To the Editor,
Your Nov. 20 “Win-win” editorial regarding the Cherokee Nation’s desire to expand its gaming operation and the Lumbee Nation’s desire to obtain federal recognition hit the nail on the head. One would think that both sides would do just as you tended to suggest, sit down together and with members of the leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly and devise a plan that would be beneficial to both tribes and the state of North Carolina.
If the playing field were level, we’d surely have a deal, but we don’t. The Cherokees have, of course, had federal recognition for a long time and now as a result of gaming they have an enormous amount of money with which to buy influence. Lumbees have neither, but we do have numbers. As I understand it, the Cherokees refuse to even sit down with Lumbee leaders to discuss our recognition or their expansion or any other substantive subject. This I know: It is impossible to negotiate with yourself. There has to be a second party who will at least sit down and attempt to talk. So far the Cherokees refuse to do that. Not very Indian like, is it?
The Cherokees are obviously negotiating with the governor and the General Assembly. They think that they don’t need to talk to the Lumbee Nation. Wrong! Sooner or later, Lumbees will obtain federal recognition, either through legislation or through the courts, with or without the usual benefits, but certainly with the right to operate our own gaming industry. Then and only then will this playing field be level. Maybe they’ll talk then.
In the mean time, Lumbees desperately need Gov. Perdue and the General Assembly to be mindful that the Cherokees will not talk with us. Ultimately, this discussion is the only way there can be a win-win-win for both tribes and the state of North Carolina.