By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee took action on Thursday, July 28 on three bills affecting eight groups hoping to garner federal recognition as an American Indian Tribe.
The Committee approved the Lumbee Recognition Act (S.1218); the Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2011 (S.379) that would grant recognition to six groups in Virginia including the Chickahominy Indian Tribe, the Chickahominy Indian Tribe – Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, the Rappahannock Tribe Inc., the Monacan Indian Nation, and the Nansemond Indian Tribe; and S.546 that would grant recognition to the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana.
“I am pleased that the Committee approved these bills which are instrumental in changing the lives of Native peoples,” said Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), the chairman of the Committee. “I look forward to working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to secure enactment.”
North Carolina Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) co-sponsored the Lumbee bill. On Thursday, Sen. Burr related, “Passage of this bill out of the Indian Affairs Committee is a big step forward in providing the Lumbee with the federal recognition they deserve. I am hopeful that this bill will be brought to the floor for a vote so that the Senate can fulfill its commitment to achieve fairness and justice for the tribe.”
Sen. Hagan commented, “The issue of Lumbee recognition is vitally important to North Carolina’s economy and to the heritage and cultural identity of more than 40,000 Americans. It is time for the Lumbee to receive the recognition they deserve. Today was an important step forward, and together Sen. Burr, Rep. McIntyre and I will continue to work with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle and across the Capitol to send this bill to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”
Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) introduced a similar bill in the House in January. The House passed Lumbee Recognition bills in 2007 and 2009, but both bills stalled in the Senate.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has historically been against the Lumbee Tribe seeking recognition through Congressional means. Principal Chief Michell Hicks has testified on the issue several times in Washington.
At a House hearing in 2009, he commented, “The House of Representatives should not pass a bill that allows persons of questionable at best Indian ancestry to be acknowledged as an Indian tribe.”
Following Rep. McIntyre’s re-introduction of the bill in January, Chief Hicks said, “I remain committed in our efforts to ensure that the federal recognition process takes precedence over political pandering in the new Congress.”
A request for comment from the Lumbee Tribe went unanswered by press time.
Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), who co-sponsored the Virginia bill with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), was happy with Thursday’s approval. “After meeting with leaders of Virginia’s Indian tribes and years of thorough investigation of the facts, I strongly believe that recognition for these six Virginia tribes is justified based on principles of dignity and fairness.”
“We must honor the heritage of our Virginia tribes, a heritage aggravated in the past by racial hostility and state-sanctioned actions that greatly diminished their cultural identity.”
A version of the Virginia bill passed the House the last two Congresses and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved the bill in the 111th Congress, but it never came to a full vote by the Senate.
To view S.1218 (Lumbee Recognition Act), visit https://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:s1218:
To view S.546 (Little Shell Tribe bill), visit https://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:s.00546:
To view S.379 (Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act), visit https://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:s.00379: