Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine submitted comments to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on a proposed rule regarding the Federal Acknowledgment of American Indian Tribes.
Kaine recommended the BIA adopt greater flexibility in its recognition process to account for extraordinary circumstances like the barriers Virginia Indian tribes have encountered on the path toward federal recognition.
“Virginia’s Indian tribes contributed to the successful founding of our country and continue to help define our national identity,” Kaine wrote in a letter to Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. “Their members have attended our schools, worked next to us, and served in every American war since the Revolution, all while maintaining a unique identity. Virginia’s tribes have gone without federal recognition not because they lack a historic relationship with the United States, but, as John Collier wrote in 1943, ‘as a matter largely of historical accident.’ The tribes’ unique circumstances should not disqualify them from the recognition they deserve.”
Kaine introduced the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act along with U.S. Senator Mark Warner in 2013. The legislation, which would grant federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes, was passed out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in April of 2014. Kaine made a passionate case for its passage during a committee hearing in October of 2013. The House companion bill, introduced by Congressman Jim Moran, has received strong bipartisan support from many members of the Virginia delegation. Kaine continues to push for passage of the legislation as well as greater flexibility in the BIA recognition process.