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Lumbee federal recognition effectively dead in Senate 

By Robert Deckert
Staff Writer

While time is quickly winding down for passage of the Lumbee Federal Recognition bill, the Lumbee community still has hope.            
“The bill is not dead,” said James Handin, deputy administrator of the Lumbee Tribal Office, “We’ll keep the fight alive.”

The Lumbee Act of 1956 declared the tribe as Indians, but deprived them of the same federal benefits that other federally-recognized tribes have, such as healthcare and educational assistance.            

“Time was a big problem,” said Lawrence Locklear, tribal speaker and web publisher of the UNCP Office of Communications and Photographic Services.            

“We may have to reintroduce the bill in the next session,” he said.

           

Locklear said Lumbees are “the largest non federally-recognized tribe in the U.S.”            
           
There are 57,000 Lumbees with 40,000 in Robeson and surrounding counties.

U.S. Senators Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, as well as Congressman Mike McIntyre support the federal recognition bill.            
Benefits stemming from  Lumbee recognition might improve not only the quality of life for Lumbees, but for other races as well.

           

An improved economy is viewed as a benefit of the bill.            
           
The core opposition to Lumbee recognition is the fear of the tribe starting a gaming operation,  Handin said.

            The tribe has been seeking recognition for more than 100 years, before gaming was an issue, Locklear said.            
           
Opponents to Lumbee recognition, such as other  tribes and the casinos of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, are afraid of the competition that would arise if the Lumbees Tribe established gaming operations, said Handin.

Becky Leviner, public information assistant of the Museum of the Native American Resource Center, said she was “not surprised with what’s going on.”            

There are bigger things right now for Congress to focus on than tribal recognition, Leviner said.

                       “The opposition in Washington is not only the gaming issue,” said Handin, “but the cost of being the largest tribe to be recognized.”            
                       
The cost of recognizing the Lumbee tribe would be $80 to $90 million.

Lumbees might be further along toward recognition if it weren’t for the near decimation of some early tribes of Virginia and North Carolina,  Handin said. Treaties would have been established.            

“All we want is justice and fairness for our people,” Handin said.

If Congress does not act on the bill before the session expires in November, the process for resubmitting the bill will have to begin all over again for the next Congressional session.                  

“It’ll happen one day when it’s the right time,” Leviner said.

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Updated: Wednesday, December 13, 2006
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