PEMBROKE — Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr.’s first State of the Tribe address Friday was a hit with tribal members who say since the chairman took office in January he has brought about positive changes in how the tribal government operates.
“The address was great,” said Robin Branch, a community activist who supported Godwin in his bid last November to unseat Paul Brooks as chairman. “He covered every area that people have had questions about.”
In his 20-minute address to some 250 tribal members gathered in the gym of the Pembroke Boys and Girls Club, Godwin outlined his long-range vision for the Lumbee people and outlined programs offered by the tribe.
“We have made tremendous strides in the past six months, building lasting partnerships, exploring new opportunities, and strengthening our government and the services we provide,” he said.
Godwin announced that after five years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved funding for the construction of an elders site in District 1 in Rowland. HUD is providing $1.6 million for the project.
The chairman said the tribal administration is also trying to obtain money to provide housing for college students. The proposed housing would be constructed on tribal property located in the Pinecrest subdivision in Lumberton.
HUD approval for funding of a reconditioned swimming pool and creation of a stickball field at the Indian Cultural Center in Pembroke is also a goal of the administration.
According to Godwin, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is a strong ally in the tribe’s efforts to receive federal recognition.
“He’s the man who is going to get it done,” he said.
Godwin explained to tribal members how the tribe’s Lumbee Tribal Enterprises is a business that is going to make the tribe money. He said with 8(a) certification from the U.S. Small Business Administration the tribe has the ability to pursue federal contracts.
“It’s your money, not my money,” said Godwin. “It’s not the Tribal Council’s money and it’s not the tribal employees money. It’s your money.”
Godwin said that it’s important that tribal members know where tribal money is coming from and where it’s being spent.
“I’m depending on you to hold us accountable,” Godwin said. “Keep us responsible.”
After his address Godwin told The Robesonian that it’s important that the tribe show unity and not tear itself apart.
“We are moving into some business aspects of government of which tribal members must keep us accountable,” he said.
Louise Mitchell, a former member of the Tribal Council, commended Godwin for the work he has done so far to better the lives of Lumbee tribal members.
“His address was wonderful,” Mitchell said. “He is doing a great job as chairman. I am proud of the leadership we have today.”
“He’s doing an outstanding job. He has my support 100 percent,” said the Rev. Ricky Burnett, a former tribal councilman from Fayetteville. “I like his ideas for bringing people together. He’s a compassionate person.”
Lynn B. Jacobs, a former candidate for tribal chairman, said Godwin is dedicated to the Lumbee people.
“He is serious about moving the tribe forward,” Jacobs said. “But he is going to need the support of his people.”
The State of the Tribe coincided with Lumbee Homecoming, which is held each year in late June and early July by LRDA. The eight-day celebration ends today with a parade and fireworks show tonight.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.