ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. — For more than 100 years, the Lumbee Indians of Robeson County have petitioned Congress for federal recognition. Congress is again weighing the Lumbees' proposal, but another group of Indians may stand in their way.
"They were proud of who they were. They were beautiful people," Katherine Magnotta said.
Magnotta's mother was one of 22 original Siouan Indians who lived in Robeson County. The federal government recognized the original 22 members in the 1930s.
Lumbee Indians are trying to gain federal recognition for its people -- 40,000 of whom live in Robeson County. At stake is the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money.
Descendants of the 22 Siouans say the Lumbees' petition is built on a lie.
"Our history is being basically stolen from us," Magnotta said.
Magnotta says the Lumbees claim her ancestors' history as their own to bolster their case for federal recognition. Lumbees say the history is one and the same.
"If you had the opportunity to get $700 million using someone elses identity and you think you could pass it because you're dealing with a bunch of uneducated Indians, well, a lot of people would take that opportunity and that's basically what they've done," Magnotta said.
"I think that the time has come for us," Pembroke Mayor Milton Hunt, a Lumbee Indian, said. "You have dissenters in anything. I really don't know why."
Congressional committees have held hearings on the Lumbee bill and the full House and Senate may vote on it later this year.