Looking back while walking forward.

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Hunt, Cynthia L. “Looking back while walking forward (column).” Carolina Indian Voice 29 June 2000: 4.


This installment begins with an explanation of the origin and meaning of the column's title. Then, Hunt concludes her series of columns on the 1956 Lumbee Act. The act did not provide true federal recognition because it contains the statement, “Nothing in this Act shall make such Indians eligible for any services performed by the United States for Indians because of their status as Indians, and none of the statutes of the United States which affect Indians shall be applicable to the Lumbee Indians.” The Lumbee tried to remedy this problem by conducting exhaustive research and, in December 1981, submitting a petition for true federal recognition under the Federal Acknowledgement Process (25 CFR Part 83). One criterion in this process, Criterion 83.7, stipulates that “Neither the petitioner nor its members are the subject of congressional legislation that has expressly terminated or forbidden the Federal relationship.” The tribe tried to obtain a legal opinion from the Solicitor's Office in Indian Affairs on whether the language of the Lumbee Act would disqualify them from the petition process but was unable to get help. In meetings of tribal officials and the tribe's Petition researchers with Branch of Acknowledgement Research staff, these staff felt the Lumbee Act language would not be a problem. After the Petition was submitted, however, and the tribe was trying to obtain federal recognition through a bill introduced by Congressman Charlie Rose, rather than wait ten years for the petition to be processed, N.C. Senator Jesse Helms obtained a Solicitor's Office ruling on the Lumbee Act (see The Lumbee Indians: an annotated bibliography, item 685).

William G. Lavell, Associate Solicitor--Indian Affairs, ruled on October 23, 1989, that the 1956 Lumbee Act prohibited the tribe from using the Federal Acknowledgement (petition) Process. Opponents to Congressional recognition of the Lumbee continue to argue that the tribe should use the petition process, suggesting that the tribe ask Congress to amend the 1956 Lumbee Act to remove the language that prohibits use of the petition process.

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