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Lumbees Elect Freeman To Lead LRDA

PEMBROKE, NC -- A new face is leading the Lumbee Regional Development Association.

Leroy Freeman, who was elected to the board in March, will replace Adolph Blue as chairman of the association’s board of directors. Board members elected Freeman Monday (June 5) through a secret ballot. Blue, who is 69, announced May 24 that he would step down because of health concerns. He plans to remain on the board.

Freeman says his first action as chairman is to unite the board and to provide services for the Lumbee people in an unbiased manner.

‘‘We need to reach out to all communities and all the Lumbee people,’’ Freeman said. ‘‘The people that voted for me know that these are my goals. They voted for me because they wanted to reach the same goals.’’ Freeman wants to hold board of director meetings throughout the county.

‘‘We’re not just going to sit in Pembroke,’’ he said. ‘‘We will put on our traveling shoes and go out into the community to hear people’s concerns.’’

Freeman said he will work closely with the Tribal Council of Lumbee Tribe of Cheraw Indians to see that an election to select a form of government for the tribe will be carried out.

The Tribal Council sued in 1994 to try to make the association give up control over millions of dollars in state and federal aid. Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ruled in January 1999 against the Tribal Council, but he also ruled that the association has only limited power.

Manning ordered an election to establish a tribal government for the Lumbee people to settle a dispute about which factions should govern the tribe of more than 40,000 Indians.

‘‘I want us to have open minds and listen to each other, because we are all in the same tribe,’’ Freeman said. ‘‘As long as we are divided, we cannot achieve the things that our people expect us to do.’’

(By Venita Jenkins - The Fayetteville Observer-Times)