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NC Lumbee Tribe Elects New Chairman

The Lumbee Tribe has elected and sworn in its fifth chairman, Paul Brooks.

WHQR’s Michelle Bliss reports that Brooks also chairs the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs. He won the Lumbee post in a race against three other candidates.

The last elected chairman, Purnell Swett, resigned in May for health reasons, so Brooks will finish his term which ends in early 2013.

A priority for Brooks will be to increase voter turnout since this election brought out less than 14 percent of Lumbee voters, or about 4,000 people.

“We had a very low turnout in our election drive. And by virtue of that low turnout, that lets me know that our people need to have better communications with us as a whole, together. And I’d like to see that in the next election we vote at least 20,000 people.”

Brooks says he also wants to improve education, health, and business opportunities for tribe members, though a concrete plan is still in the works.

“We have educators; we have business people; we have health people. And my motive is to bring these different people together. The educational force—bring the educational people in and let’s discuss how we want to go forth with education. The health people—bring them in to discuss how we need to attack our health problem.”

The Lumbee Tribe has about 55,000 members who reside primarily in Robeson, Hoke, Cumberland, and Scotland Counties.

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After growing up in Woodbridge, Virginia, Michelle attended Virginia Tech before moving to Wilmington to complete her Master in Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. Her reporting and nonfiction writing have been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, within the pages of Wrightsville Beach Magazine, and in literary journals like River Teeth and Ninth Letter. Before moving to Wilmington, Michelle served as the general manager for WUVT, a community radio station in Blacksburg, Virginia. She lives with her husband Scott and their pups, Katie, Cooper, and Mosey.