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US Senate Bill Would Recognize Lumbee Tribe

By Michelle Bliss

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/whqr/local-whqr-980828.mp3

Wilmington, NC – North Carolina's senators, Kay Hagan and Richard Burr, say a committee has unanimously approved an act to bring formal federal recognition to Lumbees in Robeson and a few neighboring counties. WHQR's Michelle Bliss reports that the bill now moves to the Senate floor and Representative Mike McIntyre has introduced the bill in the U.S. House.

If approved, the Lumbee Recognition Act would provide funding for Indian health programs, economic development, and infrastructure for tribal projects.

Greg Richardson is the Executive Director for the state Commission of Indian Affairs. He says the tribe would also see improved education services.

"We have a tremendous high school dropout rate among the Lumbee population. And so, certainly funds would be made available to provide additional coursework, additional coursework to enable more Lumbee students to finish high school and continue their education beyond high school."

The 55,000-member tribe has been recognized by North Carolina since the 1880s. The federal government granted partial recognition in 1956 but denied the accompanying benefits.

"That Lumbee Act of 1956 did two things with one stroke of the pen: it acknowledged or recognized the Lumbee Indians of Robeson County, but at the same time, it denied any rights to any particular services to the Bureau of Indian Affairs or Indian Health Service."

The U.S. Senate adjourned at the end of 2010 without taking up the legislation. Burr and Hagan say they hope the Senate will consider the bill this session.

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