PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina no longer owes any money on the construction of its tribal housing complex, better known as The Turtle.
Tribal leaders, staff and representatives of Lumbee Guaranty Bank burned the building’s bank note Tuesday during a ceremony in front of the building and declared the event a “milestone” in the tribe’s history. The tribe made the final loan payment of $375,000 to Lumbee Guaranty Bank on Dec. 16.
“It is a great day for all our people,” Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin said.
Godwin thanked everyone present for their efforts in securing the housing complex and charged them to protect their building and to “grow in a mighty way.”
The tribal housing complex is located on N.C. 711 just outside Pembroke. The meeting place for all Tribal Council sessions and court hearings was built in 2009 under the leadership of the late Chairman Jimmy Goins. Federal funds obtained under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act and a $3.8 million loan were used to pay for the building’s construction.
The 22,000-square-foot building, in addition to providing meeting space, is home to the tribe’s housing program and tribal offices, and has the capability to provide shelter in emergency situations. The cost of constructing the buildinng was $4 million.
When the building opened to the public in December 2009, it had been in the planning stages for more than two years. It is the first building wholly owned by the Lumbee tribe. Before its opening, the tribal government had operated out of a former mini-mall in Pembroke.
The building’s turtle design was inspired by a dream former Tribal Administrator Leon Jacobs had in 2004. During the offiicial opening ceremony in 2009, then Tribal Council Speaker Ricky Burnett said in American Indian culture the turtle represents wisdom.
Bobby Oxendine, Tribal Council speaker, called it a “glad day.” He said that with the mortgage paid off, it is possible for the tribe to move forward with more projects.
Councilman Terry Hunt said the tribe has “come a long way,” and Councilman Corbin Eddings expressed his pride in the tribe.
The ceremony included an honor song by Kaya Littleturtle, whose grandfather blessed the site during the building’s groundbreaking ceremony seven years ago, and a prayer by the Rev. Jimmy Hammonds.
Chairman Godwin used Tuesday’s ceremony to offer his appreciation to the housing and finance staff for their efforts in getting the bank note paid off. He also expressed gratitude for Lumbee Guaranty Bank’s continuing support of the Lumbee people and tribal government.
“No matter what happens, this building will always belong to the people,” Godwin said.