Part 5: Reflections on the Battle for Lumbee Recognition

Record Number: 
BLOG032
Citation: 

Locklear, Arlinda. "Part 5: Reflections on the Battle for Lumbee Recognition." YouTube. 28 April 2010.

Annotation: 

Arlinda Locklear continues her lecture on the Lumbee's fight for recognition to a group of students at UNC- Chapel Hill in this fifth video segment by discussing the Lumbee's efforts at recognition at the administrative level.

Locklear begins by mentioning the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) that was created by Congress in 1934. She says that the IRA was created to make a new federal policy for recognizing tribes.  Even tribes already recognized, she says, will come under the "umbrella" of the IRA.

Locklear states how the IRA provided for reorganization of a community composed of "half-bloods" who could prove one half or more Indian blood to be allowed to organize under the IRA as a federally recognized tribe.

The Lumbees tried this process, she says. In 1937 the Solicitor's Office of the Department of the Interior (DOI), who, Locklear says, were very aware of the Lumbee Tribe and their position, asked themselves if the Lumbee could organize under the IRA. In 1937 the DOI worked with Carl Seltzer, a physical anthropologist, to decide the Lumbee's fate. They went to the Lumbees in North Carolina and performed tests that were popular during that era to determine Indianness. Locklear mentions the "pencil test," blood tests, nose tests, and teeth tests, which all, scientifically, at the time, determined Indianness.

Locklear says that Seltzer received around 200 volunteers for his tests out of some 36,000 people; and that out of those 200, Seltzer found 22 to be of half or more Indian blood. Locklear says that theoretically, those 22 Indians could have become federally recognized due to Seltzer's proof that they were in fact of Indian descent. But, she says, as the Solicitor's Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) interpreted it, half-bloods only have the right to organize as an Indian tribe if they can convince the DOI to make a piece of their land into a trust for an Indian Reservation and then the half-bloods could vote on an IRA approved constitution.

Locklear says that "there was a very polite, 'no, I don't think so,'" from the DOI when the Lumbee requested this of the DOI. She says that the DOI was concerned that if those 22 Indians, tested and proved Indian by Carl Seltzer, became recognized then they would create a tribe of 36,000.

Locklear next discusses her work with Julian Pierce, from Legal Services Office, after detailing the Lumbee's failed attempt at federal recognition through the IRA. She says that after the Lumbee realized that the 1956 Lumbee Act did not recognize them, they tried the administrative efforts rather than staying with Congress. Pierce helped the Lumbee draw a petition showing that the Lumbee met the seven criteria (discussed in video segment three) set by the DOI to determine Indianness. Locklear says that she and Pierce spent a lot of time gathering evidence from experts who could help them create a historical narrative of the Lumbee people that addressed the seven criteria, including the special act of Congress that "terminated" the Lumbee. She says that Pierce and herself argued with the DOI that the 1956 Lumbee Act did not terminate the tribe, but that Congress had just intended to leave the Lumbee Tribe in the position they were in.

Locklear says that as time passed with no results from any governmental bureau, she realized that her efforts were not working. Then in 1987, the year she sent the petition she and Pierce had worked on to the BIA, she became suspicious when Congress recognized a Texas Pueblo tribe with special legislation. Locklear says that this same tribe had been terminated and that their termination had been modeled after the 1956 Lumbee Act. If this seemed like a ray of hope to the Lumbee, it did not last long, as the DOI told Congress that the 1968 Tiwa Act, which recognized that Texas Pueblo tribe, made that Texas tribe ineligble for the administrative process for recognition because of the special act of Congress that terminated the tribe. This worried Locklear as the DOI had told her to get the petition in, which she says takes about twenty years to process, and then they will tell the Lumbees whether they are eligible or not.

Locklear says that she decided against waiting twenty years and asked for a formal Solicitor's opinion. She says she wanted to know at the beginning whether the Lumbee were eligible for recognition rather than waiting twenty years. It took two years, Locklear says, to find out that the BIA said the Lumbee were not eligible to go through the administrative process of federal recognition because of the 1956 Lumbee Act. Locklear says that she realized at this point this was good, that the BIA never intended to recognize the Lumbee, and that the Lumbee needed to change their strategy from working with the DOI and the BIA to go back to Congress.

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