The Lumbee have called North Carolina home for hundreds of years. They descended from the coastal tribes of North Carolina and lived along the Lumber River before our nation was founded. During the Revolutionary War, they fought alongside American colonists and helped shaped our state's history.
But when Congress passed legislation to recognize the Lumbee nearly 60 years ago, it included a terribly unfair caveat that denied them benefits that every other federally recognized tribe receives.
The 1956 Lumbee Act actually prohibits the tribe from going through the Bureau of Indian Affairs process for full federal recognition. As the law stands now, the Lumbee can only be fully recognized by an act of Congress.
That's why I've introduced the Lumbee Recognition Act this month with Senator Richard Burr to provide the Lumbee with complete recognition and make the tribe eligible for all federal benefits and programs.
Full federal recognition is critical to the heritage and cultural identity of more than 55,000 North Carolinians and the economic vitality of the entire Lumbee community.
The federal government must stop treating the Lumbee as a second-class tribe and as second-class Americans.
Recognition of the Lumbee is long overdue. I will keep working with my colleagues to pass this legislation so that the Lumbee gain the full recognition they deserve.
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