PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribal Council voted on Thursday to close the tribal rolls to new applicants until the current enrollment policy can be updated.
The closure, effective immediately, applies only to new applicants. Pending applications are not affected. The rolls will stay closed until the rewriting work is completed.
The work could take three to six months, said Councilman Reginald Oxendine, who introduced the closure resolution on behalf of the council’s Constitution and Ordinance Committee.
Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. told council members the current enrollment procedures and policies are “archaic.” The enrollment ordinance has been in existence since the government was created.
“It needs to be tweaked,” he said.
Godwin said new members need to have a connection to tribal culture, the land and the tribe’s history.
“It’s not about a card,” Godwin said. “It’s about being a member of the Lumbee Tribe.”
In order to craft the best enrollment ordinance and policies possible people with knowledge of tribal government and tribal enrollment polices will be brought in to help with the rewrite process, he said. The process to craft an ordinance that is right and acceptable to the Lumbee people will include conducting research, working with Tribal Council members and gathering input from members of the tribe.
“That’s why it will take so long,” Godwin said.
Councilman Al Locklear suggested including in the closure resolution language that would make it clear the rolls would not be closed permanently.
“The way this is written it’s like enrollment will never open again,” Locklear said.
Other council members agreed. But after several minutes of debate, the resolution was presented as written to the council.
The council members also approved a 2017-18 budget that included more than $24.4 million in federal money. The budget also includes numerous grants, including $262,868 in Community Development Block Grant funds, $1,541,942 to assist tribal members with heating and energy needs, and $202,252.05 to support Boys & Girls Club operations.
Godwin has 10 working days to approve or veto the budget. If he takes no action it will be deemed approved. The budget will be posted for 30 days so members of the tribe can review it.
The budget action was followed by the approval of a continuing resolution that funds tribal operations until the budget goes into effect. The resolution is effective Dec. 31 through Jan. 31. Expenditures made under the resolution will be attributed to the 2017-18 budget.
It is the third continuing resolution approved by council members since Godwin vetoed the proposed 2017-18 budget on Oct. 10. The previous two continuing resolutions had spending allowances set at the 2016-17 budget levels.
In other business, council members approved:
— Allowing Tamra Lowery, a Northern Arizona University doctoral candidate student, to conduct her research titled Lumbee Dialects and Norms. The research aims to “determine if Lumbee children present with unique speech and language skills when administered the Preschool Language scales, and the phonological, lexical, and sound and language structure characteristics of the Lumbee dialect.”
— Allowing the Youth Services Program to pursue a $5,000 grant from the Department of Justice.
— Appointing James Epps to the Lumbee Tribe Enterprises LLC board of trustees.
Council members closed Thursday’s meeting by saying goodbye to four outgoing members. Bill Brewington, District 7; Lesaundri Hunt, District 3, and Terry Hunt, District 2, were ineligible to seek re-election because they had served two consecutive terms. Shelley Strickland, District 12, lost her re-election bid to Michael W. Chavis II. Brewington, Lesaundri Hunt and Terry Hunt addressed their fellow council members before the meeting adjourned.
“It’s been an experience,” Brewington said of his time on the council.
He added: “If you forget everything else I’ve said remember this. Sitting around this table is not about me. Sitting around this table is not about you. Sitting around this table is about them.”
Lesaundri Hunt said he has tried to learn something every day of his service.
“You know what you get when you cross a skunk and a computer? You get a stinking know-it-all,” he said. “I tried not to be a stinking know-it-all.”
After the laughter Lesaundri Hunts remark inspired, Terry Hunt rose to say the council has done good things and it should strive to continue to do good things.
“The people out there are watching you every day,” he said. “Give them something good to look at.”
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]