Constructing' nations within states: the Quest for federal recognition by the Catawba and Lumbee tribes.

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McCulloch, Anne Merline, and David E. Wilkins. “'Constructing' nations within states: the Quest for federal recognition by the Catawba and Lumbee tribes.” American Indian Quarterly 19.3 (Summer 1995): 361-88.  Key source.


After a useful background discussion of federal recognition (more accurately, federal acknowledgment), the authors analyze the federal recognition campaigns of the Catawba and Lumbee. They use the policy formulation model of Anne Scheider and Helen Ingram (American Political Science Review, June 1993, pp. 334-47) to test their “thesis that federal recognition is dependent on the tribe's externally and internally constructed social identities” (p. 362). They identify four factors which influence success or failure in achieving federal recognition: “(1) How well the tribe and its members meet the social construction of the image of an Indian; (2) How cohesive is the self-identity of the tribe's members? (3) The general public's perception of the legitimacy of the benefits or burdens directed toward a target population; and (4) What are the tribe's resources that can be used in support of its recognition efforts?” (369-370). The political defeats suffered by the Lumbee in their quest for federal recognition can be understood, according to this model: (1) Social construction of the tribe: The Lumbee do not have the aboriginal language, distinct tribal religion, treaties, reservation, and genetic purity which constitute the image of “real Indians” for many whites and some other tribes. (2) Social cohesiveness of the tribe: Some theories of Lumbee origin present them as an amalgamation of remnants of several Southeastern tribes. Also, beginning in 1970 with the ECTIO, several splinter groups emerged. The federal government may see these factors as signs of weakness in their social cohesion. (3) Perception of legitimacy of tribal benefits: The Lumbee have not fared as poorly, historically, as tribes which suffer broken treaties. The large population size of the Lumbee also makes it difficult for whites as well as other tribes to favor benefits for them. (4) Economic resources: The hypotheses does not hold for this factor because of the tribe's size. The authors note that this article is “a preliminary part of a larger book-length project” (note 97).

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Reprinted in: Nichols, Roger L. The American Indian: Past and Present. 6th edition. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008.
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97 notes