Rep. Jim Moran (D-8), has introduced legislation granting the six Virginia tribes their long awaited recognition from the U.S. federal government. With the 400th Anniversary of the historic Jamestown settlement fast approaching, momentum to grant these historically neglected tribes is building.
Said Moran, The Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Recognition Act, would close a sad chapter in our nations history by granting the Virginia tribes the same rights afforded to the other 562 officially recognized Native American tribes in the U.S.
“Driven off their land, having survived a paper genocide at the hands of state officials in the 1920s bent on erasing records of their heritage, the Virginia tribes continue to be denied their rights as Native Americans,” Moran said. “This legislation is a part of the healing process, finally closing a painful chapter in our nations history.”
Currently, 562 tribes in the United States have received federal recognition. Unlike most tribes who were federally recognized after signing treaties with the U.S. government, the Virginia tribes treaties were with the Kings of England. The most significant one occurred in 1677, well before the establishment of the United States. All six tribes have received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia, but the federal government has yet to follow suit.
Since English settlers landed on what is now Virginia soil at Jamestown in 1607, Virginias Native American tribes have played an integral role in the history of Virginia, including helping settlers survive those first harsh winters. Unfortunately, through much of the last 400-years, Native Americans have been brutally and systematically mistreated, said Moran.
This racial hostility culminated with the enactment and brutal enforcement of Virginias Racial Integrity Act of 1924. The act empowered zealots, like Walter Plecker, a state official, to destroy records and reclassify in Orwellian fashion all non-whites as colored. To call oneself a Native American in Virginia was to risk a jail sentence of up to one year. Married couples were denied marriage certificates or even unable to obtain the release of their newborn child from a hospital until they changed their ethnicity on the state record to read colored, not Native American. For much of the 20th Century admission to public school education was denied. Even after federally enforced integration, states and localities refused to provide bus service to the public high schools.
During the 400th Anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, the international spotlight will be on our nation. How will it look if, after 400 years, those Native Americans who greeted the first settlers to the New World are still being ignored by their country? said Moran. We have a historic opportunity to right an injustice that for too long has gone unnoticed. Its past time that we officially recognize them for their historic contributions to this country.
Concerns raised by gambling opponents that this legislation would open the door to legalized gambling in the Commonwealth are unfounded. The legislation has been carefully crafted to ensure the Commonwealth has clear authority to bar any gaming activities not presently permitted in Virginia. Leaders of the tribes have expressed their personal opposition to gambling and publicly state that they have no intention of using federal recognition to open gambling operations. As a non-profit organization, they are currently able to hold bingo games to raise money, but have chosen not to do so.
Virginias six tribes seeking recognition include: the Chickahominy Tribe, Chickahominy Indian Tribe Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock Tribe, the Monacan Tribe, and the Nansemond Tribe.
Original cosponsors include: Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Jo Ann Davis (R-VA), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Nick Rahall (D-WV), and Bobby Scott (D-VA)