To the Editor,
In the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina government, the Tribal Council is the legislative body expected to legislate to overcome or avoid hurdles in the operation of government and to ensure fair equity and future stability of our three independent branches. Legislation requires understanding issues, writing, editing and passage of laws, ordinances, resolutions and tribal rules and procedures of operation.
During 2010 and 2011 our tribal government faced some incredible hurdles. The LTNC weathered a gaming contract that was approved but read by few — if any — Tribal Council members. Tribal members elected and expected a leopard to change it spots. The leopard spotted opportunity and history repeated itself. The LTNC experienced constitutional dilemmas arising from such and was given opportunities for lessons and legislation. We elected a second leopard recently, learning and legislating nothing.
Out of the 21 Tribal Council members who are paid and expected to legislate, less than half have actually written tribal legislation. I know because I have assisted in the writing of our legislation. Most recently I have drafted legislation honoring Lance Cpl. Christian Phoenix “Jacob” Levy and beginning to put reigns on the runaway locomotive of tribal campaign finance. Lawrence Locklear has recently penned legislation affirmed by Tribal Council designating “Victory at Hayes Pond” and “Affirmation of the Name Lumbee in 1952” as dates of historical significance.
No fewer than eight pieces of legislation are arguably immediately needed to correct or clarify issues of our tribal constitution and government operation. Amendments to the constitutional document may be needed in many of these instances and to delay writing, discussion, required public hearings and voting on such will continue challenges in the operation of our tribal government.
Who is rising to assume this critical responsibility? Many returning Tribal Council members have no experience at all in drafting tribal legislation — as their public comments sometimes embarrassingly affirm. Others are experts. Some of the newly elected Tribal Council members for decades have run with the “big dogs” of our community. Has tribal legislation gone to the dogs?
During 2012 efforts should focus on writing and adopting legislation to strengthen our constitutional government while improving services to all tribal members. They say the pen is mightier than the sword, well let’s see what kind of pens the big dogs have in their pockets.
Eric R. Locklear