Photo by Chad Locklear


The Lumbee Tribal Housing Complex serves as the administrative building for the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, the largest tribe east of the Mississippi River. The building is one of the most striking architectural designs in southeastern North Carolina. Inspired by one of the sacred animals in American Indian culture, the doom building and its red roof resemble a turtle.

The main entrance serves as the head, the round floor plan represents the body of the turtle and its four corridors, or “legs” of the building, contain offices that oversee the tribe’s services. The Tribal Council, along with the tribe’s administrative court and Lumbee Supreme Court, also hold meetings in a special chamber.


Previously, the tribal leaders rented several offices scattered throughout the town of Pembroke, N.C., the heart of the Lumbee Nation. The 22,000-square foot complex allows the tribal government to provide services and programs under one roof. American Indian firm MetCon Construction built the complex in 2009. The complex, referred to as “The Turtle,” cost $4 million and is the first building owned by the tribe. “The Turtle” is located on N.C. 711 east of Pembroke.

Turtle Symbolism

In Native American cultures, the turtle represents longevity, strength and wisdom. Turtles also represent the land and many tribes refer to North America as “Turtle Island.” According to a Robesonian article, the turtle design was suggested by former tribal administrator, Leon Jacobs, after a dream.   

Photo courtesy of The Robesonian


A number of services are offered to tribal members at the Lumbee Tribal Housing Complex including:

Tribal Enrollment
The Office of Tribal Enrollment and Records maintains tribal records and reviews enrollment applications.

Veteran Services
Lumbee veterans can apply for a number of services including home loans, down-payment assistance, and burial and memorial benefits.

Youth Services
The Lumbee Boys and Girls Club is located in a separate building behind “The Turtle,” and offers educational, recreational and cultural activities.

Enlightening Native Daughters
The program provides a safe haven for American Indian women and children who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault as well as advocacy through awareness and preventive services.

Tribal members can apply for housing assistance to aid in construction or rehabilitation of homes, and a number of other housing-related services.

Home Energy Assistance Program
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps low-income families meet their home energy needs.

Vocational Rehabilitation
The program assists tribal members with disabilities with ways to prepare and find gainful employment.

External Links Lumbee Tribe Facebook page


Sources used in this article: "Tribe full owners of the The Turtle Makes final payment on $4 Million building" from The Robesonian, MetCon Project description from the MetCon website, "Slow and steady, Lumbee move to own offices" in The Fayetteville Observer, Page 1B, January 19, 2010 (article not available online).