Part 8: Reflections on the Battle for Lumbee Recognition

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Locklear, Arlinda. "Part 8: Reflections on the Battle for Lumbee Recognition." YouTube. 28 April 2010.


Arlinda Locklear continues her lecture on the Lumbee's fight for recognition to a group of students at UNC-Chapel Hill in this eighth video segment by discussing why Congress should grant the Lumbee federal recognition.

For one thing, Locklear says that "it's obvious that the Lumbee people are an Indian tribe." She proves this by discussing some of the seven criteria the Department of the Interior (DOI) requires tribes to prove before gaining recognition.

Locklear begins by discussing proof of descent from a historical Indian tribe. She says that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) states that the Lumbee don't meet the genealogical requirements of the Cheraw community of Robeson County from whom the Lumbee claim descent. She says that regulations began in 1789 to determine Indianness.

From as early as 1732 there is historical evidence that the Cheraw community was on Drowning Creek (Lumber River), says Locklear. Other historical records are clear from 1783. She says the BIA claims that there is not genealogical proof until starting in 1790 after the first census was taken. Due to this small gap in time and that the census showed the Cheraw Indians as just Indians, not classified as Cheraw Indians, the BIA say that the Lumbee fail to meet these criteria.

Locklear says that there is plenty historical proof, which is what the criteria call for, "proof of descent from a historical tribe." She says that the BIA ignore this and still want genealogical proof despite the fact that countless historians agree that the Lumbee are descendants of the Cheraw community. Another criteria Locklear speaks of is proof of community.

Regulations say that a tribe must prove one of two things: that 50 percent or more of the tribe is married to other tribal members or that 50 percent reside in communities that are predominantly Indian. Locklear says that the Lumbee far exceed these criteria and there is proof from the first census taken in 1790.

Another criteria that Locklear discusses is that of a continuous political authority in the tribe. She says history has recorded plenty of controversy within the Lumbee tribe and community; that controversy, admit the BIA, proves political authority.

Locklear sites an example from 1911 when the state of North Carolina attempted to interfere in the Lumbee school system, which the state had granted Lumbee full control over earlier. She says that the Attorney General said the governor could overrule decisions from the Lumbee about their school system. Lumbee leaders said no and went to state legislation and had the decision overruled two years later, giving the Lumbee full authority of their school systems.

Locklear says that in 1895, when the town of Pembroke was incorporated into the state as an "obviously" all Indian community, the governor decided that towns such as Pembroke would not be allowed to elect their own mayors but would instead have their mayor chosen by the governor. Locklear says that this was the case from 1895 until shortly after WWII when Indian veterans came home and decided to fight the state for their right to elect their own officials. The Lumbee won this battle at the state level, once again.

Locklear discusses one last section of the Lumbee's long fight for recognition. She talks about special Indian agents sent from the BIA in direct reaction to Lumbee bills of recognition and from direction from Congress to find out if the Lumbee were really Indians and if there were really as many as they reported. She says there were eleven different occasions of such agents being sent to Robeson County between 1914 and1956. Out of each of those visits, the BIA came back saying that the Lumbee were Indians and that there were as many as they said there were, and even that the Lumbee did descend from the Cheraw. She mentions one case in particular from 1924 when a special Indian agent from the Cherokee Tribe visited the Lumbee. When he went back to the BIA, he said that yes, the Lumbee are Indians.

Locklear says that the history is there, that there is no need to do further tests on the Lumbee, and that there is no need to keep singling out the Lumbee.

She concludes with a quote from, as she says, a great friend of the Lumbee people, Congressman Mike McIntyre. She says that McIntyre likes to sum up his  review of the Lumbee struggle by saying, "it's time for discrimination to end and recognition to begin."

"I can't tell you folks how long it's going to take. We all hope it's this Congress. I don't know whether it will be this Congress or not. But I can tell you this, it will happen one day, it will happen one day," Locklear tells her audience as she finishes her lecture on a reflection of the Lumbee's fight for recognition.

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