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After various legislators have spent more than two decades pushing to federally recognize the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan added her support during testimony Wednesday at the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

"Beyond simple fairness, the issue of Lumbee recognition is critically important to the North Carolina economy, and to counties and communities that have been hardest hit by the recent economic downturn," said Hagan, according to a transcript of her testimony.

Hagan, of North Carolina, introduced the Lumbee Recognition Act with North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr in June.

In 1956, Congress enacted the Lumbee Act, which recognized the tribe, but denied members access to federal services other federally recognized tribes receive. - Fay Observer, 10/31/13

Here's a little more info:

Several tribal members, including Chairman Paul Brooks and Lesaundri Hunt, chairman of the tribe’s Federal Recognition Committee, attended Wednesday’s hearing. Neither Brooks nor Hunt could be reached this morning.

The tribe petitioned the Bureau of Indian Affairs for full federal recognition in 1989, but at that time was informed by the solicitor general that because of the language in the 1956 Act the tribe can only be recognized through an act of Congress.

Hagan told the committee that because the 1956 Lumbee Act forbid the tribe from pursuing resources available to every other recognized tribe, the Lumbee do not have access to critical services through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Services.

“The Harvard School of Public Health has found that residents of Robeson County have a lower average life expectancy due to persistent poverty and limited access to affordable health care,” Hagan said. “Our bill will enable the Lumbee to combat these trends through access to critical programs within Indian Health Services and economic development programs through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”

Hagan told the committee that Lumbee recognition will not mean less funding for other tribes.

“… I want to be clear. The Lumbee do not want recognition on the backs of other tribes,” she said. “This bill simply ensures that the Lumbee are eligible for the same services as their peers. Funding for these services will be subject to future appropriations, and the Lumbee will not dilute support for tribes that currently receive federal resources.”

She said recognition is not about dollar signs, but about respect for the Lumbee people. - Robesonian, 10/31/13

The Lumbee Tribe isn't the only tribe seeking federal recognition:

Later this afternoon, at 2:30 p.m. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, will chair a business meeting followed by a legislative hearing on three bills for federal recognition for tribes in Virginia, North Carolina, and Montana.

The Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act (S. 1074), introduced by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA), would extend federal recognition to six Virginia Tribes: the Chickahominy Indian Tribe, the Chickahominy Indian Tribe – Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, the Rappahannock Tribe, the Monacan Indian Nation and the Nansemond Indian Tribe. According to a SCIA press release, the tribes would be provided with a land base to serve as their reservation with the legislation.

The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana are seeking federal recognition through a bill introduced by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Max Baucus (D-MT). The Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Restoration Act of 2013 (S. 161) would establish a service area for the tribe requiring the Secretary of the Interior to take 200 acres of land in trust to be used as the Band’s land base according to the release.

SCIA will receive the views of the Department of the Interior as presented by Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, while hearing testimony from Stephen Adkins, chief of the Chickahominy Indian Tribe; Paul Brooks, chairman of the Lumbee Tribe; and Gerald Gray, chairman of the Little Shell Tribe on the impact of the proposed legislations. - Indian Country Today Media Network, 10/30/13

Tribes like the Lumbee Tribe have had to go through a long and grueling process seeking federal recognition:

U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is calling for the Little Shell Tribe of Montana to have another chance at federal recognition after it was preliminarily approved under the Clinton administration, delayed for eight years under the George W. Bush administration, and then denied in 2009 by the Obama administration.

Tribal citizens are cautiously optimistic, as they have been down this potentially positive road before only to find themselves lost in the continuing bureaucratic maze that is the federal recognition process for tribes today. It is a maze that never seems to get any easier, even after several congressional inquiries in recent years, as well as promises from multiple administrations to streamline the process.

“It feels like someone in D.C. is finally listening and realizes that the Little Shell Tribe rightfully deserves to be [federally] recognized,” said Gerald Gray, chairman of the tribe, which has been recognized by the state of Montana since 2003. “I’m very confident that we will be finally recognized; we will not stop the fight until we are recognized as we have been a tribe, are a tribe and will always be a tribe.”

Jewell’s staff says she is indeed listening to the tribe’s desire to be recognized, having issued a letter September 16 asking Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn to re-examine the case on due process and burden of proof grounds.

Jewell said in her letter that the Interior Board of Indian Appeals denied the Little Shell bid to have the 2009 denial overturned, but it also identified “five alleged grounds for reconsideration over which it says it does not have jurisdiction,” so Jewell is using her authority to request that Washburn reconsider the Little Shell petition. - Indian Country Today Media Network, 10/24/13

If you would like information on the Lumbee Recognition Act or any of the other tribal recognition acts being submitted, please contact Hagan and these following Senators:

Kay Hagan (D. NC): (202) 224-6342

Richard Burr (R. NC): (202) 224-3154

Maria Cantwell (D. WA): (202) 224-3441

Tim Kaine (D. VA): (202) 224-4024

Mark Warner (D. VA): (202) 224-2023

Jon Tester (D. MT): (202) 224-2644

Max Baucus (D. MT): (202) 224-2651

And if you would like to thank Hagan, please consider donating to her re-election bid so she can continue to fight for the Lumbee Tribe:

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., hosts

Originally posted to pdc on Thu Oct 31, 2013 at 08:27 AM PDT.

Also republished by North Carolina BLUE, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, Barriers and Bridges, Invisible People, Native American Netroots, and DKos Asheville.

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