The Lumbee Tribal Council's Federal Recognition Committee held a meeting June 15, 2010 to discuss future lobbying strategies. The contract with Lewin International, the firm which was in charge of lobbying for the tribe, was dissolved a few days before this meeting. The contract caused an uproar within the tribe, as many believed the firm's specialization in gambling would hurt chances of recognition.
Jim Lowry, a native of Lumberton, North Carolina, died of lung cancer Sunday, June 15, 2010. He was 65 years old. Lowry owned and operated Lowry Chevrolet in Tryon, North Carolina for ten years and also owned two more car dealerships in High Point and Thomasville.
Lowry served as chairman of the Lumbee Self-Determination Committee and helped develop the tribe's government and constitution.
"High Point businessman Jim Lowry dies." News and Record. Tuesday, June 15, 2010. www.news-record.com.
In a June 4, 2010 news release, the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina announced that they and Lewin International have come to a mutual agreement to do away with the contract that gave the firm responsibility for pushing federal recognition. It seems that Lewin International initiated the split, and the council then voted to do away with the contract. It will be canceled without penalty to either party.
The firm said that the negative publicity connected with the contract would make successful lobbying in Washington impossible.
A four-page letter that the Fayetteville Observer was able to obtain indicates that Lewin International initiated the ending of the contract between themselves and the Lumbee Tribe. The contract gave Lewin exclusive rights to lobbying for the Tribe's federal recognition as well as a say in the financial future of the tribe.
According to the letter, Lewin International attempted to break ties with the Lumbee Tribe as early as mid-May, 2010. The letter also expressed concern about the negative publicity affecting lobbying efforts.
The Lumbee Tribal Council met on Thursday, May 20, 2010, and although the contract with Lewin, International was not on the agenda, it was brought up during the meeting. As March's minutes were finalized, so was the contract with the Las Vegas firm. Jeremiah Swett, great nephew of Tribal Chairman Purnell Swett, was present and addressed the council about dissolving the contract.
In an interview with a reporter from The Robesonian, Tribal Chairman Purnell Swett defended the contract the tribe made with Lewin, International. Says Swett, “This contract is just about federal recognition. It is not a gaming contract. I don’t know what more I can say and do to make that clear to people ... . Of course, there are going to be some who never believe.”
At the Lumbee Tribal Council meeting on May 20, 2010, members of Bear Swamp Baptist Church addressed the Council, expressing a resolution that makes their opposition to the contract with Lewin, International known. The resolution states that the church “affirms its strong support for federal recognition of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, but also affirms that any alliance with a gaming firm must not jeopardize the passage of the Lumbee Recognition Bill ... .”
The Lumbee Tribe has finalized a deal with Lewin International, giving the firm exclusive lobbying rights and a say in the future of the Lumbee Tribe. Although North Carolina Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr say the bill for recognition is on track, many believe that the relationship with Lewin may hurt its chances.
Members of the new Lumbee Sovereignty Coalition have organized a recall movement towards 13 of the 21 Lumbee Tribal Council members. Lumbee tribal law allows the recall of a council member after they have been in office for a year and also requires the signatures of ten percent of the members who voted.
The Lumbee Tribe has ended its long-time relationship with its lawyer, Arlinda Locklear. She worked for the tribe's federal recognition efforts for twenty years. The tribe has hired someone new to help in the quest for recognition, Lewin International LLC of Nevada, an entity that specializes in gaming. The tribe's contract specifies that Lewin International will be the "exclusive" lobbyist for the tribe's federal recognition efforts.