RALEIGH — While Lumbee tribal leaders watched, the North Carolina Senate unanimously approved legislation this week bringing the tribe closer to more grant dollars to support programs and initiatives.
Lumbee Tribe Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. and tribal Councilmen Frank Cooper, Corbin Eddings and Jarrod Lowery attended the session Wednesday to witness the 45-0 vote on Senate Bill 218, which is titled “Clarify State Recognition — Lumbee Indians.”
The legislation now goes to the state House, where no resistance is expected.
“The Lumbee Tribe is excited that Senate Bill 218 passed out of the N.C. Senate unanimously,” Godwin said. “This bill will open up additional grant opportunities for the Lumbee Tribe and ensure the Lumbee Tribe continues to enjoy its government-to-government relationship with the State of North Carolina.
“I am encouraged by the bipartisan support for the Lumbee in the Senate and look forward to a favorable vote in the N.C. House.”
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Danny Britt, a Republican from Lumberton, and Sen. Dan Bishop, of Mecklenburg County, and Sen. Tom McInnis, of Ellerbe, also Republicans. It was introduced to the Senate in March and the legislation is a simple change that would allow access to funding sources previously unavailable.
The idea was developed during a conversation Britt and Bishop had that touched on the need to address poverty and the lack of adequate health care among the Lumbee people and residents of Southeastern North Carolina.
The legislation is designed to give the tribe more access to grants and state programs that previously were unavailable because of the way it was defined as a governing body. In the past the tribe has tried to apply for certain funding and grants only to be told the tribe’s government did not meet the definition of a municipal governing body.
Language for Senate Bill 218 was drafted to read like that in the recognition statute regarding the Haliwa-Saponi tribe, Bishop said. If approved by House, the Lumbee Tribe’s governing body would be given the recognition status granted municipal governments.
The relevant portion of the Haliwa-Saponi recognition law reads in part: “They shall continue to enjoy all their rights, privileges and immunities as an American Indian Tribe with a recognized tribal governing body carrying out and exercising substantial governmental duties and powers similar to the State, being recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.”
The proposed Lumbee recognition amendment contains language that is identical.
The Lumbee Tribe gets most of its funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is primarily earmarked for housing.
“This bill goes a long way in adding credibility to their efforts for federal recognition and offers many opportunities to make application for grant money essential to the quality of life of so many residents of Robeson and surrounding counties,” Britt said. “I am confident Rep. Brenden Jones will champion this same effort now that it has passed to the House.”