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Tribal Recognition by the U.S Government Since 1953 Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 24th, 2021

Introduction

Tribal recognition in the United States of American government refers to the process through which a particular tribe is recognized by the federal government, or to an individual person being given membership to a tribe that is recognized by the federal government. Currently, there are over five hundred tribal governments that are recognized by the federal government in the United States of America. The rights of the tribes are recognized by the United States of America government and the government gives much support to these tribes’ sovereignty and their own self-determination. The tribes have a right to set up legal requirements needed for one to become a member. More so, these tribes may make their own government, enforce criminal and civil laws, impose a tax, issue licenses and control activities and guard their territories. The limits to their powers are the same limits that are encountered by the states. For instance, states, as well as tribes, are not allowed to make war, participate in relations with other countries or make up the money.

To gain recognition from the federal government by a tribe, several criteria must be met by this tribe. The government regards it as essential for a group to prove its descent from one historical tribe and the tribe’s members should be in a position to identify their ancestry to rolls of the tribe together with other records that give the account back to the year 1900 (Appalachian Voice, 1999: Para. 6). This paper is basically going to look at the Indian tribes in regard to their recognition by the federal government.

The Recognition of the Indian Tribes

Archaeologists suggest that Indians occupied the region along the Lumber River, which the Indians themselves referred to as Lumbee, fourteen thousand years ago. (Encyclopedia of North American Indians, 2007: Para 1). The Indians got their name from this river and thus were referred to as the Lumbees. The Lumbees originated from the Cheraw and Siouan-speaking Indians and these people have lived in the area that is currently known to be Robeson in North Carolina since the eighteenth century.

The start of the struggle by the Lumbee Tribe to gain recognition from the federal government can be traced back over a hundred years ago to the year 1888, at a time when a petition was signed by tribal leaders, forty-four in number, looking for help for their people especially for providing funds for the tribal schools. After the petition being referred to the Department of the Interior by congress, the tribes’ request was turned down by the commissioner with the claims that the agency did not have enough resources. Since 1899, various bills have been brought to Congress to recognize the tribe.

The North Carolina state gave the Lumbee Tribe various names in recognition of acts of the tribe basing on the local historians’ representations and of the legislature members in regard to the history of the tribe. Between the years 1885 and 1911, they were referred to as Croatan, the year 1911 and 1913, they were referred to as Robeson County, the year 1913 and 1953, they were called Cherokee Indians of Robeson and at last, they were called Lumbee Indians and are still called so at the present.

During the beginning of the 1950s, the tribe was not comfortable with the name given to it under the law of the state and this prompted these people to exert much pressure on the state and as a result, the state conducted a referendum to come up with an appropriate name. In the year 1951, the Lumbees voted to have a new name. A bill, in turn, was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly approving the name for this tribe to become “Lumbee Indians of North Carolina” and to date, the tribe is still called so. This was the only time the tribe had a chance to give itself a name other than a name being imposed on it.

In the year 1955, the Lumbee tribe just like it had done in former times, looking for recognition by the federal government based on the state law that had been amended recently. The same way as in the former case, this bill was opposed by the Department of the Interior and this department came up with recommendations that the bill is amended by Congress by refusing eligibility for the gains that were there for the Indians for the reason of their tribal status following the federal Indian policy that was prevailing at that time. The bill, which on which the amendments had been done was later (1956) enacted by Congress. Therefore, Congress accepted the Lumbee Indians but at the same time terminated this tribe by refusing it the federal Indian benefits and services.

In the year 1968, there came the Tiwa Act 1968 and this played the same role as that of the 1956 Lumbee Act. Nevertheless, in 1987 the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Restoration Act was enacted. This act approved that the Tiwa had gotten recognition from the 1968 Tiwa act. This has brought in many arguments about the model of this act, which is the Lumbee Act. The argument is that, the Lumbee act must in the same way be given recognition and that congress has the obligation of bringing back in place the federal relationship with the Lumbees. In the year 2001, there was massive voting by the Lumbee Tribe to have organization under a tribal constitution. (Thomas, n.d: Para. 25).

Conclusion

In summary, as time goes by, the people of the Lumbee Tribe have increasingly engaged themselves in the state, national and political matters. With determination to take control of their own tribal identity, they sought recognition in 1953 and succeeded and obtained limited recognition by the federal government in the year 1956 as an Indian tribe. However, from the 1970s their political efforts have been channeled towards acquiring federal recognition in full for them to achieve the status that can be equated to that of other tribes in the country that have full federal recognition within the country. In an effort to achieve this goal, in the year 1987, the Lumbees submitted a petition to be acknowledged, backed by ten years of research, to the Department of the Interior. Later in the year 1989, the Lumbees were advised by the Department of the interior on its inability to process its petition because of the restrictions in the 1956 Act.

More so, the Lumbees have also actively tried to, through an act of Congress, get full federal recognition. Regardless of what the results of these efforts may turn out to be, it is quite clear that the Lumbees have a great determination to hold on to their identity in relation to their culture and tribe. This is an effort they are employing to ensure they leave behind a legacy to their children in order for them to work harder in ensuring that their tribe does not suffer extinction, just like it has always been the trend from those who came before them.

Works Cited

Appalachian Voice. Southeastern Indians Claim Their Heritage. 1999. Web.

Thomas Jefferson, Background and need for Legislation, 2009. Web.

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