US House passes Lumbee Recognition Act

Sunlight shines on the U.S. Capitol dome, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

RALEIGH — The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2758 on Monday, the latest bill designed to give full federal recognition to the Lumbee Indian Tribe in southeastern North Carolina.

Eight of the state’s 13 representatives sponsored the bill, which passed by a 357-59 vote. Sponsoring the bill were Democrats G.K. Butterfield (NC-01), Deborah Ross (NC-02) and David Price (NC-04), as well as Republicans Greg Murphy (NC-03), David Rouzer (NC-07), Richard Hudson (NC-08), Dan Bishop (NC-09) and Ted Budd (NC-13).

“The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina has waited for far too long to receive the full federal recognition it has long deserved,” Butterfield said on passage of the bill. “It is fitting that tonight’s overwhelming vote in favor of ending this historic wrong occurred on the first day of Native American History Month. Now is the time for this Congress to stand on the right side of history by fully recognizing the Lumbee, and tonight’s vote is a critical step in that process.”

“The Lumbee have fought for federal recognition for generations, and passage of this bill is long overdue,” said Rep. Hudson. “I am proud to have worked with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to once again help secure its passage in the House.”

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“When Congress recognized the Lumbee in 1956, they were deemed ineligible to receive the full benefits provided to federally recognized tribes. The Lumbee Recognition Act corrects this decades-long injustice,” said Bishop.

“The more than 60,000 North Carolina members of the Lumbee Tribe have waited decades for federal recognition. They deserve the same rights, privileges, and respect granted to other Native American tribes throughout our country,” Budd added.

The vote marks the latest attempt by elected officials in the state to secure federal recognition for the tribe.

With the backing of former President Donald Trump, the U.S. House approved the measure unanimously on Nov. 16, 2020, but the bill did not receive a vote in the U.S. Senate. The state’s Republican senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, have co-sponsored bills giving the tribe federal recognition, but those have not been scheduled for Senate votes in the last congressional session or the current one.

When Burr and Tillis reintroduced the bill in April, both sounded optimistic about its prospects.

“The Lumbee Tribe has been fighting for more than a century to gain federal recognition and, as long as I’m in the U.S. Senate, I’m going to continue my work to make sure this happens,” said Tillis. “I am proud to co-introduce this legislation again and continue my work with Senator Burr to get this legislation across the finish line.”

The bill, if approved by the Senate and signed by President Joe Biden, directs the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop, along with the tribe, a determination of needs to provide services the members are eligible for, including taking land into trust for the tribe’s benefit.

The federal recognition would apply to members of the tribe residing in Robeson, Cumberland, Hoke and Scotland counties.