Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr.
Inauguration Acceptance Speech
January 7, 2016
“I stand here tonight only because of the grace of God and my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I want to thank past council members and chair Paul Brooks for their service to the Lumbee people.
I would also like to thank Chancellor Robin Cummings for allowing us to have the GPAC tonight and the Annex afterwards.”
“This university means so much to me and my family. My wife and I graduated from here, my sister (as well), my mother graduated in the 40s .. she is 90 years old. My son graduated from here .. my other son spent two years here but went to that other school that has the blue-color sky.
This university means so much to our people and its with our faith in God and our education that our forefathers fought for and provided to us many generations ago stands as a beacon of what we should be doing now.”
“Tonight, I pledge my allegiance, personally, and as the leader of the Lumbee Tribe with the Tribal Council, that we will partner with the University going forward and we will partner for the goodness of the Lumbee people and for all people that come to this great university.
Tonight, I submit a call for action — Let’s all get ready to lead. You are here tonight because you care about your people. You are here because you care about the people here on stage, you are here because you care about your families.
We all have to do this together. And with this call to action we have to consider the old path and this university represents some of the old path. Our belief in God is evident that we are a spiritual people. Our forefathers … that’s how they brought us out of the swamps to where we are now … the value of an education, protecting our Lumbee culture, hard work and integrity and honesty in everything we do and our connection to the land.
“We must respect and honor the crafters of our Constitution. We must embrace the spirit of the Constitution and we tighten the loopholes and strengthen the rights further of the Lumbee people.
The old path … and now the new path …
“Upfront, I want to tell you that we will have an open and transparent government. The questions stands – Does our government work?
It is extremely vital that there is a trust between the Lumbee people and their government. The government must do their business in the light of day, not in darkness. It must build integrity by managing public dollars .. spending dollars wisely and hold to account all dollars spent. We must see bad habits and stop them. We must be held accountable to tell the truth to the people at all times.”
All levels of government, state and federal, have ways for the people to request public information such as the North Carolina Public Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act for the federal government
The Lumbee Constitution, as it is currently written, doesn’t fully protect the rights of the Lumbee people and it doesn’t promote a transparent government. I promise you that we will have a Constitutional Convention to institute a system for the people to request public records from the tribal government.
“This will take a collaboration between the chair and the administration and the tribal council. And this will take time and patience on behalf of all. But we must make informed decisions.”
“We will have outreach. The tribal employees will be charged to go to all the Indian centers throughout Lumbee Land – from Baltimore all the way down to every county that we have.
And with this outreach, they will be there to listen, communicate and inform and also listen to the people as to what needs they have, getting down to their tribal card or what services they need, in conjunction with their tribal leadership.”
“Our culture stands very for firm with me and it’s non-negotiable
Our elders protected our identity at all times. In our little communities, such as Union Chapel, Mt. Airy and all the communities in between, elders got together many generations ago and protected our culture and established ways of educating our people which led to this fine institution that we are sitting in today. We must study our cultural history and engage our young people to be self-determined. We will convene cultural think-tanks and round-tables to define, control and determine who we are as a people not through stereotypes of what others say we are, and not even what the Bureau of Indian Affairs say we are, but who we say we are.”
“We can begin with the archeological fact and proof that Natives have been living beside Moss Neck Swamp for the last 10,000 years.
We will support and promote our artists, first and foremost in culture, our musicians, we will support and grow our Cultural Center and we will try .. and this will take some time … to bring back our beloved “Strike at the Wind!”
“We have to have involvement from everyone. We will put together a Lumbee Tribal Government Summit and with this we are going to get ideas about how we can move better forward .. how can we work with the Tribal Council, the administration … the people have to be empowered. So, tonight, I am charging you .. you are going to be empowered!”
“We must first protect our elders, our youth and our out-of-school youth. Elders must be secure and comfortable. We want to create mentorships. Our young people deserve and must have mentors.
