PEMBROKE, N.C. (AP) – The Lumbee Indian Tribe wants to change the name of the river that winds through its ancestral lands in North Carolina.
The Tribal Council passed an ordinance last month to ask the state Legislature to change the name of the Lumber River to the Lumbee River, according to The Fayetteville Observer.
“The name change to Lumbee gives credence and recognition to the river and its ancestral inhabitants and the role it has played in the development of the region,” said Lawrence Locklear, a former Tribal Council member who wrote the ordinance.
The river was named in 1809 by state lawmakers who also established the Lumber River Navigation Co. to help move wood and other goods through southeastern North Carolina and into the Pee Dee River in South Carolina, Locklear said.
“The name seems to have been changed solely for the business purposes,” Locklear said.
The Indians living in the area called it the Lumbee River before the law, and many still do today, Locklear said. The tribe adopted the name Lumbee in 1952 because of what their people called the river.
“We followed the same model of the Santee, Pee Dee and Wateree Indian tribes in South Carolina,” Locklear said.
Even if the Legislature approves the name change, it may not happen. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names within the U.S. Geological Survey must also approve the change for it to be recognized by the federal government.
The board requires a compelling reason to change a name, and it can’t be altered just to correct or re-establish a historic name, according to the board’s Web site.
Tribal Council member Audrey Hunt said she hoped the board would understand why the change needs to be made.
“The river is a root system for our people and our existence in this area,” Hunt said. “It has been a part of our past, a part of our present and will continue to be a part of our future.”
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