Lumbee Recognition - North Carolina tribe’s casino contract bets assets on gambling

Pembroke, North Carolina (AP) April 2010

North Carolina’s Lumbee Indian tribe approved a consultant’s contract that could risk all of the tribe’s assets if the Lumbee eventually win the right to operate a casino but members decide they don’t want gambling.

The Lumbee Tribal Council endorsed a contract with Lewin International, although Tribal Speaker Ricky Burnett said he never saw nor has a copy of the contract that bears his signature, The Fayetteville Observer reported Friday. Burnett said he still voted for the contract Thursday night to help the tribe’s push for full federal recognition.

The contract carries penalties of $35 million if the council can’t get the rest of the tribe to agree to gambling if federal permission is granted, putting the bulk of the tribe’s assets at risk. The tribe owns about $50 million in homes, rental properties, and community centers.

The testy council meeting, which included a bid to overturn the contract initially approved last month, showed tribal members are far from unanimously behind casino gambling. Don Scott warned that casinos would add to the drug problems and poverty that already plague the area.

“Down the road, it may come back to haunt us,” Scott said. “It may end up in your homes.”

Opponents said they would try to launch a recall election of the council’s contract supporters and possibly a referendum on the deal, which also makes Lewin the tribe’s lobbyist in pursuit of federal recognition. A Maryland attorney who is a Lumbee has worked for federal recognition for free for more than 20 years.

There are an estimated 55,000 Lumbee Indians in Robeson, Cumberland, Hoke and Scotland counties.

The tribe began its quest for recognition in 1888, three years after North Carolina formally recognized it. Congress partially recognized the tribe in 1956 but denied the Lumbees federal benefits given to other tribes. The House approved full federal recognition for the Lumbees in June and the measure is pending in the Senate.

The legislation, which would make the Lumbee and six Virginia tribes eligible for up to $800 million in federal funds, bars the tribes from building casinos.


Information from:
The Fayetteville Observer