Pamunkey Tribe refutes criticism of federal recognition petition

The Pamunkey Tribe and the Mattaponi Tribe presented an annual tribute to the state of Virginia in November 2014, a tradition that dates to 1677. Photo from Gov. Terry McAuliffe / Facebook

The Pamunkey Tribe of Virginia must wait four more months for a decision on its federal recognition petition as critics continue to submit information to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The BIA issue a proposed finding in favor of the tribe in January 2014. Comments from the public were due September 22, 2014, but a group called Stand Up for California submitted a letter just last week and a few members of Congress sent one of their own two weeks ago.

It's not clear if the additional information was the reason why Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn delayed a final decision for 120 days. The tribe, meanwhile, says the concerns addressed by critics are unfounded.

“The congressional women’s letter is based on incorrect assumptions about the tribe’s now gender-neutral laws," Chief Kevin Brown told The Washington Post, referring to concerns about a marriage law that is no longer on the books.

The tribe resides on a 1,200-acre reservation that was one of the first set aside in the Colonial era. The tribe also was one of the first to sign a treaty with a European nation.

Like other tribes in Virginia, the Pamunkeys nearly had their existence erased from official records due to a racist state law that barred people from identifying themselves as Indian.

Get the Story:
Opposition to federal recognition of Virginia tribe heats up (The Washington Post 4/1)

Federal Register Notice:
Proposed Finding for Federal Acknowledgment of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe (January 23, 2014)

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