Tribal Council wants Lumber River renamed to honor Lumbee

By: By Bob Shiles - [email protected]
Jarrod Lowery

PEMBROKE — For the second time in eight years the Lumbee Tribal Council is calling on the state General Assembly to change the name of the Lumber River to honor the tribe..

Council members on Thursday approved a resolution asking that the Lumber River’s name be changed to Lumbee River. The resolution is supported by Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. and mirrors a resolution passed by the council in June 2009.

Only three members of the 21-member council, Bill James Brewington, Janet Locklear and Ann Taylor, voted against the resolution.

“That’s just not our river,” Brewington said. “That river belongs to all people. I don’t know how you can make everyone accept it being called the Lumbee River.”

But resolution supporters point to historical accounts showing the Lumber River once was called Lumbee River.

“For over 10,000 years the indigenous peoples of Southeastern North Carolina, the ancestors of the Lumbee, lived and thrived along the banks of the Lumbee River,” the resolution reads in part.

The resolution also states that in the Lumbee Act of 1956 the United States Congress specifically named the river on which the Lumbee people lived the Lumbee River.

According to poet John Charles McNeill (1874-1907), the Indian name of Lumbee was originally used for the river, from an Indian word that means “black water,” according to the federal Wild & Scenic Rivers website. Early European surveyors and settlers called it Drowning Creek.

The website goes on to say that the name Drowning Creek appears in Colonial records of 1749, which identify the river as a branch of the Little Pee Dee River. The name was changed by legislative action in 1809 to the Lumber River, most likely because of the river’s heavy use by the lumber industry.

There are no plans to start a campaign to change the river’s name, said Councilman Jarrod Lowery, who presented the resolution for the council’s consideration.

“We’re just sending a letter to our state legislative delegation and legislative leaders,” he said. “Hopefully this will begin a conversation that is important to lots of our people.”

Lowery said there are lots of options that can be considered. At one extreme would be the state changing the river’s name as requested by the tribe. Another option would be for the state to just recognize in some way, such as with an historical marker, the river’s historical name.

At the recommendation of Councilwoman Anita Hammonds Blanks, the resolution will be sent to all municipal and county governments in the tribe’s service area of Robeson, Scotland, Hoke and Cumberland counties.

In other business, the council members:

— Heard a complaint from Brenda Jacobs, of District 8, concerning the lack of time that the council’s meeting agenda is posted on the tribe’s website for all tribal members to review. She questioned why the agenda cannot be posted four days before the council’s regular monthly meeting, since council members receive their agendas five days before the meeting.

Belinda Brewer said the agenda is usually posted by the Friday before the council’s regular monthly meeting, which is held the third Thursday of the month.

— Rescheduled their October meeting from Oct. 19 to Oct. 26 so council members can attend the annual conference of the National Council of American Indians, which is being held in Wisconsin.

Jarrod Lowery Lowery

By Bob Shiles

[email protected]

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.

Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.