President Trump supports federal recognition of Lumbee Tribe

President Donald Trump gives thumbs up, as he departs after speaking from the Blue Room Balcony of the White House to a crowd of supporters, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A N.C. Native American tribe’s 135-year campaign for recognition by the federal government took a major step this week. On Wednesday, President Donald Trump released a statement indicating his support for full federal recognition of the Lumbee Tribe in southeastern North Carolina.

“As President, I am committed to looking out for the needs of every American, including those of Native American heritage.  For more than a century, the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina has sought federal recognition, but has been met with indifference and red tape,” Trump’s statement reads. 

The president said he supported S.1368, the Lumbee Recognition Act, a bill sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Thom Tillis to extend services and benefits provided to members of the recognized tribes.

“After consultation with Sen. Thom Tillis, Rep. Dan Bishop, and other members of the North Carolina congressional delegation, I am announcing my full support for S.1368, the Lumbee Recognition Act, which would make qualifying members of the Lumbee Tribe eligible for the services and benefits provided to members of federally recognized tribes,” Trump’s statement continued. “Lumbee Nation is forgotten no more!”

Donald Trump Jr. along with members of the Lumbee Tribe at a campaign rally in Rowland, N.C. on October 10, 2020

Members of the tribe residing in Robeson, Cumberland, Hoke, and Scotland counties would be deemed eligible within the delivery area for the federal services.

“Since the 2017 inauguration, the Lumbee Tribe has worked with several different elements of the Trump administration and our Congressional delegation to not only build support for federal recognition but a path to achieving the goal,” said Lumbee Tribal Council Member Jarrod Lowry. “Now, with the full support of the President and our congressional delegation, the 135-year struggle is very close to the finish line.” 

Donald Trump Jr. said during a visit to Robeson County on October 10 that he would look into a path for Lumbee recognition. Trump Jr. told tribe members that he was aware of old promises of recognition by prior administrations. “A couple of weeks ago when I was with the great Lumbee Tribe, my message was simple: President Trump see you and President Trump hears you,” Trump Jr. said in a Thursday statement. “Now, with yesterday’s statement from my father, President Trump will deliver for you.”

“The support for the Lumbee did not just start with President Trump’s press release supporting the Lumbee Recognition bill on Wednesday,” said Aaron Thomas of Robeson County. “Donald Trump Jr. has been to Pembroke, the heart of Lumbee Country twice over the last six months meeting with Lumbee business and tribal leaders.”

President Barack Obama said he supported Lumbee recognition in 2008 but recognition has eluded the 50,00-member tribe who has sought federal status for 135 years.

“I want to thank President Trump for his support for the Lumbee Recognition Act, legislation I co-introduced to give the Lumbee Tribe full federal recognition,” said Sen. Tillis in a statement. “Federal recognition has been a long time coming and I am proud to have worked with President Trump and the North Carolina delegation to get us one step closer to getting this legislation passed out of Congress and signed into law.”

“The Lumbee in my district have waited decades for the full federal recognition they deserve. President Trump shows he is their champion, and that full federal recognition—and all the rights that come with it—is near,” said Rep. Bishop (R-NC09). “My first act in Congress was to co-sponsor Lumbee recognition and advocate for its passage to my colleagues and the President. I look forward to voting for it and sending it to the President for signature to ensure the full recognition that has for too long been denied.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest followed with a statement indicating his support, saying, “I am in full support of federal recognition of the Lumbee Tribe. For over 100 years, the Lumbee have sought this designation but have consistently been met with roadblocks. It is time this chapter in the tribe’s rich history is completed.  I was pleased to see President Trump give his full support in recognizing the Lumbees, and I will work with our Congressional Delegation and President Trump to see their recognition through to the finish line.”

Gov. Roy Cooper announced support in 2017 via a letter to then-Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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Matt Mercer is the editor in chief of North State Journal and can be reached at [email protected].