Providing for the acknowledgment of the Lumbee Indian tribe of North Carolina, and for other purposes

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Providing for the acknowledgment of the Lumbee Indian tribe of North Carolina, and for other purposes. Report, Senate Comm. on Indian Affairs. S. Rept. 108-213. 11 p. Dated November 25, 2003. Y1.1/5: 108-213.


In this report, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs conveys a favorable report on Senate bill 420, proposing passage of the bill with an amendment in the nature of a substitution. According to the report, “the substitute amendment adopted by the Committee is identical to H.R. 898 [Under “Search bill text 108th Congress,” in the Bill Number Search Box, type in: H.R.898] introduced by Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Hayes in the House of Representatives on February 25, 2003, and referred to the House Committee on Resources” (p. 1).

The Background section provides a brief but detailed account of the tribe’s “voluminous Congressional and administrative record” dating back to 1899 as far as efforts to obtain support and true federal recognition. One highlight of this section is the fact that the Tiwa Tribe of Texas, the only other Indian tribe to have been in the same anomalous position as the Lumbee, received true recognition in 1987 through Congressional legislation (PL 100-89, 101 Stat. 667). The 1968 statute that first acknowledged the Tiwa was modeled on the 1956 Lumbee Act. Like the Lumbee Act, this statute precluded delivery of federal services.

The report briefly reviews testimony from the September 17, 2003 hearing arguing that the Lumbee meet all the mandatory criteria for acknowledgment set fort by the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Federal Acknowledgment process except one. In summary:

  • Numerous administrative and Congressional reports establish the tribe’s descent from the Cheraw and other Siouan-speaking tribes.
  • Research by Dr. Jack Campisi establishes that the tribe meets the “high evidence” standard (i.e., exceeds the minimum 50% requirement) for exerting community and political authority over its people, as shown by the tribe’s geographic concentration and marriage of tribal members within the tribe.
  • The tribe’s history shows that it has long had a separate existence as a political community. A few examples of major events include the Henry Berry Lowrie era (during which Lowrie was protected by members of the tribe and was never captured), establishment in 1887 of a state-funded school system for Lumbee children, and establishment in 1888 of a normal school to education Lumbee teachers.
  • The only major criterion not met by the tribe is that it not be “the subject of congressional legislation that has expressly terminated or forbidden the federal relationship”—as the 1956 Lumbee Act does. In response to this criterion, the Committee stressed its belief that the Lumbee Tribe differs from all other non-Federally recognized tribes. First, the Lumbee are the largest of such tribes (with 53,000 enrolled members). The Committee received a letter from Bud Shapard, the primary author of the BIA’s federal acknowledgment regulations, supporting S. 420 and observing that the regulations were not designed to accommodate petitions from tribes as large as the Lumbee. Other differences include the tribe’s extensive record of interactions with Congress and the federal government, dating back to 1899 and thus corroborating the tribe’s history as a political community, and the tribe’s support from the leaders of other tribes and from Indian organizations (including the National Congress of American Indians and some tribes within the United South and Eastern Tribes). Thus, “the Committee is of the view that recognition by special legislation is the appropriate remedy to the Tribe’s anomalous status” (p. 5).

    In the report’s discussion of major provisions of S. 420, “the Committee further notes that section 2 does not restore the Tribe, but extends Federal recognition. Thus, the bill is not deemed to be a restoration act, for purposes of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. section 2701 et seq., or otherwise” (p. 5). [Note: Some guidance in understanding this statement can be obtained from a memorandum by the National Indian Gaming Commission regarding the situation of the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of the Chico Rancheria. The memorandum explains that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act precludes gaming on trust land acquired after October 17, 1988, unless the land meets one of several statutory exemptions. The statutory exemptions include land restored to a tribe that is “restored” to federal recognition.

    The report includes a cost estimate for S. 420 provided by the Congressional Budget Office. If the tribe receives benefits and services at a level comparable to other tribes already recognized, the bill would cost the federal government $430 million for the entire 2004-2008 period. The bill does not authorize that funds in a specific amount be appropriated for the Lumbee. Section 6 states, “There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as are necessary to carry out this act” (p. 11). It does, however, make tribal members eligible for services from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service. Programs from the BIA would include adult care, child and family services, child welfare services,and general assistance. BIA services would cost an estimated $15 million in 2004 and $100 million over the next five years for the 34,000 eligible Lumbees. Indian Health Services would cost an estimated $60 million in 2004 and $330 million for the entire 2004-2008 period for the 34,000 eligible Lumbees.

    An important provision of Section 2 of S. 420 is that “any group of Indians in Robeson and adjoining counties, North Carolina, whose members are not enrolled in the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina as determined under section 3(c), may petition under part 83 of title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations for acknowledgment of tribal existence” (p. 10).

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Full text available at the Library of Congress’s THOMAS site: Under the Committee Information heading, click on: Committee Reports. Then, check the circle for Senate Reports. Then, in the Report Number Box, type in: 108-213.

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