This report, which recommends the passage of H.R.
334, for recognition of the Lumbee Tribe of Cheraw Indians of North
Carolina, contains a wealth of historical and political information
about the tribe, which is outlined below.
* The first bill to recognize the Lumbee Indians
(then known as the Croatans) was introduced in 1899. Since then, a
number of bills have been introduced, failing due to opposition from
the Department of Interior (due to the cost of servicing such a
large tribe) and from other recognized tribes (often because they
fear recognition of the Lumbee will case a reduction in services to
their own members). Though the Lumbee receive funds from some
federal Indian programs, they have never been aided by the Bureau of
Indian Affairs or the Indian Health Service.
* Several authorities--including Special Indian
Agent O.M. McPherson (in 1914), the Bureau of Ethnology's John
Swanton (1934), the tribe's ethnohistorian Jack Campisi, and the
Smithsonian Institution's William Sturtevant--agree on the tribe's
descent from the Siouan-speaking Cheraw Indians.
* References to the Lumbee's ancestors appeared
in newspaper and other written accounts during the 1700s.
* The Lumbee Act of 1956 was a model for the 1968
Act which “recognized” the Tiwa Indians of Texas. Congress granted
full recognition to the Tiwas in 1987.
* Congress has recognized ten tribes which, like
the Lumbee, were ruled ineligible (according to the Associate
Solicitor of Indian Affairs) to be judged for recognition under the
BIA's federal acknowledgment process (i.e., by submission and
consideration of a documented petition, known as the administrative
* The Lumbee submitted a copiously documented
petition to the BIA on December 17, 1987. Dr. Jack Campisi,
principal author of the petition, states that the historical record
of the Lumbee's presence in Robeson County is sporadic during
certain periods because non-Indian settlement in Robeson County
occurred rather late (about 1830), thus there were no literate
persons or local governments to document the tribe's existence.
Before finding the tribe ineligible for recognition under the
petition process, the BIA held the tribe's materials for nearly two
years without completing in the initial “obvious deficiency” review.
A BIA official testified at a hearing on an earlier Lumbee
recognition bill that the tribe's documentation was inadequate.
After exhaustive research, however, the tribe is unable to produce
more documentation. Several anthropologists, including the
Smithsonian's William Sturtevant, agree that the Lumbee are a Indian
tribe. Thus Congressional recognition is the only fair avenue for
* Most tribes that have become federally
recognized did so through Congress, treaty, or statute. The current
administrative process was created by delegation of authority from
Congress to the BIA, but there is no statute saying that the
administrative process must be the only route.
* Once the Lumbee Recognition Act is passed, the
tribe, since it does not have a reservation, must be granted a
separate line item in the budget of agencies that provide services
to federally recognized tribes. Thus, “Congress can increase the
agencies' funding levels to reflect the additional cost of service
to Lumbee tribal members if it so chooses, but H.R. 334 does not
require such an increase” (p. 8).
* Includes a detailed letter from Dr. James H.
Merrell, who wrote a book called The Indians' new world: Catawbas
and their neighbors from European contact through the era of removal.
Merrell comments that “Carolina Indians in general, and natives in
that part (i.e., the Lumbee homeland) of Carolina in particular, are
among the most poorly documented peoples in American history.... One
of the reasons Native people survived in that area is the same
reason we know so little about the origins of those people: it was
considered a backwater of little interest or use to whites, so
displaced Indians could coalesce there free from the destructive
pressures faced by other remnant groups” (approx. p. 110).
* Through a list of documents Cynthia L. Hunt
(Indian Law Unit) provided the committee, the report gives a
detailed record (dating from 1890) of Lumbee attempts to gain
federal recognition and assistance; the various tribal names enacted
through state legislation; and various scholarly and governmental
documents, reports and correspondence that discuss the tribe.
* The report reprints the lengthy and detailed
“Historical Narrative” section of the 1987 Lumbee petition
(for a description, see The Lumbee Indians: an annotated
bibliography (1994), item 57).
* The Lumbee Act would make all laws that are
generally applicable to Indians and Indian tribes applicable to the
“Lumbee Tribe of Cheraw Indians” and its members. For proposed
delivery of services, tribal members who reside in Robeson and
neighboring counties are considered resident on or near an Indian
reservation. The Secretaries of Interior and Health and Human
Services will work with the tribe to determine its needs and draw up
a Congressional recognition budget, which will be submitted to
Congress after one fiscal year (during which the tribal roll will be
verified by the Secretary of the Interior). The Congressional Budget
office estimated the additional costs to the federal government
would be “$80 million to $100 million a year, if the necessary funds
are appropriated” (approx. p. 119). This cost would be about
$2,000-$2,500 per tribal member - less than the national average of
$3,500 since the Lumbee are state-recognized and are already
receiving some federal benefits.
