LAURA ARENA

In the 1970’s, leaders envisioned a thriving cultural center to celebrate the history of the state’s American Indians in Pembroke, North Carolina.

Plans depicted a $50 million park with amusements, life-size models of ancient Indian villages and conference space to draw tourists to this impoverished corner of southeastern North Carolina and employ hundreds of people.

Anchored by a lake, the center was to have festival grounds, a conference center, a museum, restaurants, a water park, camping facilities and other amenities. It would employ 500 people year-round, plus another 1,500 seasonal workers.

The state bought an old country club for the project. Laws were passed to foster the cultural center’s creation, and the nonprofit N.C. Indian Cultural Center Inc. was established to run it.

For some time the Cultural center held festive events, powwows and families enjoyed the swimming pool in the summer. And then the project fell into disrepair due to vandalism, fires and lack of maintenance. The nonprofit N.C. Indian Cultural Center Inc, ran out of money.

The government has now taken over the lease and has kept it shuttered for a considerable amount of time.

The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina want to take over the lease. It isn’t clear what is the status on the circumstances but the park remains closed, even though there are numerous historical landmarks in the park, including the cabin of Henry Barry Lowery (celebrated hero of the Lumbee Nation) sacred circle ceremonial ground for the Lumbee and the Tuscarora, a wigwam, and a Tuscarora Longhouse. The Lumbee’s that I talked with really want to see this resolved and have access to park and to the landmarks once again.

North Carolina Indian Cultural Center is located at 638 Terry Sanford Road, Pembroke, NC 28372.

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