Pushing for Lumbee recognition raises concerns among some tribes


About 55,000 Lumbees live in North Carolina.

What do you want to know

The Lumbees have been trying to get federal recognition for decades

Legislation never made it through Congress

Some tribes say Lumbees and other groups shouldn’t go through Congress to be recognized

The state and Congress call them a tribe.

But the Lumbees have no official federal recognition, which means the tribe is losing federal dollars.

“There are reservations only for the tribes. We miss those reservations,” Lumbee Tribe Chairman John Lowery said earlier this year.

That’s why the Lumbees have been trying to get federal recognition for decades.

But the legislation never made its way through Congress and stalled in the Senate.

The Senate could decide to submit it to a vote in the coming months. And while there is bipartisan support for recognition, some tribes, including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, disagree with the process.

“We have a policy in place, and we want it followed,” said Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Chairman Richard French.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is the only federally recognized tribe in North Carolina.

French said the Lumbees should seek recognition from the Department of the Interior, not Congress.

“We are asking to go through the process. Prove your identity,” French said.

More than 80 tribes, according to the Eastern Band, have expressed concern over Congress passing legislation that would allow groups like the Lumbees to circumvent rigorous reviews by the Office of Federal Acknowledgment.

They say it would result in more groups trying to claim congressional recognition that would not normally qualify.

The eastern gang wonders if the Lumbees are a legitimate tribe.

The tribe also says lawmakers told them Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina was suspending further Indian Affairs laws unless Lumbee recognition is included.

Burr did not directly respond to this in a statement to Spectrum News, but said, “I am fully committed to their fight for full federal recognition.”

Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden both campaigned for the Lumbee Tribe to gain federal recognition.

Ben Barnes is the Chief of the Shawnee Tribe and does not support Congress granting federal recognition.

“Unless you’re blind and deaf or just a casual observer, it’s obviously politics,” Barnes said.

The Lumbees said they had to go through Congress because a law passed in the 1950s prevented them from gaining recognition by any other means.

Lowery also said Congress had previously restored recognition to other tribes, so it must do the same for the Lumbees.

The eastern band disputes the process, citing a legal opinion from the Home Office lawyer that the ministry can grant recognition to the Lumbees.

Federal recognition would not only mean federal money for the Lumbees, but it would also allow them to go through the process of opening a casino. This is potential competition for the two Eastern Band-run casinos in the state.

French said his concern was not money but rather getting through the process.

“It has to do with sovereignty, the sovereignty of all native tribes. Prove who you are and you’ll be fine,” French said.


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