The Lumbee tribe and its quest for federal recognition: Lumbee Centurions on the Trail of Many Years.

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Wilkins, David E. “The Lumbee tribe and its quest for federal recognition: Lumbee Centurions on the Trail of Many Years.” In: A good Cherokee, a good anthropologist. Ed. Steve Pavlik. Los Angeles: American Indian Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles, 1998. Pp. 149-75. Key source


Detailed, clearly written, and convincingly argued, this essay is an essential source for anyone wishing to understand the historical issues involved in Lumbee efforts to obtain federal recognition. The sections of the essay include: 

  • brief review of Robert K. Thomas's involvement with the Lumbee [he was hired by LRDA (Lumbee Regional Development Association) to prepare an anthropological and historical report on Lumbee origins, which he worked on for two years and finished in 1980 (see item THOM001)]; 
  • the seven Native American entities in Robeson County that are seeking recognition as American Indian tribes; 
  • four categories of reasons the Lumbee have for seeking federal recognition (legal, fiscal, policy/administrative, and cultural); 
  • four reasons the tribe has been unsuccessful in obtaining federal recognition (policy conflicts; fiscal/demographic; administrative/legislative; and cultural). 

Wilkins gives convincing rationale for the position that the federal government should recognize all Indian groups, not just those which can prove earlier political involvement with the federal government. He analyzes the federal government's and some other tribes' objections to Congressional recognition of the Lumbee, and points out the limitations of the federal acknowledgment process. In discussing Thomas's findings in his 1980 report, Wilkins quotes Thomas: “Many Indians in Robeson County feel as if the federal government has neglected them for many years. Official recognition on the part of the federal government that they are indeed Indian would be something of an apology and a confession on the part of the federal government that officialdom has been lax in recognizing not only that the Lumbees are Indians but a respectable and worthy community in the world” (Thomas p. 63, quoted on p. 161). 

According to Wilkins, Thomas recommends that the tribe conduct further research into church and land records; migration patterns of the Hatteras tribe from the coast to Robeson County; modern Lumbee social organization and culture; and Lumbee English (see Category 6 of this Annotated Bibliography Supplement; the North Carolina Language and Life Project, and scholars formerly involved with it, are meeting this recommendation).

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