Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner along with U.S. Congressmen Rob Wittman (R-01), Bobby Scott (D-03), Gerry Connolly (D-11), and Don Beyer (D-08) reintroduced legislation to grant federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes.
The bill, theThomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2015, was introduced by Kaine and Wittman in the Senate and House, respectively. The bipartisan delegation introduced an earlier version of the bill in the 113th Congress, which was passed out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in April 2014.
The legislation would grant federal recognition to the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond tribes. These tribes have received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia but have faced barriers preventing them from receiving federal recognition because of gaps in official records. Specifically, the Virginia tribes lack formal treaties with the U.S. Government because they made peace with England well before the establishment of the United States. The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 also led to a “paper genocide,” which destroyed birth records, marriage certificates, and land titles of Virginia’s tribes.
“The Virginia Indian tribes have played an integral role in our Commonwealth’s and our country’s history, and it is a grave injustice that the federal government has failed to grant them federal recognition because of unique circumstances out of the tribes’ control,” said Senator Kaine. “I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan bill to grant the Virginia tribes the long overdue recognition they have earned, and I will continue working tirelessly with my colleagues until the federal government rights this wrong.”
“The history of these tribes is intertwined with the birth of our nation, and their federal recognition status is long overdue,” said Congressman Wittman. “I’m proud to work with the Virginia tribes to ensure that they are granted the recognition that they have been denied for far too long.”
Federal recognition would grant Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in relationships with the U.S. government. This status would enable the tribes to pursue repatriation of historical and cultural artifacts, comment on federal agency actions that could affect their future, and gain access to a number of federal programs that serve the other 566 federally recognized tribes.
“I have been supportive of federal recognition of these Native American tribes since I had the honor of serving as Governor,” Senator Warner said. “Their contribution to Virginia and America’s history is clear, and I look forward to continuing to work for Senate passage of this federal recognition.”
“Despite their critical role in our nation’s history, Virginia’s tribes are still waiting for federal recognition,” said Congressman Scott. “I commend my colleagues in the Virginia congressional delegation for introducing this legislation and I look forward to working with them to ensure the rightful status of Virginia’s tribes.”
“We should do all that is within our reach to address the injustices of history in a way that has a positive and appreciable impact on Native American tribes. Granting Federal recognition of Virginia tribes is one way in which we can honor the role native Americans played in the history of our Commonwealth,” Congressman Connolly said. “It is a privilege to right this wrong and I am pleased to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort to correct a long-standing discrimination.”
“Virginia’s tribes are a critical thread of our cultural cloth who have been denied proper recognition for far too long,” said Congressman Beyer. “I’m pleased to support the bill to grant these tribes the federal recognition to which they’re entitled.”
“We are asking Congress to help us make history for the Indian people of Virginia, a history that honors our ancestors who were there at the beginning of this great country,” said Chief Steve Adkins of the Chickahominy tribe.
A full fact sheet on the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2015 can be found here.