PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribal Council on Thursday gave the tribe’s chairman 36 days to come up with a plan of action regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The 17 members present during the council’s regular business meeting at the tribe’s Housing Complex voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to direct Harvey Godwin Jr. and the Executive Branch staff to address the possible effects of the $5 billion, 600-mile natural gas pipeline on the environment, culture and people inside Lumbee territory. The resolution, which came out of the council’s Health Committee, calls for Godwin to present the plan to the Tribal Council’s Health and Executive Officers committees by Sept. 20.
“I know you’re tired of hearing me beat this dead horse,” Health Committee Chairperson Jan Lowery said as she introduced the resolution.
Lowery then read the stripped-down version of the resolution rejected during the July 19 council meeting and urged passage of it.
The previous version was rejected because some council members objected to language that seemed to blame Godwin and the Executive Branch for the tribe not having taken action to address the effects of the pipeline.
“Throwing the administration under the bus it looks like to me,” Councilman Frank Cooper said during the July 19 meeting.
Thursday’s action was the council’s third try at passing a resolution related to the ACP.
The council voted June 21 to rescind a resolution calling upon the builders of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to consult with the tribe about the pipeline’s possible effects. That vote came after heated debate and a public comment period during which 11 people spoke against the resolution, some saying the proposed resolution was an attempt to be paid by the builders to not fight construction.
In other resolution action, the council voted 10-7 to give itself the power to approve all tribal policies. The resolution that came to the full council from the Constitution and Ordinance Committee called for all proposed policies to be reviewed, edited and approved by the Tribal Council. Some policies have been enacted by the Executive Branch in the past.
Council Speaker Anita Hammonds Blanks explained that the resolution was an attempt to address a concern brought up by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development after it reviewed a 2011 tribal budget. In its report, HUD noted that not all policies appeared to be approved by the Tribal Council but identified the council as the policy approval board.
“According to HUD, by NAHASDA regulations, we should be approving all policies,” Blanks said.
NAHASDA stands for Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act. The federal act of 1996 “reorganized the system of housing assistance provided to Native Americans through the Department of Housing and Urban Development by eliminating several separate programs of assistance and replacing them with a block grant program. The two programs authorized for Indian tribes under NAHASDA are the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) which is a formula based grant program and Title VI Loan Guarantee which provides financing guarantees to Indian tribes for private market loans to develop affordable housing. Regulations are published at 24 CFR Part 1000,” according to the HUD website.
“The bottom line is clearly they say the board, and we are the board, should be approving policies,” Blanks said.
The 17 council members gave unanimous approval Thursday to a resolution calling for all executive orders, past, present and future, issued by the chairman and the Executive Branch to be posted on the Lumbee Tribe website.
“This is in order to maintain transparency,” Blanks said.
Before the Tribal Council entered the meat of its Thursday meeting, members took time to honor the Pembroke Belles softball team for winning the Dixie Youth Softball World Series. The team was presented a framed copy of a resolution and each team member and coach was pinned with a Lumbee Tribe pin.
In return, the team returned to the tribe the Lumbee Tribe flag they carried to the tournament in Louisiana. Godwin praised players for being the first Lumbee team to win the championship and for being excellent representatives of the tribe, its culture and its values.
“What you have accomplished is truly tremendous,” Godwin said.
The council also paid tribute to Judge Brooke Locklear Clark for being the first American Indian woman to become a District Court judge in North Carolina.
Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Clark to fill the seat previously held by Chief District Court Judge J. Stanley Carmical, who was appointed to serve as a special Superior Court judge. Clark was sworn in as a District Court judge on Aug. 1. Clark is unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election to fill Carmical’s seat.
“I was there when Brooke was sworn in,” Godwin said. “It was my birthday. I had a good birthday.”
Godwin went on to say Clark would be a fine District Court judge and would do the Lumbee people proud.
“When I was moved to do this, I didn’t do it to be the first in North Carolina to do it,” Clark said. “I did it to serve the people of Robeson County.”
During the council meeting’s public comment period, Robie Goins invited the council members to come to a discussion of the liquefied natural gas facility that Piedmont Natural Gas will build near Maxton. The meeting will be 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 23 in the Maxton Renaissance Event Center.
Goins said people will be there to talk about the possible negative effects the facility could have on the environment and the health of the people living near it.
According to Piedmont Natural Gas, the 1 billion-cubic-foot storage facility will cover about 50 acres of a 685-acre tract of land Piedmont owns near Maxton. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2019 and last two years, and cost about $250 million.