PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Recognition Bill has little chance of being passed this year in the U.S. Congress, according to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina’s former Washington federal recognition representative. But the tribe’s chairman insists he is optimistic.
Attorney Arlinda Locklear, who represented the tribe in Washington for more than 20 years, said Tuesday that the committee makeups in both the House and Senate, as well as the general atmosphere in Washington, are not conducive to the bill’s passage.
Locklear said that even if the bill is introduced and referred to the House Natural Resources Committee, it is unlikely that Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, a Republican from Washington state, would allow the bill to be heard in the committee. She also said that although the bill might be heard in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs — chaired by Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington state — it is unlikely that the bill would make it out of committee to the Senate floor.
“I follow the issue closely because I represent two other tribes seeking recognition,” Locklear said. “It’s early in the (congressional) session, but there’s been no commitment to the bill. I don’t see any movement.”
Locklear’s opinion varies sharply with that of Lumbee Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks, who told The Robesonian recently that he is “optimistic” that the bill could pass during this session of the Congress. Brooks said that he has been in Washington working with North Carolina’s senators and House representatives to create a recognition bill that both Democrats and Republicans can accept.
“We’re trying to make this a bipartisan bill,” Brooks said.
Mike McIntyre, a Democrat from Lumberton who at the start of the past two congressional sessions immediately submitted a Lumbee Recognition Bill, said he is working with Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican from Concord, to develop a strategy for moving a new bill through the House.
“I am very pleased that the U.S. House has twice passed this measure, and I’ll do all I can to help the Lumbee people and the Lumbee Tribe,” McIntyre said. “The timing, introduction, and best strategy depends on several circumstances, which we are currently discussing with Congressman Hudson. These circumstances include the best way to deal with the congressional committee of jurisdiction and the floor schedule of the new congress.”
Hudson, a freshman representative whose 8th District includes most of Robeson County, has pledged to help the Lumbee Tribe receive the recognition he says it “deserves.”
“I had the pleasure of sitting down and meeting with many of the Lumbee leaders on my recent Listening Tour in Robeson County,” Hudson said. “After a very informative meeting, I assured them that I will continue the conversation started on their behalf in Congress and will work hard to help their tribe receive the federal recognition it deserves.
“I am currently working with the appropriate stakeholders and my North Carolina colleagues from the House and Senate, most notably Congressman McIntyre, to figure out the best path forward so that any legislation we introduce will have the highest chance of success,” Hudson said.
Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from Winston-Salem, said he plans to introduce a Lumbee Recognition Bill in the Senate during this session of Congress.
“The Lumbee Tribe deserves federal recognition, but currently this can only happen through an act of Congress,” Burr said. “I remain committed to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to see this issue resolved once and for all.”
Passage of the Lumbee Recognition Bill would provide the tribe hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for housing, health care, education and economic development. As a means of moving the board forward, tribal leaders have agreed not to pursue gaming as a way of generating revenue.
The Lumbee Tribe is the largest tribe east of the Mississippi River. Most of its 55,000 members live in Robeson and surrounding counties.
North Carolina formally recognized the Lumbee Tribe in 1885. Three years later, in 1888, the tribe began its quest for federal recognition.
In 1956, Congress passed legislation recognizing the tribe. The Lumbees, however, were denied the federal benefits that other federally recognized tribes receive.