Federal Recognition

Lumbee Tribe makes case for federal recognition at Senate hearing






The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs took testimony on the Lumbee Tribe's federal recognition bill and three other bills on September 7, 2016. Courtesy photo

The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina is once again asking Congress for federal recognition.

The tribe's first documented request for recognition dates to 1885. After decades of lobbying, the Lumbees thought they secured federal status with the passage of the Lumbee Act in 1956.

The tribe quickly discovered otherwise. The law, which was passed during the height of the termination era, defined the Lumbees as "Indians" but denied them the services and benefits associated with federal recognition.

S.2285, the Lumbee Recognition Act, repeals that law and extends full recognition to the tribe. The bill got its first hearing before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Wednesday.


Indianz.Com SoundCloud: Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hearing September 7, 2016

“Decades of discrimination against the Lumbee have resulted in severe economic and societal consequences for their people,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), who introduced the bill in November, told the committee. "Robeson County is one of the ten poorest counties in the United States. "The 1956 law has put them on unequal footing compared to other federally recognized tribes, and it has prevented them from obtaining access to critical services through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service. This is simply unjust and immoral.”

Chairman Harvey Godwin, Jr. echoed the theme of discrimination in his testimony. Due to lack of full federal status, the Lumbees have been treated negatively, even by others in Indian Country, he said.

“The Lumbee people are seeking a new type of partnership with the federal government,” Godwin said. “We will use full federal recognition to create an atmosphere for economic development in rural southeastern North Carolina. Your support of this bill is a strategic investment in the Lumbee people and our neighbors."

No one testified against the bill, which the Obama administration supports. Historically, opposition has come from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, whose leaders have questioned the Lumbee Tribe's legitimacy.

Congress has passed laws similar to the Lumbee Act of 1956. All of them have been repealed, except for the one affecting the Lumbees.

Read More on the Story:
Recognition revisited (The Robesonian 9/8)
Senate bill would give Lumbees full recognition and millions of dollars (The Fayetteville Observer 9/8)

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Notice:
Business Meeting to consider S. Con. Res. 49, S. 2711 & S. 2959 (September 7, 2016)
Legislative Hearing to receive testimony on the following bills: S. 2285, S. 3234, S. 3261 & H.R. 4685 (September 7, 2016)

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