Lumbee Recognition Act.

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103rd Cong. Lumbee Recognition Act. Report together with dissenting views to accompany H.R. 334. House Report no. 130-290. House Committee on Natural Resources. Dated 14 October 1993. Approximately 194 pages.


This report, which recommends the passage of H.R. 334, for recognition of the Lumbee Tribe of Cheraw Indians of North Carolina, contains a wealth of historical and political information about the tribe, which is outlined below.

* The first bill to recognize the Lumbee Indians (then known as the Croatans) was introduced in 1899. Since then, a number of bills have been introduced, failing due to opposition from the Department of Interior (due to the cost of servicing such a large tribe) and from other recognized tribes (often because they fear recognition of the Lumbee will case a reduction in services to their own members). Though the Lumbee receive funds from some federal Indian programs, they have never been aided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Indian Health Service.

* Several authorities--including Special Indian Agent O.M. McPherson (in 1914), the Bureau of Ethnology's John Swanton (1934), the tribe's ethnohistorian Jack Campisi, and the Smithsonian Institution's William Sturtevant--agree on the tribe's descent from the Siouan-speaking Cheraw Indians.

* References to the Lumbee's ancestors appeared in newspaper and other written accounts during the 1700s.

* The Lumbee Act of 1956 was a model for the 1968 Act which “recognized” the Tiwa Indians of Texas. Congress granted full recognition to the Tiwas in 1987.

* Congress has recognized ten tribes which, like the Lumbee, were ruled ineligible (according to the Associate Solicitor of Indian Affairs) to be judged for recognition under the BIA's federal acknowledgment process (i.e., by submission and consideration of a documented petition, known as the administrative process).

* The Lumbee submitted a copiously documented petition to the BIA on December 17, 1987. Dr. Jack Campisi, principal author of the petition, states that the historical record of the Lumbee's presence in Robeson County is sporadic during certain periods because non-Indian settlement in Robeson County occurred rather late (about 1830), thus there were no literate persons or local governments to document the tribe's existence. Before finding the tribe ineligible for recognition under the petition process, the BIA held the tribe's materials for nearly two years without completing in the initial “obvious deficiency” review. A BIA official testified at a hearing on an earlier Lumbee recognition bill that the tribe's documentation was inadequate. After exhaustive research, however, the tribe is unable to produce more documentation. Several anthropologists, including the Smithsonian's William Sturtevant, agree that the Lumbee are a Indian tribe. Thus Congressional recognition is the only fair avenue for the Lumbee.

* Most tribes that have become federally recognized did so through Congress, treaty, or statute. The current administrative process was created by delegation of authority from Congress to the BIA, but there is no statute saying that the administrative process must be the only route.

* Once the Lumbee Recognition Act is passed, the tribe, since it does not have a reservation, must be granted a separate line item in the budget of agencies that provide services to federally recognized tribes.  Thus, “Congress can increase the agencies' funding levels to reflect the additional cost of service to Lumbee tribal members if it so chooses, but H.R. 334 does not require such an increase” (p. 8).

* Includes a detailed letter from Dr. James H. Merrell, who wrote a book called The Indians' new world: Catawbas and their neighbors from European contact through the era of removal.  Merrell comments that “Carolina Indians in general, and natives in that part (i.e., the Lumbee homeland) of Carolina in particular, are among the most poorly documented peoples in American history.... One of the reasons Native people survived in that area is the same reason we know so little about the origins of those people: it was considered a backwater of little interest or use to whites, so displaced Indians could coalesce there free from the destructive pressures faced by other remnant groups” (approx. p. 110).

* Through a list of documents Cynthia L. Hunt (Indian Law Unit) provided the committee, the report gives a detailed record (dating from 1890) of Lumbee attempts to gain federal recognition and assistance; the various tribal names enacted through state legislation; and various scholarly and governmental documents, reports and correspondence that discuss the tribe.

* The report reprints the lengthy and detailed “Historical Narrative” section of the 1987 Lumbee petition (for a description, see The Lumbee Indians: an annotated bibliography (1994), item 57).

* The Lumbee Act would make all laws that are generally applicable to Indians and Indian tribes applicable to the “Lumbee Tribe of Cheraw Indians” and its members.  For proposed delivery of services, tribal members who reside in Robeson and neighboring counties are considered resident on or near an Indian reservation. The Secretaries of Interior and Health and Human Services will work with the tribe to determine its needs and draw up a Congressional recognition budget, which will be submitted to Congress after one fiscal year (during which the tribal roll will be verified by the Secretary of the Interior). The Congressional Budget office estimated the additional costs to the federal government would be “$80 million to $100 million a year, if the necessary funds are appropriated” (approx. p. 119). This cost would be about $2,000-$2,500 per tribal member - less than the national average of $3,500 since the Lumbee are state-recognized and are already receiving some federal benefits.

* Opponents of the bill cite testimony from hearings on the 1956 Lumbee Act in which Congressman Aspinall asks the bill's sponsor, Congressman Frank Carlyle, what the Lumbee expect to get from the bill's passage, since nothing in the bill calls for any upkeep or expenditure. Carlyle states that "no one has ever mentioned to me any interest in that, that they had any interest in becoming a part of the reservation or asking the federal government for anything. Their purpose in this legislation is to have a name that they think is appropriate for their group" (approx. p. 7 of part 2). Then Congressman Aspinall asked Rev. Lowry if members of the tribe anticipated that, after receiving the designation Lumbee, they would come to Congress and ask for any benefits that otherwise go to Indian tribes. Lowry replied “No.” According to the current Lumbee Act's opponents, this testimony belies the committee majority's contention that the Lumbee understood the 1956 Act's intent to be recognition. The opponents state that their objections, and those of some federally recognized tribes, are not because of fears that recognition of the Lumbee would reduce the pool of federal funds available to other tribes. The opponents point out that the bill does not immediately grant funds; it requires that a budget and a separate Congressional appropriation be established. The opponents also discuss what they see as significant differences between the Tiwa Act and the 1956 Lumbee Act.

*Includes an amendment in the nature of a substitution to H.R. 334, submitted by the Department of the Interior,which would allow the Lumbee to go through the BIA's petition process. The Department of Interior opposes enactment of H.R.334. Also includes letters from a number of federally recognized tribes opposing enactment of earlier, similar bills and stating that the Lumbee should go through the BIA's Federal Acknowledgment (Petition) Process (or FAP).

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