PEMBROKE — A frequent critic of the Lumbee Tribal Council on Thursday alleged the body is “illegitimate” because it is not structured as specified in the Lumbee Constitution.
Tribal member Eric Locklear, who calls himself an advocate for the Lumbee people, told council members that the constitution — adopted in November 2001 — specifies that the council is to be made up of 21 members elected from districts within the Lumbee territory. He also said that the constitution states that before the election was held in 2003, district boundaries were to have been drawn for the 21 districts in a manner to provide each tribal member equal representation on the Tribal Council.
“The Tribal Council of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina today consists of 21 members,” said Locklear, who ran for the Tribal Council last year but lost in the election. “At some arbitrary point in time the Tribal Council became unconstitutional with the incorporation of 14 Tribal Council districts. This clearly is outside of the constructs of the will of the Lumbee people.”
According to Locklear, because the council has “arbitrarily and without authority” engaged the tribal government in unconstitutional operation, “every seated member of the Tribal Council is illegitimate.”
Locklear told the council that a constitutional amendment revising the number of council members to nine and the number of districts to nine needs to be put before voters in November. He said that at the same time that the constitution is amended the current 21-member council needs to be dissolved and nine new council members elected to serve in the newly created nine districts.
Locklear said he chose the number nine based on the number of U.S. Supreme Court justices that make decision for U.S. citizens.
“Nine Supreme Court justices make decisions for 318 million citizens of these United States,” he said. “It is reasonable, therefore, to expect nine tribal members to be able to legislate for 57,000 enrolled Lumbees.”
Locklear supports his call for a smaller council by claiming it will save housing money that can be used to provide more services to tribal members. He said that each Tribal Council member is paid $550 a month, meaning that the 21 council members are paid a total of $138,600 each year.
“Each year the money paid to Tribal Council members could have improved 12 homes or purchased five new mobile homes,” he said.
Locklear also said that he believes with a smaller council “better people” will seek to serve on the governing board.
“Everyone would benefit,” he said. “Less money would be spent in salaries, better people would serve, and tribal members would get better housing.”
Locklear said that he hopes that the two-thirds of council members needed to get his suggested constitutional amendment on the ballot in November will support his cause. If not, he said he is ready to go the second route for getting the referendum — collecting the signatures of 2,000 enrolled tribal members on petitions.
Pearlean Revels, speaker for the Tribal Council, declined to comment on allegations and accusations made by Locklear. She did say that the council is now working on the redistricting of council districts that is required every 10 years following the most recent census.
“We are now working on the redistricting of 14 districts,” Revels, a former director of the Robeson County Board of Elections, said. “We are not looking at redistricting for nine districts.”
In other business, the council members adopted an ordinance establishing a “standing tribal recognition task force.” The nine-member committee will oversee tribal efforts for obtaining federal recognition. The committee, however, must come back to the council for approval before any actions can be taken.
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.