As he has done repeatedly since his first election 12 years ago, U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre submitted legislation on the first day that Congress convened that would grant the Lumbees federal recognition.
The bill is identical to one that passed the House on June 6, 2007, by a two-thirds majority vote of 256-128, and, as with past bills, would prohibit the tribe from participating in gambling.
“We have hit the ground running to continue the fight for Lumbee recognition,” McIntyre said in a press release. “It is time for discrimination to end and recognition to begin.
“For over 100 years, the Lumbee people have been seeking the dignity and respect they deserve from the federal recognition. The House overwhelmingly approved this exact bill last year, and I will be working feverishly to pass this important measure again,” said McIntyre.
He said the Lumbee bill has 47 co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. The committee could hold a hearing on the bill or use testimony from previous hearings for its report to send to the full House for consideration.
Arlinda Locklear, the tribe’s lawyer, said the fact that McIntyre submitted the bill on the first day Congress was in session shows his commitment and how important Lumbee recognition is to him. McIntyre is a Democrat from Lumberton.
“As far as our prospects, we have even more support going into it this Congress than in the last Congress,” Locklear said. “We have support from the White House to the committee level.”
Tribal Council member Louise Mitchell, who is on the tribe’s Federal Recognition Committee, said the tribe believes it has a better shot at getting the bill passed because of the Democratic stronghold in Congress.
“We are hopeful and are looking forward to the bipartisan support from the Republican side,” she said. “We do have some good friends on the Republican side.”
The biggest challenge for the tribe has been in the Senate. The bill did not make it to the floor last year for a vote.
Newly-elected Sen. Kay Hagan, who unseated Sen. Elizabeth Dole in the November election, is expected to follow Dole’s lead in supporting the bill.
Lumbee efforts to gain federal recognition have spanned more than 100 years. Congress passed a bill in 1956 that recognized them as American Indians, but did not provide benefits given to other tribes with the same status. Over the ensuing years, the tribe has lost out on millions of dollars for education, health care and economic development.
“It is time they achieve federal recognition,” McIntyre said.