PEMBROKE — The chief operating officer of Lumbee Tribal Enterprises, a tribe-owned company, told members of the Lumbee Tribal Council on Thursday that it has entered into its first major long term multi-million dollar contract.
Ron Oxendine, chief operating officer, said the company signed a five-year, $19.32 million contract with the U.S. Marine Corps. in February that includes maintenance of heavy tactical vehicles. According to Oxendine, 19 new jobs will be created under the contract by the end of the year, but none will be in Pembroke.
According to Oxendine, the mission he started six years ago to generate revenue for the tribe, create jobs, and get 8(a) certification for the tribe is now “complete” and on its way. He said the company is now working other small contracts, but this is the first large federal contract. More large contracts are on the way, he said.
Tribal Council member Terry Hunt, the company’s president, said its future “looks real good.”
In other business, Furnie Lambert, chairman of the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs, and the commission’s executive director, Greg Richardson, told council members that they made history Thursday when they agreed to put 1.25 acres of tribal-owned land located in Robeson County in trust with the state. The property is contained in two tracts, with the smaller one-quarter-acre parcel in Red Springs being under water.
Lambert told the council that the Lumbee Tribe is the first tribe to put land in trust with the state under a 2001 state law establishing the Indian Land Trust.
According to information provided by the state commission, a land trust is a method of ensuring that the land will be used for the benefit of the tribe. It also creates a defense against losing the property.
Richardson said that land in trust helps tribes obtain grants. It can be used as a tool for economic development.
“Taking this action allows you to make history,” Richardson said. “It places the tribe on par with federally recognized tribes. It opens up other opportunities for you.”
The tribal council on Thursday also:
— Heard a warning from Richardson that a bill is now being considered by the state Senate that would allow the General Assembly to grant a tribe’s request to be state recognized. The long-held policy is that the state Commission of Indian Affairs grants or rejects a tribe’s request for state recognition.
“This is important in terms of the process,” Richardson said.
— Recognized Buddy Dial, a volunteer at the Lumbee Cultural Center, for his being the recipient of a community service award presented at the recently held N.C. Indian Unity Conference.
— Accepted a Lumbee Tribe flag that flew over the Standing Rock Indian Reservation during last fall’s protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Jo Jo Brooks Shifflett showed a video she had of the military occupation of the reservation during the protest. Members of the Sioux tribe are protesting the pipeline, saying it endangers the quality of their water supply.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.