NC Lumbee Tribe Seeks Federal Recognition

Written By Janice Doughtrey

Lumbee tribe based out of North Carolina is seeking federal recognition

In order for a tribe to be given special rights by the federal government, they must first be recognized as an official Indian tribe. This is exactly what the Lumbee Tribe that is based out of North Carolina is seeking as they work towards becoming fully federally recognized as such. The tribe’s Chairman Harvey Godwin will be making his an appearance in front of the Senate in order to speak out in support of S-2285.

This small piece of legislature would make a big impact on the tribe if it is approved. It would create an amendment on the previous measure that was approved back in 1956 to allow for the full 55,000 strong tribe to become federally recognized.

Also known as the Lumbee Recognition Act, this measure was first introduced last year by Senator Richard Burr in the later part of November. It would provide residents of the Lumbee Tribe access to benefits that get provided to all federally recognized tribes throughout the United States, and it would also give them the benefit provided by the US Department of Interior which allows for the government to provide land taken into trust for various purposes decided upon by the tribe, which would include gambling venues.

As of now the Lumbee Tribe is only recognized within the state of North Carolina, which limits the federal benefits that the tribe receives. There is opposition to their rights to become federally recognized, as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is against the federal government taking the tribe in. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians already own two casinos in the area, one of which includes a resort. Adding in an additional tribe and providing land that would allow for another casino to be built would pin competition against the currently standing casinos, something they are obviously opposed to.

The tribe has been seeking federal recognition for over the past 125 years. The efforts of the tribe were previously endorsed by president Barack Obama’s administration back in 2009.

There was a similar measure that had previously been put forth that was known as HR-184, which was introduced last year in January. It gave authorization for the US Department of Interior to place land into trust on behalf of the Lumbee Tribe, but it came with a stipulation. Any land granted to the tribe would not be allocated for gaming purposes. This would prevent the tribe from building casinos or gaming venues on this new land, which wouldn’t given them the same equal rights as other tribes in the area. This piece of legislature has failed to get a hearing and is unlikely to move forward.

Much of the opposition fully centers around gambling more so than actually granting the tribe land. Many are opposed to putting in more casinos, and of course nearby tribes don’t want the added competition for their current establishments. Should S-2285 pass, the tribe would be allowed to set up these types of venues on their new land granted in trust to the tribe.