Tribal Council approves amendment relaxing enrollment rules

By: T.C. Hunter - Managing editor

PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribal Council took a step Thursday that could get the tribe’s enrollment rolls open after they have been closed for 1 1/2 years.

Council members voted 11-to-7, with three members absent, to approve an amendment called “An Act to Provide Tribal Enrollment.” Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. now has 30 days to sign or veto the amendment.

One of the reasons the amendment was crafted was to address tribal members’ concerns about the application process, said Reginald Oxendine, chairman of the Constitution and Ordinance Committee, from which the amendment originated.

One of the concerns addressed in the amendment is doing away with a test about Lumbee history and culture that people ages 18 and older had to take and pass in order to be enrolled. The test is replaced by a culture and history class that adult applicants must take and complete.

Another change is people whose applications were rejected or membership terminated now must wait only one year before applying again. The waiting period had been three years.

The amendment calls for enrollment rolls to be closed for 30 days before and after a special election.

Under the amendment, members ages 55 and older will no longer be required to update their membership files. But they are encouraged to do so.

The historical context criteria for an enrollment application now includes prior enrollment and enrollment in a Lumbee school or church that was active before racial segregation ended.

Oxendine said the amendment was crafted with the help of scholars, lawyers and members of the tribe’s administration and Supreme Court. It also was written using input from members gathered at community meetings.

The amendment was not approved without debate.

Council member Wendy Moore-Graham questioned why the amendment did not specify what would be taught in the culture and history class.

“I want to make sure that the history being taught is absolutely Lumbee history,” she said.

Council member Jan Lowery said there was not enough community input and none of the input made it back to the committee writing the amendment. Input meetings weren’t held in some communities.

She charged the committee with not doing a good job of gathering input from tribe members.

James B. Hunt said the rolls should have been reopened last year.

“This is long overdue,” the councilman said.

But, Hunt questioned the lack of information about the content and a schedule for the culture and history class. He also said some people may not want to or have the time and means to travel to Pembroke to take the class.

Council member Annie Taylor said the rolls should be opened under the past standards and the amendment sent back to the committee.

“Nothing is perfect,” Oxendine said.

After the meeting, Oxendine said details regarding the class still are being worked out. They are exploring the idea of applicants taking the class at satellite sites, such as universities.

In other business, the council members learned the tribe has received a $1.5 million grant to fight opioid abuse.

“Our county is experiencing an opioid crisis,” Tribal Administrator Freda Porter said.

The money, received on Feb. 21, comes from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Porter said. The grant covers a three-year period and will allow the tribe to provide opioid abuse treatment for 63 people a year.

People interested in getting the grant-funded treatment must apply at the Veterans Affairs office in Pembroke, she said. The treatment will be administered at the Lumberton Treatment Center, an outpatient rehab center located at 2200 Clyborn Church Road.

Tribal Chairman Godwin read a letter from Catawba Tribe Chief William “Bill” Harris. In his letter, the leader of the only federally recognized tribe in South Carolina, expressed the Catawba Indian Nation’s support for the Lumbee Tribe’s fight for federal recognition.

Godwin told the council members of two pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 1368 and House Bill 1964, making their way through the United States Congress. He said he has high hopes for them.

“I am confident we are going to make great strides in that endeavor,” Godwin said.

The members of the council also heard:

— That the tribe’s aquatic center opens for the season on Memorial Day, May 27, and will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. that day. Regular season hours will be posted.

— That a Memorial Day ceremony to pay tribute to military veterans who died in service to their country will take place at the cultural center starting at 10 a.m.

— A fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club, titled “Champion of Youth Gala,” will take place at the club on June 21 starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are $100 per person.


Amendment still needs chairman’s approval

T.C. Hunter

Managing editor

Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]

Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]