ROBESON, N.C. – The House Committee of Natural Resources approved a bill to provide federal recognition to the Lumbee Tribe of N.C. The Lumbee Tribe was recognized by the state of N.C. in 1885 and sought federal recognition in 1888. Now 132 years later the Lumbee Tribe is hopeful that this bill will pass the full House and that they’ll finally get the recognition they deserve.
“For the first time, without amendments and without discussion, it took about 5 minutes. It was incredible,” Harvey Godwin, Lumbee Tribal Chairman says.
But Godwin continued with saying the journey leading up to this was a long one.
“My great grandfather Quinn Godwin was one of the original petitioners and of course it didn’t pass and in 1956 it was the Lumbee Act of 1956 and it was like a reset. It recognized Lumbee in name but not as a recognized tribe or no appropriations,” Godwin says.
With the help of the CARES Act and HUD funding the Lumbee Tribe has been able to provide for their community and others in the surrounding cities.
A huge movement the tribe has been able to do with those funds are providing free Covid-19 testing to not only tribal members, but others in the community as well.
They also gave out fresh produce, PPE, educational supplies and more, but Godwin says if they were federally recognized it would have been a bigger help.
“There was $8 billion put out through the CARES Act for federally recognized tribes….$8 billion and tribes like the Lumbee Tribe who are not federally funded recognized didn’t get any of that money so we weren’t able to access those funds for our people so we had to find out other ways,” Godwin says.
If the bill is enacted, the tribe and it’s nearly 60,000 members would be eligible for medical, educational and many other services provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other federal agencies. Danielle McLean, Legal & Compliance Officer for Lumbee Tribe says this is huge for the tribe.
“We’re super excited about what’s happening, very energized. Thankful to Congressman Butterfield for introducing our bill back in March of last year when we didn’t have a representative in Congress and Congressman Bishop for signing on along with our other co sponsors,” McLean says.
This legislation is now headed to the House Floor and Godwin is hopeful it will pass before the end of this year.