Lumbee Tribal Recognition May Come At Last

My cousin Karen Burney and I have both told the story of the Lumbee Indians from whence we believe our Brayboy ancestors come. See our posts here and here.

For many historical and political reasons, the Lumbees have not been federally recognized as a tribe.  However they have been recognized by the state of North Carolina.   According to, Lumbee recognition bills have come up 11 times during the last century.  But Congress has declined to extend federal recognition each time.

There’s now a bill before the Congress introduced by North Carolina Congressman Mike  McIntyre, HR 31, which apparently has a chance of passing and exceeding federal recognition for the Lumbees.  The bill got a favorable reception at a hearing last month in the House Natural Resources Committee which has jurisdiction over Indian affairs in the House of Representatives.  Potential passage was helped by the fact that the Department of the Interior now supports Lumbee recognition.

Under HR 31, the Lumbees would not be allowed to conduct gaming activities.

Although the Lumbees identify themselves as Indians, most authoritative sources described them as “triracial isolates.”  They apparently are descendants of European Americans, Native Americans and African-Americans, and perhaps may be descendants of the Lost Colony.  This is in fact related to the issues that have stood in the way of federal recognition.  There has been some tension among blacks and whites and Indians in Robeson County, North Carolina, the ancestral homeland of the Lumbees.  I would hope that if federal recognition is achieved this year that the benefits of recognition will be available to all who are eligible regardless of the apparent dominant cultural identity which they now assume.  Well let me say that more plainly: I’m hoping that the Lumbees adopt a tribal enrollment scheme that does not disadvantage any of the descendants who are eligible to be enrolled regardless of whether those people now are black, white or otherwise.

A couple of informative and fascinating books about the Lumbee people:
The Only Land I Know: A History of the Lumbee Indians
By Adolph L. Dial, David K. Eliades
Published by Syracuse University Press, 1996

The Lumbee Problem: The Making of an American Indian People
By Karen I. Blu
Contributor Karen I. Blu
Edition: illustrated
Published by U of Nebraska Press, 2001
ISBN 0803261977, 9780803261976
298 pages


April 2009
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