Bill passes recognizing Virginia’s Indian Tribes

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With the 400th anniversary of the first English settlers landing in Jamestown this weekend,  Rep. Jim Morans (D-8) legislation granting the six Virginia tribes that greeted those settlers sovereignty passed in the House of Representatives Tuesday by voice vote. 

H.R. 1294, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Recognition Act, grants the Chickahominy, Chickahominy Indian Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond Tribes federal sovereignty. While, 562 tribes earned sovereign status by signing treaties with the U.S. government, these six tribes only signed treaties with the Kings of England.  

In a release after introducing the bill, Moran discussed the fundamental role these tribes played in the English settlement in 1607. In particular, these tribes helped the settlers endure unforgiving winters.  

Despite helping the settlers, these tribes were subjected to vicious mistreatment during the settlement and through the passage of the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which brought racial injustices to a zenith. Following the passage of this law, identifying ones self as Native American often resulted in a jail sentence of one year. Newlyweds were denied marriage certificates unless they changed their ethnicity from Native American to colored. Similarly, parents were unable to take their newborns home from the hospital unless they were on the state record as colored.   

Upon introducing the bill, Moran said the bill would close a sad chapter in our nation’s history and is a part of the healing process. 

With todays vote, the Virginia tribes are closer than ever before to gaining their rightful place of honor, said Moran following the vote Tuesday.  It is fitting that while the eyes of the world focus on Jamestown, the real first inhabitants of that land have cleared a major hurdle in their bid to be recognized.  The Virginia tribes have been sharing the spotlight at Jamestown, but deserve to do so as Virginias first fully recognized Native American tribes.

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