Cohen, David Steven. "Valid objections to recognition by Congress." News and Observer [Raleigh, NC] December 15, 2010.
David Steven Cohen, author of The Ramapo Mountain People (Rutgers University Press, 1974), made the following comments in response to the latest bill for full federal recognition of the Lumbee Tribe:
Senator Kay Hagan made the Lumbee Bill a priority for the 2010 Congressional session. However, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opposed the bill.
In 1754, a report to the colonial governor of Bladen County, which is now Robeson County, talked about free Negroes or mulattoes. The report stated, "there were no arms stores or Indians in the county."
In the federal censuses from 1790 to 1830, Lumbee ancestors were listed as "free persons of color," a vague term that was used to describe people of racially mixed ancestry. Under the North Carolina Constitution of 1776, they were eligible to vote if they met the property qualification. Here the ancestors of the Lumbees were willing to accept free black identity, rather than be disqualified as American Indians, who were considered at that time to be foreign nations, rather than citizens of the United States.
In 1885, Democratic state legislator Hamilton McMillan introduced a bill to recognize the Lumbees as Croatan Indians "based on a folk legend that they were the descendants of the Lost Colony of Roanoke." Cohen's interpretation is that "the Lumbees adopted an Indian identity in a deal with the Democratic Party under which they were allowed to establish their own 'Indian' schools that excluded blacks in exchange for their voting for the Democratic ticket."
Cohen adds, "The Lumbees have no reservation, no treaties with the federal government, and no survivals of Indian language, customs or beliefs. The only evidence of a genealogical link between the Lumbees and a historic Indian tribe is oral tradition."