I am standing here before you tonight only through the Grace of God and I had many, many mentors. I have mentors now. I have a spiritual mentor. Our children must have mentorship. And the mentors have to come from this group. We have doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, musicians … any realm of employment you can think of have to pull together and organize how we can mentor our young people.
And that also includes volunteerism.
No one ever became poor by giving to others. There are small groups out here that build handicap ramps, they build housing that the Tribal Council doesn’t take care of sometimes and we had the backpack program for children. I submit that we bring all our resources together and we partner with the different groups and have a more powerful influence on more people in a positive way.”
“And through economic development, I think the tribe has tremendous opportunity to recruit industry and jobs here. There are a lot of companies that would like to partner with the Lumbee Tribe to build industry and to create jobs so we can create our own prosperity so we can be self-reliant and so we can have partnerships that will stand for all time. We want to put in a government in place now that many generations from now will stand, when I’m gone and (the council) is gone and new people take over and help govern, then the system will still be in place that will be positive for the people.
And we must extend opportunity through prosperity.”
“We must have unity. I pledge tonight to work with the Tribal Council and I will respect you for all time as my brothers and sisters and all the work that we do.
We will have community meetings where we will visit each and every district that you represent, together, and listen to the people and their concerns and communicate with them.
I will work and try to collaborate with all centers of powers, local, state and federal. We have Will Collins here tonight from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, who is willing, by his presence here tonight, he is ready to collaborate with the Lumbee Tribe.
We will collaborate and partner with centers of education, public schools, UNC-Pembroke, the community colleges, and to the tribes that are here tonight let me say to you, I thank you so much for attending tonight .. you have my word and my commitment that we will build bridges together and that we will partner together and that we will make all of us strong.”
“Lastly, let me say something that has been heavy on my heart. Social media can be a positive thing. Our campaign proved that. It can be used in a positive way and a positive instrument to bring people together for a common cause and a common purpose. But people use social media to hurt one another. Tribes .. our people within ourselves have warred on each other for many, many generations and tonight it must stop!”
“We should be kind to each other. We are a beautiful people. There are different races and backgrounds that are here tonight to show their commitment to partner with the Lumbee Tribe and the other nations across North Carolina. This should be a beacon of hope that all people can come together if we choose to do so. But when you are hateful and hurtful and you destroy someone’s reputation, family or business just because you are sitting in front of a computer and you can do it with no consequences .. it’s wrong … it’s wrong!”
“The night of our election, Preacher Tim challenged me to do one thing. He said to love people .. love everybody. And gave him my word that I would and I have given God my word on that. So we have a chance to embrace hope, faith and love to where we can make something positive. Nothing is going to be positive unless you have love in it … unless you feel it from your heart and your soul. And like the song said, the heart is a drum.
All of our hearts beat the same way. We communicate with our spirit and our heart and that is important, but the negative things break that down and we have to get away from that. So, tonight, let’s uplift all people. Let’s have faith, hope and love. Let’s have mentors.
“If one of our young people falls astray and they get on the wrong path and trust me I have been on many, many wrong paths … lets bring the old path and the new path together … let’s have mentorships .. If one of us falls to the side then we are going to pick up our brothers or our sisters up and we are going to dust them off and encourage them so they can go on the right path and go forward in life.”
“So let’s bring the old oath and the new path together.
I still believe in everything that I am saying tonight and I know you still believe because you are here tonight. And I know I lot of people still believe because they voted for our candidacy.
And I know you care about the things we are talking about.
So, if we believe in who we are and we know our path, and we have a great opportunity with 8A .. and we will talk about this in months to come .. for this tribe will become self-prosperous to the point where full federal recognition will be inconsequential. We will pursue full federal recognition, but we have an opportunity to prosperous standing alone, to where no one can say who we are, We know who we are, we know how to employ our own people .. we know how to treat our own people .. we know how to protect our own people and that will permeate all through this local area and the whole nation.
“I want to thank God for this opportunity to serve the Lumbee people and for your support, patience and faith.
Let me say, May God bless the Lumbee people and may God bless everyone in this room tonight. Thank you and God bless you!”