Opinion | Federal Recognition

Editorial: Long overdue federal recognition for tribes in Virginia






Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) accepts a treaty tribute from the Pamunkey Tribe and the Mattaponi Tribe on November 25, 2015. Photo from Twitter

Are six tribes in Virginia really getting closer to federal recognition? One newspaper hopes justice is finally coming for the Native people who welcomed the first European settlers at Jamestown:
Time moves slowly when the milieu is a federal bureaucracy. When news arrived last week that six Native American tribes were "getting closer" to federal recognition, the first reaction was to ponder this question: Just how much longer can these tribes continue to "get closer" without actually reaching their destination? It's as if the finish line keeps moving.

The Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan and the Nansemond tribes have been imitating Sisyphus for a long time. Last year, the Pamunkey tribe — about 200 strong, centered in King William — achieved federal recognition after a 33-year campaign. The Pamunkeys are the first, and to date the only, Virginia tribe to earn this distinction, which confers benefits related to housing, education and health care.

House Resolution 872 — sponsored by Congressman Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland — was passed by the House Natural Resources Committee earlier this month, part of a legislative package that would make Congress the final arbiter of tribal recognition. (Currently that authority rests with the White House, and the path to the Oval Office is both long and exceedingly expensive.)

The vote now goes to the full House and Senate, which is where similar legislation has hit roadblocks in the past.

Read More:
Editorial: Overdue recognition (The Daily Press 9/22)

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