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We Still Believe

Know Before You Go program at UNC Pembroke

Harvey Godwin: Prepare yourself for college life early, work with others Lumbee Tribal Chairman encourages youth, parents to start the process for getting ready for college life now and work hard to achieve goals

Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin shared his experiences as a college student and his struggles to get an education. Godwin, a 1990 UNC Pembroke graduate, was a guest speaker Saturday morning at the Know Before “U” Go program at the university.

Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin stressed the importance of pride in being Indian and confidence in their abilities as well as the importance of education. The Lumbee tribal chairman gave students an overview on the history with the founding of UNC Pembroke as well as other Indian schools. The tribal chairman was a guest speaker Saturday morning at the Know Before “U” Go program at UNCP.

From left; Robeson County School Superintendent Tommy Lowry, former Indian Education Director Rita Locklear, Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin, Robeson County Indian Education Director Dr. Connie Locklear, Wells Fargo Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Dewey Norwood and American Indian Graduate Center Chief Operating Officer Joan Currier, Director of UNC Pembroke’s Southeast American Indian Studies (SAIS) program Dr. Alfred Bryant.

PEMBROKE – Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin encouraged young people to have pride in being Indian and confidence in their abilities.

He also stressed the importance of education and told students a brief history on the founding of UNC Pembroke as well as other Indian schools. The tribal chairman was a guest speaker Saturday morning at the Know Before “U” Go program at UNCP.

“We have a rich history not only at this university, but in every Indian community,” Godwin said. “You guys are growing up in a different generation with many opportunities made possible by the struggles of our ancestors. Take advantage of the opportunities our ancestors have left you, especially with education. And, never forget your culture and heritage.”

About 250 students, parents and staff filled the Moore Hall auditorium at UNCP to standing room only capacity for the program. It is designed to educate Indian high school students on the process of transitioning to college. A Wells Fargo grant helps fund the Know Before “U” Go program.

There were several Indian education workers handling the workshops as well as UNCP graduates and students advising the Indian students on getting into and through college.

Organizers gave students and parents information about how to apply to college. They also educated them about how to ease the transition from high school to college, adjusting to living in a non-Indian environment and the importance of working with others outside their communities.

Students also learned about applying for scholarships and finding ways to pay for college. Godwin told them about the Julian Pierce scholarships available at UNCP, Robeson Community College and the N.C. Central law school and encouraged them to apply.

“He was about helping others,” Godwin said. “He believed in education and wanted to see our people succeed.”

The Know Before U Go event was free and open to American Indian and Alaska Native high school students and their parents. The program was highlighted by various sessions, including a panel of current college students.

The Lumbee Tribe partnered with the American Indian Graduate Center, UNC Pembroke, the Public Schools of Robeson County and the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs on the debut event at the university.

Godwin said it’s important to form partnerships, especially with other tribes. The tribal chairman said it’s important for tribal governments to “figure out how to work together” in order to make needed improvements in Indian communities.

“This is where we start to see the big picture,” Godwin said. “Think about where we are now and where we are headed to. That’s important.”

Godwin encouraged the students to give back to churches, communities and every organization important to them to help future generations have an easier life. He reminded everyone of UNCP’s humble beginnings in 1887 as a school to train Indian teachers, with only a $500 contribution to help build the original school.

The community raised the remaining $500 matching funds to finish construction.

Godwin told them how group of Indian leaders got together to help form the school with the help of a Red Springs state representative named Hamilton McMillan. He said it’s important for the Lumbees to remember this.

“Thank God for these men,” Godwin said. “Thank God for UNCP.”

The Lumbees and other Indians were the last North Carolina residents to receive state funding for schools. While no state-funded schools existed, there were other educational institutes, mostly churches.

One of the first schools for Lumbees was Magnolia, founded in 1872 on present day U.S. 301 in the Saddletree community near Lumberton. The Prospect subscription school was also founded about the same time. Churches were the backbone of the Lumbee educational system and the Bible was the curriculum, Godwin reminded everyone.

“We didn’t have schools to attend and our preachers went around the community teaching our people how to read from the Bible,” Godwin said. “We built our education system and that’s the reason the Lumbee Tribe is so successful today. Please always remember where we came from and never forget your ancestors that made all this possible.”

The tribal chairman said he grew up poor in a family of four in the Moss Neck community near Pembroke. His mother, Phodie Godwin, was one of the earlier four-year graduates from the university. She graduated in 1947 with the eighth class of four-year graduates from UNCP.

The tribal chairman shared his own struggles to adjusting to college life and some of the issues Indians struggle with after leaving their communities for the college environment.

Godwin was a non-traditional student. He said he started at what was then Pembroke State University at age 17 in 1973, but quit college to get a job to support his family. He eventually went back, working full-time in a grocery store to care for his wife and two sons. He said he would never forget the days of living in the family’s crowded little singlewide trailer in Harris Mobile Home Park in Pembroke.

Godwin said one of his proudest moments ever was when he graduated from UNCP in 1990.

He was 35.

“It’s never too late and don’t ever give up. I’m living proof that it’s possible for you to achieve your dreams,” Godwin said.

Godwin also highlighted the need for Indian people to “get back to what our ancestors did” by trying to live healthier lifestyles and working together. He reminded everyone how Lumbees grew basically everything they ate through organic gardens tended to with sweat-intensive labor that kept them in harmony with God.

And, he also spoke of the need to protect the environment, adding his personal belief that global warming and other issues stemming from pollution are threatening our future.

“I want to encourage everyone to stop littering on our beautiful highways,” Godwin said. “Let’s remember the examples set by our ancestors. These were people who respected the environment and protected Mother Earth. Let’s do what our ancestors did and leave the world better for the next generations.”

Godwin closed by reiterating the point that it is important for people to work together, especially Indians. He reminded the students and parents attending the program how closely Indian communities have been tied traditionally and encouraged everyone to keep encouraging and helping one another.

And, he asked everyone to start taking better care of not only Mother Earth, but also their basic health needs. “Let’s live healthy and exercise,” Godwin said. “If we do these basic things then our children won’t have to suffer with the things we have had to suffer with.”

For more information, visit the Lumbee Tribe’s website at or call (910) 521-7861.

James Locklear may be reached at or or (910) 536-3918.

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