Editorial: Right a historical wrong and recognize Pamunkey Tribe

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) accepted an annual tribute from the Pamunkey Tribe and the Mattaponi Tribe presented in November 2014, a tradition that dates to 1677. Photo from Facebook

Virginia newspaper blames opponents for causing the Bureau of Indian Affairs to delay a final decision on federal recognition for the Pamunkey Tribe:
Another Virginia tribe, the Pamunkey, had been pushing ahead with its own drive for federal recognition and expected to hear the federal government’s response March 31. But in a cruel twist of a knife in the back, opponents managed to get the Interior Department official who would render a decision to put it off until the end of July.

Lobbying by the casino industry and smears by politicians led Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn to put off a decision on recognition for “more study,” the Washington euphemism for “I don’t want to make a decision on this political hot potato.”

The Pamunkey is a 208-member tribe living in the Richmond area on 1,200, tribe-owned acres. They’re the tribe that greeted Captain John Smith and the English settlers at the site of Jamestown in 1607 and the tribe of Pocahontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan. Their recognition effort was seen as the strongest of any of the non-recognized tribes in Virginia, as it was based on treaties signed with the English crown in the mid-1600s. (By way of elaboration, one problem the other Virginia tribes have run into in their recognition efforts is a lack of treaties and contracts with the federal government. The reason is simple: By the time the U.S. government came into existence, the tribes’ ranks were so decimated, they barely registered on the radar of Washington officials.)

The Pamunkey tribe was keeping its collective fingers crossed, hoping they would hear good news Tuesday. Sadly, they didn’t. And the reasons behind Secretary Washburn’s non-decision are infuriating.

Get the Story:
Editorial: A Historical Wrong Still is Unrighted (The Lynchburg News & Advance 4/2)

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

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