Senate Lumbee Recognition Bill Introduced
Special Report - October 6, 2009
On October 1, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr (RNC) introduced legislation aimed at providing federal recognition to North Carolina's 55,000-plus member Lumbee Indian tribe. S.B.1735 was cosponsored by Sen. Kay Hagan (DNC). The House version of the bill H.R. 31Lumbee Recognition Act, sponsored by Rep. Mike McIntyre (DNC), passed the U.S. House in June by a vote of 240 to 179. The full federal recognition sought by the bill would allow the Lumbee tribe to access millions of dollars in federal funds for healthcare, education, housing and other services. Federal recognition also usually brings along the right of the tribe to negotiate a gambling agreement, or compact, with the state in which the tribe is located. However, H.R. 31 includes a provision that prohibits the tribe from offering gambling in North Carolina. The provision states: “The tribe may not conduct gaming activities as a matter of claimed inherent authority or under the authority of any Federal law, including the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act or under any regulations thereunder promulgated by the Secretary or the National Indian Gaming Commission.”
Last session, a virtually identical bill passed the U.S. House and a committee in the U.S. Senate, but failed to garner the necessary support to gain approval by the full Senate. This bill is expected to go through the Senate Indian Affairs Committee before the full Senate would consider it. President Barack Obama has voiced support for recognition of the Lumbee tribe. North Carolina Representatives G.K. Butterfield, Howard Coble, Bob Etheridge, Larry Kissell, Brad Miller, David E. Price, and Melvin L. Watt cosponsored the legislation. Further information can be found in the House Report on the measure.
Some other Indian tribes oppose congressional recognition of the Lumbees because of disagreement over the tribe’s ability to trace members to an historic tribe. Congress did partially recognize the Lumbees in 1956, but denied them the federal benefits of recognition. In April 2007, the North Carolina Family Policy Council submitted a letter to Rep. McIntyre requesting that the Lumbee Recognition Act be amended in order to avoid expanded Indian gaming in North Carolina.
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