Editorial: A step forward for Virginia's tribes

"The normal way for an Indian tribe to receive federal recognition is to apply through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a process that can take up to 20 years and cost up to $1 million. The criteria for recognition include being identified as "an American Indian entity on a substantially continuous basis since 1900." Adherence to the BIA process would be the preferable way of handling federal recognition, but Virginia's Indians have trouble meeting the genealogical standards: The commonwealth's Racial Integrity Act of 1921 forced Indians to simply identify themselves as "colored."

That's why Congress has stepped in to bypass the BIA process. And a compromise of sorts may have been reached. In an amendment to Mr. Moran's legislation, the Indian tribes have agreed to be subject to Virginia law in regard to gambling. They get the recognition; the commonwealth stays casino-free.

It's not a perfect solution. Courts could declare the law unconstitutional. Indian advocacy groups could object to the half-measure. Two local tribes, the Mattaponi and the Pamunkey, both of which have reservations, weren't even part of the group seeking recognition.

But at least it's a step forward for the 2,500 members of the six tribes in question. Honoring Indians' contribution to Virginia is important; so is holding the line against casino gambling. Mr. Moran's amended bill deserves a good look."

Get the Story:
Honoring our Indians (The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star 5/7)

Committee Hearing:
Full Committee Legislative Hearing: H.R. 1294 and H.R. 65 (April 18, 2007)

Recognition Bill:
Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act

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