and it appears to have traction, so there might soon be an exam on whether or not the tribe’s constitution is a document that carries weight or if its words are empty.
The nearly 500-acre property that the tribe seeks to purchase is hallowed ground for Lumbees, many of whom have fond memories of time spent there — playing a round of golf at the now closed Riverside Golf Course, taking a dip in the pool, canoeing and fishing on the lake, or seeing the story of freedom fighter Henry Berry Lowrie by attending “Strike at the Wind!”, which hasn’t been performed in years.
There have been plenty of failed efforts to restore the cultural center to its past prominence, and the task for the tribal government will not be easy. The cultural center today is in shambles, so there is a lot of work to be done, and it will be costly. The job will only become more complicated if the administration and the Tribal Council cannot grab the same end of the rope.
But the tribal government appears determined — and we expect it enjoy an army of volunteers willing to donate their sweat to the effort.
Brooks has said that a first step is to form a committee that will include administrators and Tribal Council members who will have to join hands at the same table. The hope is they can develop a vision and then find the money to make it rise from the ground.
If the tribal government is successful in what promises to be an endeavor that will be years in the making, it will have succeeded not only in resurrecting a centerpiece on the Lumbee landscape, but it will have done much to redeem itself and achieve credibility among the people it serves.
The Lumbee Nation awaits.