WASHINGTON — Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in Congress seeking full federal recognition for the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, whose members make up almost 40 percent of Robeson County’s population.
The legislation was introduced Friday by U.S. Reps. Richard Hudson and Mike McIntyre. Hudson, a Republican, is a freshman legislator from Concord who represents the 8th District, which includes most of Robeson County, and McIntyre, a Lumberton native and Democrat, represents the 7th District, which includes a small slice of the county.
McIntyre has been seeking recognition for the Lumbee tribe since he joined Congress in 1997.
Paul Brooks, chairman of the Lumbee Tribal Council, recently met with Hudson to discuss the legislation.
The Lumbee Recognition Act is the same bill that has been filed during the past three congressional sessions, Brooks said.
“It’s time to do it,” Brooks told The Fayetteville Observer. “Let’s get it done. The whole population of the Lumbee will enjoy a better way of life, and actually the whole area will be blessed.”
The Lumbees have sought federal recognition since 1888. Congress recognized the tribe in 1956, but denied its members financial benefits afforded to other federally recognized tribes.
In 1989, the Lumbees petitioned the Bureau of Indian Affairs for full federal recognition. But the solicitor general said that because of language in the Lumbee Act of 1956, the tribe could only be recognized through Congress.
Lumbee recognition could mean hundreds of millions of dollars a year that would flow into Robeson County to enhance economic development, health care and educational opportunities for the tribe.
“Congressman McIntyre and I have introduced this bill to end the discriminatory policy against the Lumbee tribe and bring forward equal treatment so the Lumbees can receive the same benefits that every other federal tribe currently enjoys,” Hudson said in a statement. “Granting the Lumbees federal recognition is critically necessary to creating jobs and revitalizing a region plagued by chronically high unemployment and a slow economic recovery.”