Issues Affecting American Indians in Tennessee
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  • Michael Lynch, West Tennessee (2008-12)
         member, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • Pat Cummins, Middle Tennessee (2004-08)
         descendant, Cherokee
  • Mark Cantrell, Middle Tennessee (2010-14)
         unknown tribal affiliation
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  • Brent A. Cox (2008-2012)
    444 Cades Atwood Road
    Milan, Tennessee 38358

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    Issues Affecting American Indians in Tennessee

    Issues Affecting American Indians in Tennessee
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    Lumbees see federal visit as a good sign

    Lumbees see federal visit as a good sign
    Jul 23, 2010

    PEMBROKE - Lumbee leaders say a visit next month by federal education officials is a sign that the mood in Washington favors tribal recognition.

    Although that topic isn't on the agenda for the meeting in Pembroke, Lumbees are hopeful because the U.S. Department of Education has never sought feedback from tribes that are only state-recognized.

    The event, brokered by the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs, is the next in a series of nationwide meetings between the Department of Education and tribes likely to be effected by education reforms.

    State-recognized tribes such as the Lumbees do not receive the direct educational funding afforded to federally recognized tribes. But they do benefit from federally funded Indian education programs that are run through public schools.

    The Department of Education announced the meeting as part of an effort to bring everyone to the table. But some Lumbee leaders - as they continue to press on Congress for full federal recognition and millions of dollars in aid - say the meeting shows the powers in Washington are growing sympathetic to the tribe's struggles.

    "We are closer than we have ever been before to winning federal recognition," Tribal Speaker Ricky Burnett said. "I think this (meeting) helps us, and it shows they're ready to start listening to our concerns and issues. Up in Congress, they see that."

    Federal lawmakers recognized the Lumbees in 1956 but denied the tribe millions of dollars in direct federal aid for education and health care. Legislation awaiting a final vote on the Senate floor would change that.

    Burnett and other tribe leaders said they hope the meeting will highlight issues facing the tribe of about 50,000 members and help convince lawmakers to pass their bill this year.

    Burnett said he was thrilled officials choose to hold the statewide meeting in Lumbee country.

    "I think it's good they want our input," Burnett said.

    Hundreds of Indian educators from across the state are expected to attend the Aug. 5 meeting in downtown Pembroke, including leaders from seven other state-recognized tribes.

    Focus on education

    The forum will center on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act - the primary source for Indian education funding - and how it might impact state-recognized tribes in North Carolina.

    Discussions about federal recognition will not be part of the meeting, a Department of Education spokeswoman said.

    The tribes are expected to discuss possible changes to Indian education programs and new funding models.

    Indian educators fear funding cuts will be part of the reforms, said Rita Locklear, director of Indian education for Robeson County schools.

    She said Indian educators are thankful for a chance to share concerns and observations with federal officials.

    "We feel honored they are going to give us that opportunity to share our stories," Locklear said. "It's an opportunity to hear directly from our teachers and former students. And it's a chance for them to hear about our culture and history here, and the issues that are unique to us."

    There is a continued need for Indian educational programs throughout the state, Locklear said. That goes for state- and federally recognized tribes alike, she said.

    Although the achievement gap has closed since the federal government started funding Indian education programs in the 1970s, Indian boys still had the highest dropout rate of any demographic in the state last year at about 8 percent, according to the annual report by the State Advisory Council on Indian Education.

    Indian students, as the whole, lag behind in standardized test scores and other achievement indicators, the report said.

    "There is still a very strong need for these programs," Locklear said. "We just need to demonstrate that need (to policymakers)."

    The forum will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Indian Education Center in downtown Pembroke.

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    Re: Lumbees see federal visit as a good sign

    The person who wrote this does not have their facts quite right. You'll notice they referred to the Lumbees as state-recognized and then a few paragraphs later refer the Congress' 1956 limited recognition of the Lumbees. I would think it would be easier for the Lumbees to get full recognition than many other tribes because of that 1956 precedent. But I guess the BIA went hands-off because the ball was in Congress' court. I guess this case is a lesson in following the established procedure and not trying to circumvent the process--unless you want to be stuck in limbo for 60 years.

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