LUMBEE INDIANS OF NORTH CAROLINA SEEK FEDERAL RECOGNITION, SOCIAL JUSTICE [HUNTER GRAY [A slightly older post on a continuing issue -- edited, expanded and updated -- most recently in late March 2009]. Widely posted.
Note: As of this late March 2009, Lumbee
recognition is now much, much closer -- and victory is in sight. The Obama
administration has formally indicated that it backs the Lumbees in this most
important struggle. See material at the conclusion of this webpage.
Note by Hunter Bear:
The Lumbee Indian Nation fights on for Federal recognition.
"Federal recognition" does not "make" an Indian tribe. No bona fide Native
tribe needs any alien government's approval to be its own Tangible Reality.
Recognition comes from the Creator and the People of the Tribe. But Federal
recognition is extremely important. The large Lumbee Nation, based in
southern North Carolina -- with many of its members scattered into the urban
areas of Maryland and Pennsylvania, but always maintaining close connections
with the home Nation -- has been fighting hard for full Federal recognition
The Lumbees are certainly bona fide Native Americans. They emerged as a
distinctive nation when a number of tribal remnant groups in the Southern
Atlantic coastal region came together in the 1600s and early 1700s in the
wake of the genocidal European onslaught.
Most Native American tribes in what's called the United States are
"Federally recognized" -- usually through formal treaties with the U.S.
government; and in some instances through Congressional statute or
administrative procedure or, in a very few cases, via judicial proceedings.
Some, for various reasons -- often historical, are "state recognized." And
some, through no fault of their own, have no formal governmental recognition
of any kind. Federal recognition provides a number of important benefits
[though never enough] to tribes and their members: e.g., economic,
educational, health, welfare, criminal justice, trust protection. Most
tribes that have simply "state recognition" get far less indeed -- and
sometimes nothing much at all. No formal governmental recognition of any
kind always means virtually no governmental Indian benefits.
There are always differing Native opinions on the Casino Issue -- but a
tribal nation does have to be Federally-recognized to engage in that
At various points over the decades, I've worked closely with many Lumbees --
initially in connection with my organizing work in the Southern Movement.
I've always supported their fight for Federal recognition [as I've supported
that of other tribes.] A cousin of mine, active in northeastern and
national Indian circles, married a very effective Lumbee lawyer much involved in
national Native American rights struggles.
Lumbees were active in the formation of the National Congress of American
Indians in 1944. In 1958, they routed a huge mob of Ku Klux Klansmen at
Maxton, N.C. in an internationally publicized and widely approved incident.
Lumbees played major roles in the historic Conference [Coalition] of Eastern Native
Americans [CENA] at Washington, D.C. in 1972 -- when a great many
non-Federally recognized tribes came together in common cause.
And Lumbees were involved in the National Indian Policy Review Commission's
work in the mid-1970s.
And they've certainly been much into many other important Native American
The Lumbees are a very large Indian nation indeed and it's obvious that the
major reason for blocking their full Federal recognition involves a sorry
reluctance on the part of the U.S. government to incur service
responsibility for such a relatively large number -- more than 65,000. But
the government -- and the U.S. as a whole -- have a special obligation and
responsibility to all Native Americans.
The Lumbees have some Anglo admixture -- nothing noteworthy at all about
that these days in any Native circles in the Hemisphere. And, like all
Southern tribes in the 'States [with the exception of the Eastern Band of
Cherokee in the North Carolina mountains], they have some African ancestry
In the mid-1960s, I spoke on our civil rights organizing work at Hollister,
North Carolina -- in the piney woods of the Northeastern Black Belt. Half
the people present were Haliwa Indians and the other half were Black.
Although each group sat on opposite sides of the church aisle, each
group had the same "color" variations: White, African-American, Native.
Black group was
African-American, the Haliwas were Indian.
A kind of analogy would be the contemporary Puerto Rican situation.
But the existence of some African ancestry among the Lumbees has
been used by its enemies in the past -- in the most blatantly racist
fashion -- as a reason to deny the Lumbees full Federal recognition. That
multi-victim tactic is now certainly more covert than overt -- but it's
still lurking poisonously in the shadows.
As many of us know, things can get quite genetically "mixed" in Dixie
especially. One of the most fascinating anthropological lectures I've ever
heard from anyone was given me over a sumptuous breakfast in a Black home in
Enfield, North Carolina [founded 1740] -- when I was doing SCEF civil rights
organizing in that hard-core, tightly segregated, poverty stricken and
Klan-infested multi-county setting. At that home in which I was staying,
the elderly matriarch -- who had prepared the always excellent food [no
weight lost there!] -- spent a good part of that morning discussing in great
detail how all persons who held one particular [Scottish] name in that
region [Halifax County and environs] each had Black, Indian, and Caucasian
ancestry -- whatever their official specific racial identification might be.
Lumbees now hope that Congress will, this year or early in 2009, approve a
pending bill providing them with full Federal recognition.
