Part 4: Reflections on the Battle for Lumbee Recognition

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BLOG033
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Locklear, Arlinda. "Part 4: Reflections on the Battle for Lumbee Recognition." YouTube. 28 April 2010.

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Arlinda Locklear continues her lecture on the Lumbee's fight for recognition to a group of students at UNC-Chapel Hill in this fourth video segment by discussing the beginning of the Lumbee's fight for recognition with Washington.

Locklear says that after the Lumbee's first failure at achieving federal recognition from Congress in 1891 they decided to approach Congress with special legislation regarding the establishment of a relationship between the Lumbee Tribe and the United States government. Locklear mentions that this was after 1871 "when Congress had said, 'We will no longer do treaties with Indian people.'"

Locklear says that between 1899 and 1986 there were between ten and twelve statutes, some identical, for Lumbee recognition. She says that there is an interesting pattern in these statutes from the state and federal level. First the state (North Carolina) recognized the Lumbee and then the federal government came out with similar legislation.

In 1885, Locklear says that North Carolina recognized the Lumbees as Croatan Indians. Then in 1911, the state changed the legislation, recognizing the Lumbee ancestors as Indians of Robeson County. In 1913 the state changed that legislation again, to recognize the Lumbees as Cherokees of Robeson County. Locklear says that in 1953, "following a referendum among the Lumbee people for the first time, asking them by which name they chose to be recognized," the state changed the legislation again to recognize the Lumbees as Lumbee Indians.

The pattern of similar recognition efforts between state and federal levels are seen in these years, Locklear says, all up until the last piece of legislation. She says that most of the bills are "verbatim to the last state legislation."

Locklear says that in 1955 the same bill as that by which the state of North Carolina recognized the Lumbee Indians entered into Congress and passed the House of Representatives. Before the bill was voted on by Congress, though, the Department of the Interior (DOI) became involved. The DOI, Locklear says, objected to the bill when it went before Congress. The DOI told Congress that recognizing more tribes was against the federal policy of the time. They told Congress that if the bill passed, they should amend the bill with "termination language."

Locklear explains that "termination language" takes away all of the statutes and services that applied to Indians which were recognized. In 1956 Congress passed a bill recognizing the Lumbee Indians but amended the bill with "termination language," thus taking away the recognition they had just granted the Lumbee.

For many years the Lumbees thought they had won and had achieved federal recognition, without any services, Locklear mentions, but with a federal relationship. Then, in the early 70s, a federal judge forced three North Carolina schools to desegregate: a Lumbee school (created in 1885), a black school, and a white school. Parents disputed the judge, arguing that they were a sovereign Indian Tribe and thus their decision to remain an all Indian school was not racial but political. Then the judge informed the Lumbees that in 1956 they were not recognized by the federal government due to the "termination language," and that they would have to desegregate. Locklear says that at that point the Lumbees realized what had happened to them and started all over.

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