PEMBROKE — U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, the Democrat representing the state's 8th Congressional District, says that if Pembroke becomes part of his district as a result of redistricting, he can be counted on to lead the Lumbee tribe's federal recognition efforts.
"I'm familiar with the recognition bill and support it," he said Thursday. "Mike (McIntyre) and I talk quite a bit about this."
McIntyre, a Democrat from Lumberton, represents the 7th Congressional District, which includes Pembroke and Maxton, but if the recently proposed congressional district map is approved, Kissell would represent those areas. Pembroke has a strong Lumbee population.
McIntyre was instrumental in shepherding the Lumbee Recognition Bill through the House in both 2007 and 2009. Both times, the bill stalled in the Senate.
In January, he again introduced the bill, which is currently in committee.
"We are still gathering co-sponsorships for the bill," Dean Mitchell, McIntyre's chief of staff, said Thursday. "Unfortunately, the majority party has not been receptive to moving any (tribal) recognition legislation."
Kissell, who is serving his second two-year House term, told The Robesonian that he has been a supporter of the Lumbee bill since his first day as a congressman.
"Mike came to me the day I was sworn in and asked me to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill," Kissell said.
Kissell said that he believes he can represent the tribe, and all of Robeson County, well.
"Every part of a district has its own special issues," he said.
Although she could not be reached for comment, Lumbee Tribal Chairwoman Sharon Hunt, during her recent State of the Tribe address, emphasized that federal recognition continues to be a top priority of tribal leaders. She said that she has been discussing the bill with both North Carolina senators, Richard Burr, a Republican, and Kay Hagan, a Democrat, as well as McIntyre. Burr and Hagan recently introduced the Lumbee Recognition Bill in the Senate.
"The bill is already bundled with several recognition bills in the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs," Hunt said. "We continue to be positive toward the passage of our bill."
Passage would mean hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid to the tribe for medical care, economic development, education and child welfare. The tribe has about 55,000 members, most living in Robeson, Hoke, Scotland and Cumberland counties.
The tribe began its quest for federal recognition in 1888, three years after North Carolina formally recognized it. Congress partially recognized the tribe in 1956 but denied benefits given to other tribes.