The Lumbees deserve that full Federal recognition and benefits -- as do the
other tribes similarly situated. They all keep fighting -- always have,
always will -- and they warrant the full support of all those everywhere who
seek social justice.
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear] Micmac/St Francis Abenaki/St Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
ADDED NOTE [HUNTER BEAR] 4/07/03
Note by Hunter Bear:
This kind note arrived today from Lumbee Nation -- "down in North Carolina."
In case you missed it, I'm herewith attaching my Lumbee article of a couple
of months ago. Federal recognition for the Lumbee Nation is critically
needed -- NOW. Letters to the North Carolina Congressional delegation -- asking
that they support fast and direct Lumbee Federal recognition through direct
Congressional action -- repeat, direct Congressional action -- would be very
Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., and Sens. Kay Hagan and
Richard Burr, R-N.C. [current, 2009]
To Hunter Bear:
Hey man! That article you wrote on here about Lums, was one of the (if
not the) most direct, blunt, and accurate writings about our situation
that I've ever read. I just felt compelled to send a little thanks your
way. Keep up the good work bro!
Yanire Kidaya-see you down the road (from the Cheraw dialect of the
Catawbian Siouan language)
[From University of North Carolina, Pembroke -- in Lumbee Country.]
To Hunter Bear:
From Christopher Kennedy [southern North
That was a great article you wrote about the Lumbee people. I am Lumbee
Indian. My mother was a Locklear and she married a Kennedy, that's where I
get the last name from. But I always make it a point to let everyone know
who I am.
Keep up the good work, check out some of my artwork.
FROM HUNTER BEAR:
Dear Hunter Gray,
I hope you're well.
I just wanted to say that this contact with you has opened up a new world
for me, of struggle, people fighting for their rights and justice. Maybe the
real America! Of course, i've been familiar with these things before, but now
I'm in contact with the real people involved, not just reading about it.
Education never ends.
I'm off on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain to the bones of St.
James. Walking the walk. Meditating. I'm not Catholic, but that ain't the
Best wishes, God bless,
Jyri [Kokkonen] Finland
A VERY SOLID EXCHANGE
BETWEEN MYSELF [HUNTER] AND MY [GRAY] COUSIN FROM THE NORTHEAST:
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:
This is a substantial excerpt from one of the letters sent by an always
feisty and very effective cousin of mine, [his subject line, "from your gray
cousin in the northeast,"] a Penobscot who resides on the res. at Indian
Island, Maine. [The first part of his good message simply involves routine
family matters -- but his basic thrust carries [as always] an excellent call
for social justice. George has been active in regional and national Native
affairs for most of his adult life. At one time, he was married to the
noted Betty Jo [Jo Jo] Hunt, a trail-blazing Lumbee Native rights attorney.
His statement [with which I am, of course, in full agreement] speaks with
vigor: [My own website page on the Lumbee struggle is
http://www.hunterbear.org/lumbee_indians_of_north_carolina.htm -- Best, H
". . . .let's renew the battle for recognition for the lumbee indians.
in other words, let's unite the eastern tribes the way they need to be, and
should continue so that all of our relations, and distant cousins and
descendants will remember this day: july 4, 2006.
this is my battle cry, hunter. it's time to put it allt together and send
this arrow into eternity: it shall bear all the names and spirits who never
were recognized for their warrior spirit and what they brought about for ALL
native people. i was in washington, dc when it was happening, when these
legends and giants of all time were setting policy for the next forty years.
i was there, hunter. i'm the guy who wrote the criteria for federal
recognition, was part of the five man team who authored the original draft
of the indian child welfare act, helped to compile the final report to the
us congress for the american indian policy review commission in 1977,
finalized the report to the commission for task force 10 -- non-federally
recognized and terminated indians that included an omnibus federal
restoration act for the terminated tribes and the first census analysis of
the counties where these tribes were found, and was part of a number
mini-task force groupings that engendered "new" concepts such as "tribe"
listing for those who listed themselves as "indian" in the us census & to
have a special census every five years on and near indian
reservations/communities for detailed information, indian preference and
across the board application under every federal agency...and so on.
let's use the best part of beings, and get these lumbee indians recognized.
they are my brothers and sisters, and their children and grandchildren mean
as much to me as my own. i was married to most beautiful, most talented
lumbee indian in all creation, betty jo hunt, and though we never had a
family or lasted, our lives were dedicated to native people. for me, her
name is in the same breath as john and robert kennedy, dr. martin luther
king, and medgar evers. her name is always forgotten when they start talking
about the "great ones" and i want to see her name in the tribal memories of
all tribes, east, west, north, and south.
