WRAL Investigates

Federal aid to Lumbees spent on travel, conventions

Posted June 3, 2008

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— Willie Locklear lives near Lumberton in a former storage building that has holes in the roof and floor. He has to hang plastic sheeting on the side of his house to fend off the wind and rain.

The ramshackle house Rachel Maynor lives in near St. Pauls is almost a century old and has no bathroom.

Locklear and Maynor are members of the Lumbee tribe and have asked the tribal government for housing assistance.

"I have been trying to get a home for about 15 years," said Maynor, 73, a widow on a fixed income. "(They say) they can't spend that much money, but they can spend it to go to Hawaii."

Ten tribal council members attended an Indian education conference last October at the four-star Hilton hotel on Waikiki Beach. In addition to travel, hotel and meal expenses, registration for the conference cost the tribe $4,000.

Credit card statements provided by a council member who asked to remain anonymous show that tribal officials also have traveled to Albuquerque, N.M., San Antonio, Texas, and Alaska in the past year.

The charges include a limo service in Colorado and $500 for a hotel room in Florence, S.C., which is less than an hour's drive from the Lumbee community in Robeson County.

Council member Wendy Moore-Graham said the trips were paid for with money the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development gives to the tribe each year. This year's grant was $13 million, but HUD recently cut funding to the Lumbees by $1.7 million. The tribe shut down its housing rehabilitation program on Monday with more than 1,000 tribal members still on the waiting list for assistance.

Although HUD allows the tribe to budget for housing-related travel in its annual appropriation, Moore-Graham said she boycotted the Hawaii trip because several officials went who never attended any local education meetings.

"If they don't care about the children here in Robeson County when the meetings were here in Robeson County, why should they care when it's in Hawaii?" she said.

Randy Lewis is a Lumbee activist who has led protests against tribal officials' handling of federal housing dollars.

"They travel everywhere with no regard to people living in Third-World conditions," Lewis said.

WRAL made several attempts to speak with tribal Chairman Jimmy Goins and other top Lumbee officials, but they refused to comment, referring all questions to Alex Baker, the tribe's public relations manager, who issued a written statement.

"All travel reflected on these (credit card) statements was either to HUD-sponsored events or events sanctioned or approved by HUD prior to any travel occurring," the statement said.

Baker said it was essential for Lumbee officials to attend the conferences to "have a seat at the table."

For years, the tribe has sought full federal recognition, which could bring $80 million in annual federal aid. Under the Lumbee Recognition Act of 1956, the tribe was denied services from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs but was recognized as a tribe, which has allowed it to receive limited federal assistance.

WRAL also contacted HUD several times for a response to the Lumbee travel expenses. A spokeswoman said she would look into the matter and provide a response last week, but no HUD official has commented yet.

Moore-Graham said the tribe's travel budget is tapped out with four months left in the fiscal year. Meanwhile, at least 10 tribal officials are booked for a trip to the National Congress of American Indians conference in Reno, Nev., this week, she said.

"Reno? I really don't know where they're going to get the money," she said.

Lewis questioned the need to send so many tribal members to each conference.

"One or two would suffice, and then the one or two would come back to Robeson County and they would have a meeting with the others," he said.

Locklear said tribal leaders should spend less time jetting to distant cities and more time visiting Lumbees in the area to address local problems.

"The trip they took to Hawaii would definitely have bought me a trailer," he said.

65 Comments

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  • talkabout Jun 5, 2008

    It was the Lumbee tribe that tried to get Bob & The Showgram Off the air for comments...but they do THIS to their own people?? I am GLAD this was posted on G105's website...I am GLAD that THE very people that were the center of negative attention NOW get to expose these people for what they really are....SHAME on you, Karma has spoken!

  • WhatIsTheDrama Jun 5, 2008

    It's amazing that the tribal gov't, who publicly defended the remarks made by BOB AND THE SHOWGRAM and pretty much wanted their heads on a platter, would be in the news now for allowing their elders to suffer! I applaud Bob, Kristen, and Mike for standing up for themselves! I heard the broadcast and it originally was supposed to be funny. The tribal gov't have made themselves out to be a joke!!

    All I can say is... THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKIN ABOUT.... WWWHHHHOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • teacher-mom Jun 4, 2008

    delilahk2000-

    My people did not steal any thing from any body. My Dad is a second generation American. My Mom's dad came from Europe and her grandmom was a native American. My mom's mom never even owned a house much less a slave or any native American. Do not accuse me of that! Speak for yourself.

  • teacher-mom Jun 4, 2008

    delilahk2000

    All Native American tri bes should be treated the same. It does not matter if it is Sioux, Cherokee, or Lumbee.

    I do not care if you want to keep your heritage alive. I think that is a good thing. We all need to know where we originate.

    What many people do not understand is that in order to maintain an orderly society the rules must apply to everyone. If you give any segment preferential treatment there will be trouble. Look at Africa and the Middle East.

    In order to survive, we must have a sense of unity. We cannot be Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans. We have to be Americans first.

    You can complain all you want to, but it is not going to make things better. The education and fair treatment of all will make things better for everyone. This will empower men and women. Everyone will be able to make better choices.

  • ladyblue Jun 4, 2008

    seems like they are learning how to treat their people like they blame America treated it's people. What gives here.

  • oldschooltarheel Jun 4, 2008

    you are correct mugofstout2 about the mixed racial heritage of the Lumbee. I remember when they were not recognized as a distinct American Indian tribe as their ethnicity was mixed like Melungeons of western NC/VA. Somehow they pulled it off & are right there at the trough forevermore with the "leaders" getting the cream of other people's tax dollars. Redistribution in action - "leaders' jetting about & their constituents (who they use to demonstrate the groups' great "needs") live in shacks without indoor plumbing - in the USA. Nice work Lumbee leaders

  • oldschooltarheel Jun 4, 2008

    Wow! Sounds like the tribal "leaders" learned to be typical political "leaders". Next they'll clamber onto the "global warming" bandwagon & zoom on jets to see the drowning polar bears for themselves... once they figure it out they'll be looking to increase the property taxes on the shanties (taking a page from the Durham & Raleigh politicos' play books)- betcha adding an indoor toilet or a roof will result in a gigging.

  • mugofstout2 Jun 4, 2008

    In regard to the comment about the Lumbees not having an agent, there is a reason for that. The "Lumbees" are not a tribe. They are the decendants of escaped slaves and the tag ends of several tribes ravaged by small pox and war with white settlers. A few white renegades also lived with them. This mix is what is known as the "Lumbees". That is why they have no reservation, nor an agent.

  • mas Jun 4, 2008

    my friend's girlfriend is lumbee indian and she won't spend a nickle, maybe she should head up the tribe

  • RonnieR Jun 4, 2008

    The problem is that they don't have full recognition as a tribe.
    Therefore, they don't fall under the BIA. If they did, their "Great White Father" would send them an Indian Agent and
    he would issue them the food and other stuff they need.
    Other tribes have this and as long as the Agent is honest, they
    do ok.

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