Dancers at a powwow hosted by the Chickahominy Tribe in Virginia. Photo: Tony Alter

House passes bill to extend federal recognition to Virginia tribes

Six tribes in Virginia are once again inching closer to federal recognition, more than 400 years after their ancestors welcomed the first European settlers at Jamestown.

The U.S. House passed H.R.984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act, by a voice vote on Wednesday afternoon. Around the same time, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs approved a companion measure, S.691, at a business meeting.

"The six tribes are culturally and historically significant to the Commonwealth of Virginia and to the story of America itself. Ancestors from these tribes populated coastal Virginia when Captain John Smith settled at Jamestown in 1607," Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Virginia), the sponsor of H.R.984, said during consideration of the bill on the House floor. "They were also the first of the American Indian tribes that entered into peace agreements, actually entered into peace agreements with the Crown of England because United States, at that time, was not formally a nation yet. So they were peace-loving even before the United States came of age."

Despite the movement, H.R.984 faces an uncertain future. Congress has not passed a stand-alone federal recognition bill since the mid-1990s due to opposition from conservative Republicans.

The bill applies to the Chickahominy Tribe, the Chickahominy Indian Tribe - Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, the Rappahannock Tribe, the Monacan Nation and the Nansemond Tribe. All have agreed to a prohibition on gaming and all will be able to follow the land-into-trust process if the measure becomes law.

Read More on the Story:
Bill to Recognize Virginia Indian Tribes Passes House (WTVF 5/17)
Upcoming ‘Virginia Indian Tribute’ to be a public display of tribe legacies (WRIC 5/17)

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