Congress adjourns without taking action on Lumbee recognition

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Hixenbaugh, Mike. "Congress adjourns without taking action on Lumbee recognition." Fayetteville Observer. December 24, 2010.


The 111th Congress adjourned December 22, 2010, without giving the Lumbee tribe full federal recognition. Tribal leaders had hoped that the recognition bill would pass during the lame-duck session. Instead, the Senate wrapped up the session ahead of the Christmas holiday.

Lumbee Tribal Chairman, Purnell Swett, released a statement thanking North Carolina's senators, Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Richard Burr, for their efforts.

"Without the dedication of these individuals, the Lumbee bill could not have made such unprecedented advancement and received such bipartisan support," Swett said in the statement.

In 1956, Congress recognized the Lumbee, but denied the financial benefits afforded to other native groups. If the bill passes, the tribe would have granted its 55,000 members hundreds of millions of dollars for education, health care and economic development.

Lawmakers representing states that are populated by other federally recognized tribes were the top opponents to the bill. At least six senators had procedural holds on the bill.

The recognition billed passed the House last year, but stalled in the Senate as the tribe grappled internally over its own lobbying strategy.

The tribal government was involved in controversy after the Tribal Council agreed to hire Nevada-based gaming consultant Lewin International. There was talk of a possible development of a casino on tribal property. However, the Lumbee leaders had previously agreed to a clause in the legislation barring the tribe from operating casinos.

Although the contract was terminated by both parties, the brief relationship damaged the tribe's credibility, preventing the bill from passing this session.

"I don't know that the bill definitely would have passed this year," Locklear said. "There is nothing certain in Congress. And this bill is controversial, so it's not easy, even without the association with gaming. But I do know that the association with gaming made the bill virtually impossible to pass."

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