Part 2: Reflections on the Battle for Lumbee Recognition.

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Locklear, Arlinda. "Part 2: Reflections on the Battle for Lumbee Recognition." YouTube. 28 April 2010.


Arlinda Locklear, former legal counsel for the Lumbee Tribe, who worked extensively with the Lumbee in their fight for federal recognition, gave a lecture at UNC--Chapel Hill on April 28, 2010, to a group of students. The full lecture is provided on YouTube in nine video segments. This second video segment discusses the myths of federal recognition.

Locklear dispels the first myth by telling the students, "Recognition Does Not Create an Indian Tribe." Locklear simplifies federal recognition by explaining that federal recognition is similar to the United States recognizing the government of China. She says that federal recognition is a political relationship between two governments. Indian peoples had governments before the United States of America had one.  Therefore, Locklear continued, there should be a relationship of recognition between the United States and any Native American tribe that has, and has had, a government before the Unites States of America was established. In other words, a tribe is not made when the Unites States recognizes that tribe; the United States merely recognizes the fact that the tribe has a sovereign government.

Locklear then elaborates on Indian sovereignty and what it means in relationship to federal recognition. She says that Indian sovereignty is "the will to exist" of Native peoples "despite the fact [of] the dominant society's presence and occupation of [their] territory." Locklear says that "it is this act of will that is recognized when you are recognized by the United States government." Locklear says that when this recognition occurs, "the U.S. is simply acknowledging something that has always existed."

The next myth that Locklear explains is that "Tribes Don't Exist Without Recognition." Locklear says, "just because you are not federally recognized does not mean that you are not an Indian tribe."

Locklear tells the group that she could take them to a number of reservations where Indian tribes exist without federal recognition. She mentions one in particular, the Pamunkey Tribe in Virginia, which has existed since 1677 by virtue of a treaty with the British government but has never been recognized by the U.S. government. Locklear calls this tribal existence the same act of will of the Lumbees.

Next Locklear gives a "History of Non-Federally Recognized Tribes." She says that there are approximately 100 non-recognized tribes in the U.S. and that most all of them are on the East Coast. Locklear says, "There's a good historical reason for that." The U.S. government was created,  she states, in 1789 with the creation of the U.S. Constitution. Before this new government in what is now the United States of America, there were many tribes in the East who had been dealing with the colonizers for many years. Many, if not most, of those tribes had already "lost" to the U.S.--lost land and tribal rights. These tribes, by and large, had been pacified by the U.S.  Because they had already lost their land and were in peaceful relationships with the U.S., the U.S. felt no need to recognize them. The tribes had, seemingly, nothing left.

In Locklear's opinion, the U.S. would have recognized these tribes if they had anything left to offer, such as land and resources. Locklear says that the U.S. government has no policy requiring them to search out non-recognized tribes and give them recognition; rather, these tribes only receive recognition when they have something to offer the United States government.

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