The Lumbee Tribe Of North Carolina is continuing with its efforts to gain full federal recognition and revealed that its Chairman, Harvey Godwin, will be appearing before the Senate Committee On Indian Affairs later today to testify in favour of proposed legislation known as S-2285.
According to a report from The Robesonian newspaper, Godwin will be on Capitol Hill asking Senators to approve the legislation, which would amend an existing measure passed in 1956 and grant the 55,000-strong tribe full federal recognition.
Introduced by North Carolina Senator Richard Burr in November, the measure, which is also known as the Lumbee Recognition Act, would make members of the Lumbee Tribe Of North Carolina eligible for services and benefits provided to members of other federally-recognized tribes and allow the US Department Of Interior to take land into trust for the tribe for multiple purposes including gaming.
“Senator Burr is looking forward to the upcoming Senate Committee On Indian Affairs hearing, which will feature witness testimony on his bill to provide full federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe Of North Carolina,” said a spokesperson for the 60-year-old Republican Senator. “This hearing is a good opportunity to examine federal recognition and let lawmakers better understand both the process, the benefits and the drawbacks for the Lumbee Tribe Of North Carolina.”
The Lumbee Tribe Of North Carolina is currently only recognized in its home state while its efforts to gain full federal acknowledgment have long been opposed by the Eastern Band Of Cherokee Indians, which owns two North Carolina casinos in its Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino And Hotel along with the nearby Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort.
The Robesonian reported that Burr and Godwin have been discussing federal recognition for the Lumbee Tribe Of North Carolina, which is centered around Robeson County, ever since the latter was elected in November.
“Senator Burr and Chairman Godwin have worked together on how best to move the tribe forward,” said the spokesperson for Burr. “Senator Burr is looking forward to continuing their partnership.”
A similar measure known as HR-184 and introduced into the federal House Of Representatives in January of 2015 by local representative Richard Hudson would authorize the US Department Of Interior via its Bureau Of Indian Affairs to place land into trust for the Lumbee Tribe Of North Carolina but would crucially prohibit such parcels from being used for gambling. This legislation has not yet received a hearing while Congress itself has not passed a federal stand-alone recognition bill since the mid-1990s with representatives often citing concerns over gambling for their opposition.
“The Senate committee in the past has viewed gaming to be a right for recognized tribes,” Arlinda Locklear, an attorney and member of the Lumbee Tribe Of North Carolina, told The Robesonian. “The provision allowing gaming was probably added to the present Senate bill because it has historically been the pattern of the committee to accept gaming.”
Despite historically opposing such federal recognition legislation, the administration of President Barack Obama changed its stance and endorsed the efforts of the Lumbee Tribe Of North Carolina in 2009.
“The Lumbee Tribe Of North Carolina is the largest tribe this side of the Mississippi and for 125 years has sought full federal recognition,” read a statement from 44-year-old Hudson. “I commend Senator Richard Burr and Chairman John Barrasso for their efforts in holding this hearing. Southeastern North Carolina has made tremendous strides in economic growth and granting the Lumbee Tribe Of North Carolina federal recognition has the potential to spur job creation and further revitalize the region to make life better for everyone in our community.”