it's time, we've got nothing more to lose, nothing less to give then our
love and determination -- your northeast cousin, george
AND MY RESPONSE:
A few days ago, I posted a substantial excerpt from
my good activist
Penobscot cousin in northern Maine. His has been a lifetime of fine service
on a regional and national basis. [George's apt subject line: "from your
gray cousin in the northeast."] Here is an excerpt from one of my letters
to him [the first part of the letter simply concerns routine and
conventional family matters.] Although we are both pretty well aware of our
respective activist trails, I review a bit of this to make several basic
points which may be of general relevancy. H
From Hunter [or John]:
". . . .The struggle for full justice is obviously and always a long, long
tough fight. You have certainly been doing your part -- and indeed much
more. I've kept up with you pretty well. In two courses of mine
especially, Federal Indian Law and History of American Indian Law and
Policy, I used as major resources the volumes issued by the National Indian
Policy Review Commission. And, of course, our family has very special
commitment to, and interest in [Dad's experience as a seized child], re the
National Indian Child Welfare Act. In addition to a full teaching load at
North Dakota, I also did much volunteer direct Native grassroots organizing
around racial issues -- bordertowns etc -- and handled an endless flow of
advocate cases. I often used the Indian Child Welfare Act with much success!
The committed and enduring people who initiate and carry through meaningful
social change often don't get the credit in their own time that they so
richly deserve. Of course, credit [and money] are not the goals of bona
fide activist-organizers and people-advocates and grassroots-up policy
makers. Many academic historians are as shoddy and white-washing as the
worst version of the Anthros. Sometimes, of course, when the real
movers-and-shakers pass into the Fog and Beyond, they do get some credit.
Medgar Evers was hardly known outside of Mississippi and given little broad
media notice until he was murdered.
I fully agree with you on everything you say regarding the Eastern Indians
and the Lumbees [and, by extension, the Haliwas and the Shinnecocks and all
of the other very bona fide but "non-recognized" Native nations.] Since, as
I say, my physical horizons are now rather limited, I do fight as best I can
via my considerable writing and our huge [much visited] website, some radio
interviews [e.g., NPR], and a few speaking things within a medically
manageable distance. I also get a fair number of solid questions which I
The Lumbee fight, obviously crucial, will see victory. We can only hope that
it is soon. Their opponents have lost a lot of ground in the past few
years -- and are fading fast. The Lumbees, like all Natives, have
endured -- always have and always will.
And, as I see it, there is now much more functional unity across Indian
Country than ever before. But there is still a hell of a long trail to
travel -- and I agree fully with you that the Eastern Indians need to come
together in a solid and fighting fashion.
Everything I have heard about JoJo Hunt has been very positive. You are
very fortunate indeed to have known her. I am certain that, sooner or
later, she will get her full measure of recognition.
I created a long-standing joke in our family. Since I've collected my
activist "papers" [such as they are], I plan to Return via reincarnation
and, as one of my orders of business as a New Person, will dig out those
papers and write a glowing biography [auto-biography] of myself. I know
that doesn't mesh too well with some of the teachings of our Catholic
Church, but we have always been a little flexible when it comes to those.
My half-Bobcat, sitting on this computer desk, is trying to help me type.
Our very best to all of you, George. We shall all -- and always -- keep
fighting. And we will certainly keep in contact.
As Ever, Hunter or John
HUNTER BEAR TO HELEN LAMB [LUMBEE]: [FEBRUARY 13 2007] [RE NATIVE VISIONS, THE EXCELLENT LUMBEE NATION NEWSPAPER]
LUMBEE CONTACT INFO AS OF 2008:
MY RESPONSE [2/24/09] TO A QUESTION FROM MY GOOD FRIEND, REBER, A NEW MEXICO ATTORNEY:
Many [not all] of the Eastern Cherokees have long been
afraid of being confused with the
Lumbees -- and that's a reflection of Southern racism. In recent epochs,
they've also been worried about the ultimately inevitable "official"
entrance of their old target into Federally-recognized Native ranks -- and
they've used the fact that the Lumbees, if and when Federally recognized,
would get a substantial hunk of Federal "Indian money" to try to build
anti-Lumbee sentiment among other tribes in the country. That effort was
somewhat successful for a long time -- but, even so, many Natives to the
four directions did not agree with them even back in those days. [Lumbees
have played important roles in the organization and life of the National
Congress of American Indians and other pan-Indian endeavors and have been
much involved in national Indian education causes and much more.] Now, with
the Lumbees much better known nationally, those Eastern Cherokee efforts are
running out of steam.
And the conviction is strong in Native circles that inter-tribal unity is
necessary to preserve Native rights on all fronts -- and get even bigger
slices of the Federal appropriations pie.
More recently, there's been the addition of another factor. The Eastern
Cherokees have a big casino operation -- the only one in North Carolina and
environs -- and they're afraid the Lumbees, if Federally recognized, could
launch something of their own along those lines. The Lumbees have said a
number of times that they're not interested in a casino. Of course, when
the time comes, they could change their mind. But, as the Land of
Enchantment indicates -- your good home, Reber, and where part of my own
heart resides -- there's always room for another casino.
POSTED MATERIAL FROM INDIANZ NEWS SERVICE [MARCH 19 2009]: