By RICHARD G. SNEED
Since going to Washington, DC earlier this month I have worked to get our legislative agenda back on track. I have become increasingly concerned about the Lumbee Recognition bill gathering more momentum than in the past several years. We rely on our long-standing relationships with Congress. I met with our Representative in Congress, Mr. Mark Meadows (R-NC), this week and want to thank him for his enduring support of our tribe and concern for the issues we face. I believe Congressman Meadows is a staunch supporter of the tribe and we continue our discussions concerning our concerns.
The Lumbee recognition bill has some staggering implications for our tribe. The increase in competition for federal funding will grow exponentially if the Lumbee and their estimated 50,000 members gain recognition. This will impact our housing and roads money among other federal funds which are dwindling with the proposed budget.
I want to express that we do not oppose the Lumbee but we do object to any group of people who seek to circumvent the process which sets the standard for recognition. I believe the process, while cumbersome, is fair to those tribes who have an historic government to government relationship with the US.
Our Tribe also celebrated the opening of the bowling alley at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort this week. It was a project a long time coming but one which I hope will enhance our entertainment options for our community members and visitors. Our tribe must remain competitive with our entertainment options to ensure our long-term needs are funded. I have confidence in the Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise Board to plan for our future and to invest responsibly.
I was also honored to take part in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Graham County Indian Education Program. This program has worked in whatever space was available to provide educational services. Now they have a nice space to continue their work to enhance educational opportunities for our students.
I have been watching the situation in Texas and other communities effected by tropical storm Harvey and working to provide support. I have also been informed about the specific effect on tribal communities in the storm through USET. The situation is serious and we will be assisting the people in need through the American Red Cross. I hope you will join me in praying for those affected.
I have also been working on resolving the staffing concerns of all our tribal programs. This is difficult without the ability to hire staff. One area which is of great concern is the Tsali Care Nursing Home. This program has been successful in the past but the budget increases the program asked for over the past two budget cycles have gone unfunded. That coupled with the delay in hiring new staff has created a skilled nursing shortage. The program has worked with an outside agency to bring in temporary staff however that is not enough.
Our staff has demonstrated an undying commitment to the community through their increased number of hours at work and their efficient and effective management of their limited resources. We cannot continue to successfully operate in this manner and provide quality care for our community.
Our Tribal Council must make another tough decision and appoint a Vice Chief immediately so our hiring can proceed. Our Human Resources department is working to improve their processes. When the executive committee is fully functioning again, I have every confidence the HR team will meet the challenge of staffing to meet all our needs.
We are a fortunate Tribe blessed with resources. There are times when our blessings are obscured by the trials of life. It is a daily challenge to appreciate all we have and to work to help those who are facing adversity but I feel our best rewards come from service to our community and to others in need.