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Long-dormant Indian cultural center could get boost

The state would sell 384 acres in Robeson County to the Lumbee Indians and let them try to develop a cultural center that has failed to materialize after three decades of effort, under a plan advanced Wednesday.

The Lumbees would be given the first shot at buying the land, with conditions that it be preserved for public access and to protect artifacts. If that doesn’t work out, the land could be sold at public auction without those conditions.

The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee approved the plan on Wednesday, and directed staff to draw up a bill that will be introduced next year.

Trooper's firing upheld

The State Highway Patrol was justified in firing a trooper who juggled his work as a Robeson County commissioner and for a nonprofit organization while on duty, an administrative law judge ruled today.

Trooper Hubert Sealey’s dismissal was made public last May, but the reason was not disclosed at the time. The details emerged in today’s decision.  Sealey had appealed on the grounds that the state didn’t have just cause to fire him and that he was discriminated against because he is black.

Activist, hostage-taker dies in prison

Eddie Hatcher, an American Indian activist, who was convicted of murder and attracted worldwide attention when he and an accomplice took hostages at The Robesonian newspaper, died of natural causes in prison. He was 51.

Hatcher was serving a life sentence for the 1999 murder of Brian McMillian, 19, who Hatcher believed had something to do with a break-in at his mobile home.

McMillian was killed and a 17-year-old girl was wounded as she lay on the floor watching television.

Hatcher died Friday morning in Central Prison, according to a news release from the Department of Correction.

Hatcher brought national attention to charges of corruption in Robeson when Hatcher and a friend stormed the office of the local newspaper brandishing sawed-off shotguns and claiming to have a bomb. They chained the doors and held up to 14 people hostage for 10 hours, with Hatcher in near hysterics claiming his life was in danger because of what he knew of local law enforcement's involvement in cocaine trafficking. Taking over the newspaper building, he said, was the only way to draw attention to the corruption and save his own life.

He surrendered without injuring anyone when then-Gov. James G. Martin agreed to have a task force investigate the claims. Hatcher was acquitted on federal hostage-taking charges but was later found guilty of state kidnapping and weapons charges. He served five years of an 18-year sentence.

In the last six years, 22 members of the Robeson County sheriff's office, including the Sheriff have been hauled into court to face corruption charges, including allegations of drug dealing.

Lumbee take step to recognition

Mike McIntyreWill the Lumbee be recognized? 

The American Indian tribe won a small victory Wednesday when congressional legislation to give them federal recognition passed the House Natural Resources Committee on a voice vote, Barb Barrett reports.

The bill now goes to the full House of Representatives. The bill, by U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre of Lumberton, would allow federal recognition of the Lumbee tribe.

The tribe, based in Robeson County, is the largest tribe east of the Mississippi with an estimated 55,000 members. It has state recognition but has been blocked from earning federal status.

The federal recognition would allow the tribe to receive housing and health benefits. Usually, it also would allow for tribal casinos, but McIntyre agreed to a compromise last Congress that would prohibit the Lumbees from having gambling. 

How the U.S. attorney spent 2008

George HoldingPublic corruption cases got the headlines, but they were a small percentage of the work.

A year-end review of casework at the Eastern District U.S. attorney's office based in Raleigh shows that white-collar crime and drugs were the biggest focuses.

Here's a breakdown:

20 percent: White-collar crime such as bank, securities and stock fraud

19 percent: Organized drug crimes

11 percent: Project Safe Neighborhoods, which focuses on felons possessing firearms

3 percent: Project Safe Childhood, which focuses on child exploitation

3 percent: Public corruption

U.S. Attorney George Holding told Dome that the bulk of the corruption work last year was spent on cases involving the sheriffs of Brunswick and Robeson counties.

Perdue's 'Northern Exposure' story

Beverly Perdue told a story about a rural doctor at today's debate.

While speaking about her experience fighting health care disparities, the lieutenant governor shared the story of a Robeson County doctor she met recently.

Perdue said she went to Robeson County this week to present a N.C. Health and Wellness Trust Fund grant, part of the Eliminating Health Disparities initiative. She is chairwoman of the fund.

Dr. Robin Peace, chief medical officer for Robeson Health Care Corporation, told Perdue that she came to rural North Carolina to pay back her medical school debts, much like the doctor in the T.V. show "Northern Exposure."

"She told me that because of this little grant that she had that she was going to change the lives of her patients—16,000 patients a year," Perdue said. "She said, 'Bev, I am going to make a difference. Folks here are going to understand that diabetes is beatable in Robeson County.'"

Lumbee games

The Lumbee tribe of Robeson County got closer to federal recognition, but only by agreeing to give up the possibility of a casino.

A bill by U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Lumberton Democrat, passed a House committee by a 24-7 vote after an amendment forbid them from seeking gaming rights, reports Barb Barrett.

"It was a dramatic victory," he said. "From day one, we've tried to keep this on the fast track."

The Lumbees have tried for decades to become a federally recognized tribe, but their efforts have been blocked by other tribes.

Rep. Heath Shuler, a Waynesville Democrat, voted against the bill. He supports his own legislation that would give the Lumbees full recognition, a process that could take years.  

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