The United States House of Representatives unanimously passed the Lumbee Recognition Act. This did not please their historic rivals The Cherokee at all. While for the Lumbee Tribe this decision is cause for victory for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, it represents a challenge.
Following recognition, the Lumbees will now be able to reap certain benefits, including a casino in Robeson County, North Carolina. Tribe President Harvey Godwin Jr. commented in a press release that “the people of Lumbee have been praying for this day and today’s action in the House brings us one step closer to our goal.”
But the Cherokee did not like the news given their ancient confrontations with the Lumbee and they hope that this recognition will be stopped in the US Senate.
“The use of the authority of Congress to ignore and avoid investigation of such serious questions about the authenticity of the Lumbees is a scandalous injustice to all the federally recognized tribes,” said the chief chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Richard Sneed said.
He also said that:
“History and facts should guide the process, not politics. We call on the Senate to reject this legislation and allow Lumbee’s claims to be reviewed through the Office of Federal Recognition in the Department of the Interior.”
Sneed said his tribe did not invent such rules or the process and stressed that however they have “followed the rules, we have respected the process. We hope other tribes do as well.”
Although the discussion between the Cherokee and the Lumbee has centered on the recognition of the latter, the real underlying motive goes beyond pride, it is the income of the casino.
According to Associate Professor of American Indian Studies at UNC-Pembroke and member of the Lumbee tribe, Lawrence Locklear, “The federal government does not provide a large amount of funding for Indian communities and there are conditions attached to it: we are told how to spend that money”.
And he added:
“But with unrestricted casino money, you can spend it however you want. If you want to start business, you can. If you want to give per capita checks to tribal members, you can. “
With the competition closer, the Cherokee have reacted with annoyance, as the operations of the casinos in North Carolina were their exclusive monopoly until very recently. Now, it will have to compete with the Catawba Nation, which negotiates its own casino, and very soon perhaps it will have to compete with the Lumbee tribe as well.
The pressure has led the Cherokee to seek new territory for their business. They are currently negotiating a purchase agreement for Caesars Southern Indiana Casino. To start the offer, $ 10.5 million has already been approved.
“We are trying to be strategic and get into these other markets, because we know these threats are coming, so the decisions we make now or not make now will determine what the new normal will be five years from now,” Sneed said.
Navajos affected by the coronavirus
Meanwhile other tribes grapple with their own problems. The Navajos are facing a dangerous coronavirus outbreak across New Mexico. On november 28 alone, The Nation registered 258 new cases of covid -19, while in the entire state the number rose to 2,142.
Other neighboring states like Arizona and Utah, meanwhile, confirmed 4,136 and 2,043 cases respectively. Due to the rapid spread of the virus, Navajo casinos have had to remain closed for security reasons.
For its part, Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort is closing on mondays and tuesdays of each week due to a lack of customers.
Instead, the Kalispel Tribe is planning to expand amid the recession just as it did in 2008. The tribe owns the Northern Quest Resort & Casino located in Spokane, Washington, which will be expanded with an additional 200 rooms.