Senate Indian Affairs Committee Considers Burr Bill to Recognize Lumbee Tribe, Tribe Chairman Godwin Testifies

WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs considered a bill introduced by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) to federally recognize the Lumbee Tribe. Lumbee Tribe Chairman Harvey Godwin testified.

“Decades of discrimination against the Lumbee have resulted in severe economic and societal consequences for their people,” said Senator Burr. "Robeson County is one of the ten poorest counties in the United States. The 1956 law has put them on unequal footing compared to other federally recognized tribes, and it has prevented them from obtaining access to critical services through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service.  This is simply unjust and immoral.”

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WATCH: Burr delivers opening remarks on Lumbee recognition

“The Lumbee people are seeking a new type of partnership with the federal government,” said Chairman Godwin. “We will use full federal recognition to create an atmosphere for economic development in rural southeastern North Carolina. Your support of this bill is a strategic investment in the Lumbee people and our neighbors. “

Godwin Indian Affairs

WATCH: Lumbee Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. testifies

North Carolina formally recognized the Lumbee Tribe in 1885, and three years later, in 1888, the tribe began its quest for federal recognition. In 1956, Congress finally passed legislation recognizing the tribe, but it included a terribly unfair caveat - the Lumbees were denied the benefits that every other federally recognized tribe receives.

The 1956 Lumbee Act actually prohibits the tribe from going through the Bureau of Indian Affairs process for full recognition. As the law now stands, the Lumbee Tribe can only be recognized by an act of Congress.

Senator Burr’s Lumbee Recognition Act would provide the Lumbees with the equal recognition they deserve.

The text of the Lumbee recognition bill is available online here.

Senator Burr’s prepared remarks are available here.