Tribe votes to purchase cultural center

First Posted: 3/28/2014

PEMBROKE — With the closing deadline for North Carolina Indian Cultural Center just days away, the Lumbee Tribal Council has authorized the tribal administration to move forward on a plan to purchase the property.

The decision was made during a special meeting Thursday.

The council shot down a request earlier this month from the tribal administration to allocate about $13,000 to put toward closing costs for a loan to buy the property from the state. The property has more than 500 acres, with the largest parcel being 387.

But the council on Thursday approved the request in a 13 to 3 vote, with dissenting votes from Terry Collins, Terry Campbell and Robert Chavis. Council members Linda Revels, Evan Davenport, Jonathan Locklear, Walter Lowery and William Maiden were absent. The closing date on the land, valued at $351,000, is Wednesday.

“I am pleased with the vote,” Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the Tribal Council and the community to restore this property back to its original purpose, which is promoting our culture and heritage.”

The tribe plans to use deferred developers fees from the tax credit project, known as Arrow Point Subdivision, to pay back the loan. Tribal Administrator Tony Hunt said that $2,200 that the tribe receives monthly from the fees will be used to pay the loan. The proposed terms of the loan is 20 years at a 4 percent fixed rate, Hunt said.

More than a dozen tribal members voiced their opinion and shared memories of the cultural center before Thursday’s vote.

“This is a great day for the Lumbee people all across the United States,” Councilman Al Locklear said.

The Cultural Center has been a staple in the Lumbee community for more than three decades. It is home to the now-closed Riverside Golf Course, amphitheater, swimming pool, walking trails, canoeing, fishing, playground and campground. The outdoor dram “Strike at the Wind!”, which tells the story of Lumbee freedom fighter Henry Berry Lowrie, was performed there for years. The center has also been used for family reunions, gospel singing and powwows.

Originally, there were plans to create a resort-type facility on the property that would include educational, recreational and convention facilities. Today, the property is in poor condition and in need of repair.

“We need the Cultural Center to tell our story,” Hubbard Lowry said. “This is a place where everyone can come to learn about our people.”

The state has plans to develop a state park adjacent to the property, near White Hill Baptist Church.

Tony Hunt said his staff has identified nearly $3 million in grants to help restore the property.

Chairman Brooks said a committee will be formed to oversee the development of the center. Members of the Tribal Council will be asked to serve on the committee.

The state, in 2013, terminated a 99-year, $1-per-year lease of the property. New legislation was later written to offer the property to the Lumbee Tribe, first, and then to other buyers if the tribe passed.