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One News Now

Lumbee Indians Seek Federal Recognition while NC Senate Leaders Oppose Proposed Catawba Casino

By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
November 7, 2013

Lumbee RecognitionNative American tribes and their rights in the Tar Heel state are making news as of late as federal lawmakers push for full recognition for the Lumbees in eastern North Carolina, and state Senators let it be known that outside tribes are not welcome to bring in casinos.

The Lumbee Recognition Act came before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs late last month where Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) testified in support of giving the tribe full federal recognition, but at the same time prohibiting it from gaining gaming privileges.

Very similar to Rep. Richard Hudson’s (R-8th) House Resolution 1803, Senate Bill 1132 would grant the tribe access to a number of federal benefits ranging from housing and education to healthcare. It would specify that tribe members living in Robeson, Cumberland, Hoke and Scotland counties would be deemed “residing on or near an Indian reservation” for the purposes of receiving services, but it would not allow the tribe to operate gambling facilities.

“We have long opposed federal recognition for the Lumbees, not because we don’t want their heritage recognized, but because of the gaming that usually accompanies such recognition,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.

He said the CAL had followed the issue for years, especially in 2010 when some members of the Lumbee Tribal Council used a backdoor deal to replace their longtime lobbyist with a gambling company.

Thankfully that contract fell through and it seems the tribe is ready once again to seek federal status without gaming privileges, which is the only way the CAL could ever support recognition,” Dr. Creech said.

The current bill includes a provision that “the tribe may not conduct gaming activities as a matter of claimed inherent authority or under the authority of any Federal law, including the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), or under any regulations thereunder promulgated by the Secretary of the National Indian Gaming Commission.”

The Lumbee tribe, some 50,000 strong and centered in Robeson County, won only limited recognition in 1956 when the government acknowledged members as Indians but denied them access to federal services.

If they were to ever be granted gaming rights, the result would be disastrous for the state, Dr. Creech said.

North Carolina Family Policy Council researchers pointed out in a 2004 publication that a casino in Robeson County would be the only one on I-95 between New Jersey and Florida and would quickly expand into a “full-blown gambling destination for the Southeast” and would create thousands of new gambling addicts.

The NCFPC no longer opposes full federal recognition of the tribe as long as it “expressly prohibits the tribe from conducting gambling activities in the state,” said the council’s president, John L. Rustin, in a special Web site report, in which he added, “The establishment of another Indian casino in North Carolina would not be in the best interest of our state or our citizens.”

N.C. Senate Leaders Write Bureau of Indian Affairs Opposing Catawba Casino Proposal

In other matters related to Indian gaming, N.C. Senate leaders wrote a letter Oct. 18 to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) opposing the Catawbas’ push to build a casino in Cleveland County.

Senators Phil Berger (R-Guilford), Tom Apodaca (R-Buncombe), Jim Davis (R-Cherokee) and Martin Nesbitt (D-Buncombe) said advancing the tribe’s efforts would “set a new and dangerous precedent.” In their letter, on the heels of a similar missive from more than 100 House members, the Senate leaders argued that the Catawba tribe isn’t subject to the IGRA because it struck its own separate deal with the U.S. Government under which it may only acquire land for trust in its home base of South Carolina.

The letter says that if the tribe does buy property in North Carolina, where it is eyeing a 16-acre site off I-85, it is subject to North Carolina law, which prohibits most gambling.

The Catawbas have asked the BIA to approve its application to put the Cleveland County lands in a federal trust, the initial step toward opening a casino.

“We’re glad to see Senate leaders following suit with the N.C. House to let the BIA know that North Carolina opposes this effort to import a casino,” said Dr. Creech. “We already have one too many. We must keep praying that the Catawbas’ request will be denied.”