A Persistent People's Long Quest for Justice

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Emanuel, Ryan. "A Persistent People's Long Quest for Justice." News and Observer. December 15, 2010.


When a piece of legislation expires at the end of the Congress session, it is a blow felt by those who were affected by it. But when the same thing has happened 61 times, the feeling is one of frustration and looming disappointment. This is the feelings felt by the North Carolina Lumbee tribe. These American Indians have been petitioning Congress for federal recognition since 1888. A recognition bill that was in queue for the 111th Congress is only the latest in a long line of recognition bills hoping for full federal recognition. The billed past the House but awaited the Senate vote since October 2009. Six senators have been playing procedural games with the bill - using the so-called secret hold - to prevent a final vote. They are trying to bring back a long ago failed federal policy known as Termination. Simply put, Termination (which lasted from the late 1940s to the late 1960s) aimed to extinguish government-to-government relationships between the United States and American Indian tribes, "freeing" Indians from "Federal supervision and control," in the words of Congress. The hope was that the American Indians would assimilate into mainstream society. The federal government eventually stopped pursuing Termination, but not before more than 100 American Indian groups were impacted. In 1956, the Lumbee Indians were granted acknowledgement as American Indians, but denied them federal recognition and the privileges that go along with that recognition. This half recognition prevents the Lumbee Indians from gaining full recognition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs as well. The Lumbee are the only tribe that are currently not recognized, thanks to the senators blocking the latest attempt for federal recognition. The State of North Carolina has officially recognized the tribe since 1885 under three different names prior to "Lumbee." This has caused issues for the tribe's quest for recognition, but the historical evidence states that the people who do not wish for the Lumbee to have full recognition heavily influenced these name changes. The name "Lumbee" comes from the river that runs through Robeson County, the principal seat of the tribe. There is much research on the Lumbee tribe, done by scholars like UNC history professor and Lumbee Malinda Maynor Lowery, and Appalachian State University library professor Glenn Ellen Starr Stilling.

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