Just about anyone who has lived in North Carolina for any length of time is aware of the existence of the Lumbee Indians of North Carolina’s Robeson County . The Lumbee are an indigenous tribe with a centuries long, proud, well documented history in North Carolina. A visit to the Smithsonian Institute will educate any interested party in the Lumbee culture and significance in American history, yet they still await Federal recognition as a legitimate tribe by the Department of Interior.
Under normal circumstances, it does not take an act of congress to recognize an Indian Tribe. The well documented petition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an arm of the Department of Interior, is the usual path to recognition and all the rights and privileges that accompany it. Not so for the Lumbee Tribe thanks to the political considerations of North Carolina US Senate and Congressional representatives, specifically Congressman Walter Jones and Senator Elizabeth Dole. The tribe was formally recognized by North Carolina in 1885 and started seeking the benefits that accompany Federal recognition three years later.
In 1956, after several failed efforts, Congress passed a bill acknowledging the tribe, but denying benefits. A quirk in the legislation effectively prevented the tribe from taking its case to the Interior Department and now apparently serves the interest of Congressman Jones who has a relationship with another Tribe in North Carolina, The Cherokee Tribe, and apparently serves their interest. To the average American who has no axe to grind against the Lumbee Tribe, it seems only logical that they would have been federally recognized long ago. No-one denies that they are a legitimate American Native Indian Tribe of historical significance.
In the case of Senator Dole, it appears that she may be somewhat defaulting on her promise to aggressively pursue the issue in Washington. Although carrying through with introducing legislation for recognition and speaking at the hearing regarding the subject, her aggressiveness has waned after some delays. Unfortunately, the Lumbee issue requires a great deal of assertive attention and could end up in the back burner, with so many other issues, not having the benefit of very aggressive lobbying at every level. It would appear that other interest may have trumped her energetic intention to vigorously help the Lumbee tribe attain the Department of Interior stamp of approval. In politics, the Lumbee is an issue. To the Lumbee, the issue is survival and equity.
In Congressman Jones case it would seem a bit more ominous and very political. Congressman Jones, the Republican from the 3rd Congressional District, has taken money, at least $4,000.00, from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which claims about 13,000 members and has its homeland in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. The Cherokee tribe opposes the federal recognition of the Lumbee Tribe. I can’t blame the Cherokees, after-all, to be a recognized tribe is a great honor unto itself, but to be the only one in your state is a notable position of status and influence. One might call it a natural circumstance between tribes, but when Congressman Walter Jones accepted money from the Cherokee tribe and “coincidentally” voted against the Lumbee Tribe, the struggle fell into the realm of political intrigue and casts a shadow upon Congressman Jones and his ethics as a representative of the people.
When asked about his position and stern opposition to the Lumbee Tribe, Walter Jones provided an astonishingly telling reply which expressed his support of the Cherokee Tribe. Congressman Jones was quoted as saying “What you would have (in recognizing the Lumbee Tribe) is the Las Vegas of the East," said Rep. Walter Jones, a Farmville Republican. "There's no question it would be a serious problem.". In other words Congressman Jones said he is opposing the federal recognition of the Lumbee Tribe based on something that they “might” do which is totally unrelated to the preservation of a legitimate American Indian Tribe, but which is very connected to the Congressman’s own religion and beliefs and again serves the interest of another Tribe, The Cherokee Tribe of North Carolina who exercise the very things Congressman Jones is apparently against. A Tribe who the Congressman has accepted money from.
The Lumbee Tribe has never declared an intention of building a gambling facility. In fact Arlinda Locklear, a lawyer for the Lumbee and a tribe member, insisted the Lumbee have no designs on a casino. Congressman Jones position, in my opinion, is dishonest, but not veiled. From appearances, the Congressman has a special relationship with one Indian Tribe (Cherokees) to the detriment of another (The Lumbee tribe).
During the 2002 election cycle, the Cherokee Tribe gave $260,000 to congressional candidates and political parties.
Formal recognition of the Lumbee Tribe would open a door to tools and means for preserving the tribe and its cultural and geographical heritage, just as many other Tribes in America now enjoy. Federal recognition of the Lumbee Tribe would provide the legal status necessary to preserve the uniquely Lumbee institutions, such as Indian schools that are key to the future, identity and survival as a Tribe and as a people. Indian lands are not only sacred to the Indians who live on them, they are sacred to all of us as Americans who desire to preserve our past.
The survival of American Indian tribes as cohesive units, uniquely identifiable and able to maintain certain historical and cultural elements crucial to their identities is important. It is import to all of us, to all Americans who cherish our history and our own development. The good and the bad, having occurred in our past, are the lights that guide us through our present and into our future.
American Indian Tribes are important to all Americans who proudly wave the flag and declare that, although of many cultures, we are one people, we are American. The Lumbee Indian tribe of North Carolina are deserving and worthy of Federal recognition through the Department of Interior.
Preserving Americas history is important whether Congressman Jones thinks it is or not. Don’t let anyone steal our American past. Our American future depends on it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Marshall is a retired US Marine Vietnam veteran who became an Aviation Management/Logistics consultant in 1992.
Marshall worked in the Kuwait recovery of 1992-93.
He the Senior Aviation Logistics Manager for Kaman Aerospace in Egypt US Government programs for four years.
Marshall was in Iraq from mid-2003 until late-2006 where:
In 2003 he was the US Coalition Airport Director for Basrah Int'l Airport in Iraq.
In 2004 he was VP for Aviation Development with an American Int’l Corporation in Iraq.
In 2005 Marshall was a Department of State US Advisor to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) where he was on the staff of the National Coordination Team (NCT) in Baghdad.
Marshall returned to the USA in September 2006 and is currently on staff as a Senior Analyst for a DOD project.
Marshall and his wife Becky (3rd grade teacher) have been married for 37 years and have four children, Paul, Veronica, William and Benjamin, and eleven grandchildren.
Their sons William and Benjamin, served in Iraq in the US Army. William was wounded in action on July 2nd 2006.
Marshall and Becky reside in Jacksonville North Carolina. firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Marshall Adame is a is a supporter of John Edwards for President