Pandemic leaves tribes without US recognition at higher risk

The Lumbee of southeastern North Carolina have called the land along the Lumber River home for centuries, but the federal government has denied their claims of tribal identity and sovereignty, excluding them from legal status and federal services. (Photo: ABC News)

LUMBERTON, N.C. (AP) — As COVID-19 disproportionately affects Native American communities, many tribal leaders say the pandemic poses particular risks to tribes without federal recognition.

Lacking a political relationship with the United States means those tribes are denied federal coronavirus relief funding for state, local and tribal governments.

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Without federal funding, tribal leaders say they are less-equipped to prevent infections and curb the significant economic toll the pandemic has had on their communities.

Tribes seeking federal recognition also face a long, expensive process that makes the designation often feel out of reach.