Lumbee recognition: What does it really mean?

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Locklear, Mark. "Lumbee recognition: What does it really mean?" Robesonian Monday, June 18, 2007.


A bill to provide true federal acknowledgment for the Lumbee Tribe passed the full House of Representatives on June 7, 2007. This article, based on an interview with Arlinda Locklear, a Lumbee attorney who has helped the tribe work toward federal acknowledgment since 1987. The article includes the following points about the steps remaining in the process and about what true federal acknowledgment would (and would not) mean:

• For true federal recognition to be final, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs must hold a hearing on the bill and vote to approve the bill. Then, the bill must pass a vote on the floor of the full Senate. Then, President Bush would have to sign the bill.

• The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) must then verify the tribal roll. After that, the BIA and the Indian Health Service (IHS) would assess the needs of the tribe and send a request to Congress for funding to meet those needs.

• Within the first year, the Lumbee Tribe's government would then receive "new tribes money" that would be used to establish the mechanisms for administering programs funded by the money from the BIA and IHS. The amount could be as much as $6 million and would come from the Eastern Regional Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

• It would take three to four years for members of the Lumbee Tribe to begin receiving services from the BIA and the IHS. The main new service would be health care, which probably would be administered through health care providers already in place in Robeson County. Tribal members probably would receive a card saying they are eligible for services; physicians would then be reimbursed by the IHS.

• True federal recognition would make the tribe a government, thus not subject to several state taxes and able to attract businesses to the area. The tribe could also develop an industrial park and provide incentives to businesses that employ Indians.

• Other services for which the Lumbee might be eligible (based on need) include housing improvement funds, burial funds for indigent people, adult care, emergency and disaster assistance, and Indian child welfare grants.

• Services would be available to enrolled members of the Lumbee Tribe who live in Robeson, Cumberland, Scotland, or Hoke counties; these counties are designated as the tribal territory.

• Before the current bill passed the full House of Representatives, it was modified to forbid gambling; so the Lumbee Tribe would not be allowed to open a casino. This also means that tribal members will not receive individual checks. The checks that individuals in federally recognized tribes receive are payments of profits from casinos.

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