* Opponents of the bill cite testimony from
hearings on the 1956 Lumbee Act in which Congressman Aspinall asks
the bill's sponsor, Congressman Frank Carlyle, what the Lumbee
expect to get from the bill's passage, since nothing in the bill
calls for any upkeep or expenditure. Carlyle states that "no one has
ever mentioned to me any interest in that, that they had any
interest in becoming a part of the reservation or asking the federal
government for anything. Their purpose in this legislation is to
have a name that they think is appropriate for their group" (approx.
p. 7 of part 2). Then Congressman Aspinall asked Rev. Lowry if
members of the tribe anticipated that, after receiving the
designation Lumbee, they would come to Congress and ask for any
benefits that otherwise go to Indian tribes. Lowry replied “No.”
According to the current Lumbee Act's opponents, this testimony
belies the committee majority's contention that the Lumbee
understood the 1956 Act's intent to be recognition. The opponents
state that their objections, and those of some federally recognized
tribes, are not because of fears that recognition of the Lumbee
would reduce the pool of federal funds available to other tribes.
The opponents point out that the bill does not immediately grant
funds; it requires that a budget and a separate Congressional
appropriation be established. The opponents also discuss what they
see as significant differences between the Tiwa Act and the 1956
*Includes an amendment in the nature of a
substitution to H.R. 334, submitted by the Department of the
Interior,which would allow the Lumbee to go through the BIA's
petition process. The Department of Interior opposes enactment of
H.R.334. Also includes letters from a number of federally recognized
tribes opposing enactment of earlier, similar bills and stating that
the Lumbee should go through the BIA's Federal Acknowledgment
(Petition) Process (or FAP).
|WILK002. Wilkins, David E.
“The Lumbee tribe and its quest for federal recognition:
Lumbee Centurions on the Trail of Many Years.” In: A good
Cherokee, a good anthropologist. Ed. Steve Pavlik. Los
Angeles: American Indian Studies Center, University of
California, Los Angeles, 1998. Pp. 149-75.
Publication type: Book chapter
Detailed, clearly written, and
convincingly argued, this essay is an essential source
for anyone wishing to understand the historical issues
involved in Lumbee efforts to obtain federal
recognition. The sections of the essay include:
Note: Author is Lumbee.
Wilkins gives convincing rationale for
the position that the federal government should
recognize all Indian groups, not just those which can
prove earlier political involvement with the federal
government. He analyzes the federal government's and
some other tribes' objections to Congressional
recognition of the Lumbee, and points out the
limitations of the federal acknowledgment process. In
discussing Thomas's findings in his 1980 report, Wilkins
quotes Thomas: “Many Indians in Robeson County feel as
if the federal government has neglected them for many
years. Official recognition on the part of the federal
government that they are indeed Indian would be
something of an apology and a confession on the part of
the federal government that officialdom has been lax in
recognizing not only that the Lumbees are Indians but a
respectable and worthy community in the world” (Thomas
p. 63, quoted on p. 161).
- brief review of Robert K.
Thomas's involvement with the Lumbee [he was hired
by LRDA (Lumbee Regional Development Association) to
prepare an anthropological and historical report on
Lumbee origins, which he worked on for two years and
finished in 1980 ];
- the seven Native American
entities in Robeson County that are seeking
recognition as American Indian tribes;
- four categories of reasons the
Lumbee have for seeking federal recognition (legal,
fiscal, policy/administrative, and cultural);
- four reasons the tribe has been
unsuccessful in obtaining federal recognition
(policy conflicts; fiscal/demographic;
administrative/legislative; and cultural).
According to Wilkins, Thomas
recommends that the tribe conduct further research into
church and land records; migration patterns of the
Hatteras tribe from the coast to Robeson County; modern
Lumbee social organization and culture; and Lumbee
English (see Category 6 of this Annotated Bibliography
Supplement; the North Carolina Language and Life
Project, and scholars formerly involved with it, are
meeting this recommendation).
Additional subjects: Robert K. Thomas |
Tribal origins | Maynor v. Morton | Vine Deloria Jr.
| Ross Swimmer | Lumbee Act (1956) | Tiwa Act (1968) |
Indian Reorganization Act (1934) | Lumbee identity | Kenneth