First Posted: 1/15/2009
Lumbee leaders, along with the assistance of Lumbee supporters and a topnotch college basketball coach, went before a congressional committee last Wednesday morning to testify in gaining federal recognition status and to receive the benefits the Lumbees feel they so richly deserve.
Tribal Chairman Jimmy Goins, Indiana University head basketball coach Kelvin Sampson, who is Lumbee, and other supporters, spoke on behalf of the tribe in front of the House Committee on Natural Resources to plead their case once again.
Tribal leaders have already appeared before these congressional committees three times in the past four years when these bills have been introduced, but none of the bills have gone before Congress for any type of vote.
The latest bill for Lumbee federal recognition was introduced in January by U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre (NC-7th), a Lumberton native and a Democrat. Rep. McIntyre said in The Fayetteville Observer on Wednesday, April 18, that the bill has a good chance in this session of Congress.
Two others supporters of the Lumbee bill, Rep. Nick Rahall II, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Rep. Don Young of Alaska, are both on the House Committee on Natural Resources. Rep. Young is the ranking Republican on the committee.
If the Lumbees would gain federal recognition this time around, it could mean $473 million to the tribe over a period of four years for economic development, education, health and housing. Tribal members would be assisted in the counties of Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson and Scotland.
In the nation, there are some 57,000 Lumbees with about 40,000 of them living in Robeson and the surrounding counties.
Other supporters of the Lumbee bill who joined the hearing include U.S. Senators Elizabeth Dole and Congressman Robyn Hayes, anthropologist Jack Campisi and Lumbee attorney Arlinda Locklear. Sen. Richard Burr is a strong supporter of the bill, but do to a conflict, he could not be present but sent along a statement.
“This is the best hearing we’ve ever had and it’s unusual when you have the chairman of the committee, a Democrat, and the minority leader, a Republican, co-sponsoring our bill,” said Mr. Goins. “This is the first time it’s ever happened and we feel very positive that it will come out of the committee and go to the floor of the House (of Representatives) for a full debate and we feel very good about it in the House.”
The tribe has attempted to become a federally recognized group for over 100 years. In 1956, Congress did recognize them as Indians, but did not provide them certain benefits that were already given to other federally recognized tribes in the United States.
The following is an excerpt from Sen. Dole’s testimony in an issued press release.
“I have had many opportunities to visit with the Lumbees,” said Sen. Dole during her testimony on Wednesday in front of the committee. “They are a people of great pride, and I am in awe of their steadfastness on this issue, even after years of disappointments. I am confident that after hearing testimony today, you will agree that the Lumbee Tribe deserves full federal recognition, and I urge you to report out this legislation as expeditiously as possible. Simply put, this is about righting a wrong