PEMBROKE — Lumbee Tribe Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. and three members of Robeson County’s state legislative delegation said Friday they are not ready to throw their support behind a Tribal Council resolution calling for the state lawmakers to rename the Lumber River the Lumbee River.
The council passed the resolution Thursday during the council’s regular monthly meeting. Only three of the 20 members present voted against the resolution. They were Bill James Brewington, Janet Locklear and Ann Taylor.
The resolution, which mirrors a resolution passed in June 2009, “formally requests” the state General Assembly pass legislation recognizing the historical name of the Lumber River and officially changing its name to the Lumbee River.
Godwin told The Robesonian on Friday that the resolution mistakenly lists him as being among those submitting the request for the name change
“This was a legislative error,” he said. “The resolution came out of the council’s Federal Recognition Committee and went straight to the full council for a vote. I was not at the committee meeting and have had no discussion with committee members or other members of the council concerning changing the name of the Lumber River.”
Before he can support such a request he needs more information, Godwin said.
“Right now I am focused on obtaining recognition for the Lumbee people,” he said.
Councilman Jarrod Lowery, chairman of the council’s Federal Recognition Committee, said Thursday that there are no plans to start a campaign to change the river’s name.
“We’re just sending a letter to our state legislative delegation and legislative leaders,” he said. “Hopefully this will begin a conversation that is important to lot of our people.”
Rep. Charles Graham, a Lumberton resident, a member of the Lumbee Tribe and Robeson County’s five-member state legislative delegation, said he has not seen the resolution but is willing to discuss the issue with members of the delegation and tribal organizations.
“I’m willing to listen to the purpose of this resolution, talk to the tribal government and most importantly talk to the delegation. There must be 100 percent support among the delegation to try to move legislation like this forward,” Graham said. “There is no doubt the Lumber River has had a true significance to the Lumbee throughout history. The tribe has always had strong ties to the river.”
Rep. Garland Pierce, the delegation’s senior member, and Rep. Ken Goodman, both said they need information before they can make a decision about the proposed name change. Pierce is from Wagram, and Goodman is from Rockingham. There is a strong chance neither will represent Robeson County when new district lines are drawn as has been ordered by a federal court.
The two Republican members of the delegation, Sen. Danny Britt, of Lumberton, and Brenden Jones, of Tabor City, could not be reached Friday for comment.
Resolution supporters point to a number of historical accounts showing the Lumber River was once called the Lumbee River.
According to poet John Charles McNeill, who lived from 1874 to 1907, the Indian name of Lumbee was originally used for the river, from an Indian word that means “black water,” according to the federal Wild & Scenic Rivers website. Early European surveyors and settlers called it Drowning Creek.
The website goes on to say that the name Drowning Creek appears in Colonial records of 1749, which identify the river as a branch of the Little Pee Dee River. The name was changed by legislative action in 1809 to the Lumber River, most likely because of the river’s heavy use by the lumber industry.
The 133-mile river ends at the Pee Dee River in South Carolina. In 1989, it was designated by the state General Assembly as being a Natural and Scenic River, and it was also recognized as such in 2010 by the federal Department of Interior, making it the only black-water river in the United States with that designation.
It is part of the Lumber River State Park, which comprises 9,874 acres of land and 115 miles of waterway. Its headquarters is at Princess Ann, which is near Orrum
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.