WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hold a hearing Wednesday on the Lumbee Recognition Act, which would federally recognize the Lumbee Tribe.
The act amends the Lumbee Recognition Act of June 7, 1956, which gave the tribe partial recognition. If approved by both the U.S. House and Senate, the act would make members of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina eligible for the services and benefits provided to members of all federally recognized tribes.
The Senate bill would also allow the U.S. Department of Interior to take land into trust for the tribe, with gaming being allowed on that land.
The act is among four bills being heard Wednesday by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from of North Carolina, on Nov. 17 of last year.
“Sen. Burr is looking forward to the upcoming Indian Affairs Committee hearing which will feature witness testimony on his bill to provide full federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina,” a spokesperson for Burr said in a statement. “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 Lumbees.”
Both Burr and Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. have been discussing Lumbee recognition since Godwin was elected.
“Sen. Burr and Chairman Godwin have worked together on how best to move the tribe forward,” the statement reads. “Sen. Burr is looking forward to continuing their partnership.”
Contacted by The Robesonian on Friday, Godwin declined to make any comments about the upcoming hearing.
“I can’t say anything at this time,” Godwin said. “I will comment after the hearing is held.”
The bill before the Senate differs from a similar bill introduced by Rep. Richard Hudson in the House on Jan. 7, 2015, in that it allows for gaming, such as a casino. Hudson’s bill calls for gaming to be prohibited.
Arlinda Locklear, an attorney who had represented the Lumbees for years in their efforts to obtain federal recognition, said Friday that a provision allowing gaming has always been popular among members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, but not so among House members. That’s why a prohibition against gaming was added to the House version of the bill introduced by former Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Democrat from Lumberton, several years ago, Locklear said.
“The Senate committee in the past has viewed gaming to be a right for recognized tribes,” she said. “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. “
Hudson in a statement Friday supported Burr’s efforts to move the Lumbee Recognition Act forward in the Senate.
“The Lumbees are the largest tribe this side of the Mississippi, and for 125 years have sought full federal recognition. I commend Sen. Richard Burr and Chairman (John) Barrasso for their efforts in holding this hearing,” Hudson said. “Southeastern North Carolina has made tremendous strides in economic growth, and granting the Lumbees federal recognition has the potential to spur job creation and further revitalize the region to make life better for everyone in our community.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.