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Bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduce the Lumbee Recognition Act into U.S. House

April 23, 2021
In The News

WASHINGTON — The Lumbee Recognition Act is back before the U.S. House of Representatives.

The legislation that would give full federal recognition, and the benefits that come with the designation, to the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina was reintroduced Thursday by a bipartisan group House members from North Carolina. The group was comprised of Reps. Dan Bishop, Republican; G.K. Butterfield, Democrat; Richard Hudson, Republican; and David Price, a Democrat.

The State of North Carolina has recognized the Lumbee as a tribe since 1885, and the tribe has sought federal recognition since 1888.

“North Carolina House members have again stepped up for the Lumbee people, reintroducing the bipartisan Lumbee Recognition Act of 2021. We are immensely appreciative of Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s championship of our cause, and for Rep. Dan Bishop’s unwavering support. Also joining them as cosponsors are Reps. David Price and Richard Hudson. The leadership of this bipartisan team inspires us, and will be crucial in advancing this bill through the House,” Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. said.

Bishop said that since coming to Congress one of his top priorities has been fighting for federal recognition for the Lumbee Tribe.

“It is a tragedy the federal government has denied members of the Lumbee Tribe their rightful Native American heritage, and I am hopeful Congress will address this obvious injustice,” Bishop said.

The last attempt at obtaining federal recognition for the Lumbee Tribe failed during the closing days of the 116th session of Congress.

Recognition legislation identical to the legislation introduced Thursday was approved by the full U.S. House on Nov. 16, 2020, and sent to the Senate. It was referred to the Senate’s Committee on Indian Affairs, where it remained until the session ended on Jan. 3. By rule any legislation still in committee when a congressional session ends must be reintroduced.

Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, both Republicans from North Carolina, took to the Senate floor Dec. 21, 2020, and tried to persuade their colleagues to approve the recognition legislation.

“They tried to pass it unanimously last night but it was blocked by Senate Democrats,” Tillis said in a statement issued Dec. 22, 2020.

Butterfield said Thursday he was proud to reintroduce legislation aimed at righting a “historic wrong.”

“The Constitution entrusts the Congress with the power to extend government-to-government relationships with Indian tribes,” he said. “In the case of the Lumbee, it is well past time for Congress to exercise its authority. Now is the time for this Congress to stand on the right side of history and fully recognize the Lumbee.”

“I am proud to once again help champion this important legislation to secure federal recognition for the Lumbee Tribe,” Hudson said. “The Lumbee have fought for this recognition for generations and passage of this bill is long overdue. Following House passage last year, I look forward to working with Representatives Butterfield, Bishop and Price to advance this bill in Congress once again.”

Full federal recognition of the Lumbee Tribe is long overdue, Price said.

“I’m proud to join in this bipartisan effort to reintroduce the Lumbee Recognition Act,” he said. “This bill would ensure that the federal government provide the same benefits and recognition to the Lumbee Tribe as other federally recognized tribes. It’s time for Congress to right this historic wrong.”

The Lumbee Tribe consists of about 60,000 members, making it the largest tribe in North Carolina, the largest tribe east of the Mississippi River, and the ninth largest in the nation.