On the Pamunkey Reservation in Virginia. Photo: Will Parson / Chesapeake Bay Program
Environment | Federal Recognition

Energy company makes $6 million in payments to tribes for power line




Two tribes are receiving $6 million in payments in connection with a new power line in Virginia.

The Pamunkey Tribe is receiving $4.5 million from Dominion Energy though Chief Robert Gray told The Associated Press that he wasn't happy with the situation. The Surry-Skiffes Creek project crosses the tribe's ancestral territory along the James River.

“It was not our intent to benefit. We would rather not have the project,” Gray told the AP. “Once those towers go up, the cultural landscape is ruined.”

According to a memorandum of agreement between Dominion Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the tribe will use the funds to expand and operate the Pamunkey Cultural Center, establish a Tribal Historic Preservation Office and expand and operate a shad hatchery.

"These projects will strengthen and enhance the Pamunkey Indian Tribe’s ability to tell the story of their culture and relationship with the both the York River and James River landscapes before and at the time of European contact," the document reads.

An additional provision of the agreement calls for the potential transfer of an important site to the tribe. Uttamusack was the spiritual center of the tribe during the era of Chief Powhatan, who led a tribal confederacy as European settlers began arriving at Jamestown in 1607.

If the sale occurs, Dominion will provide $400,000 to the tribe to maintain the site and another $400,000 to build an access road, according to the document.

The Chickahominy Tribe is also benefiting. The agreement calls for a payment of $1.5 million to expand and maintain its Chickahominy Tribal Center.

"Expansion of the tribal center will help preserve the Chickahominy’s customs and traditions of dance and craftsmanship, as well as, serve as the primary location for preserving and displaying historical artifacts and documents for tribal and public education and enjoyment," the document reads.

Additionally, Dominion agreed to transfer 105 acres to the tribe along the river, the AP reported.

The Pamunkey Tribe is the 567th federally recognized Indian nation. The tribe's status became final in 2016.

The Chickahominy Tribe, along with five others in Virginia, are on the cusp of federal recognition. All that's needed is for President Donald Trump to sign H.R.984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act, into law.

"Federal recognition for these tribes is long overdue and we applaud the passage of this momentous legislation,” Kathy Spangler, the executive director of the American Evolution 2019 Commemoration, said in a press release. The commemoration recognizes the 400th anniversary of key events in Virginia's history, made possible when the tribes helped the Jamestown settlers.

H.R.984 cleared its final hurdle in Congress on January 11. The bill was formally presented to Trump on January 17.

Read More on the Story:
Big towers to rise near historic Jamestown: $90M in payouts (The Associated Press January 21, 2018)

Also Today:
EDITORIAL: Federal recognition of “first contact” tribes long overdue (The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star January 19, 2018)

Related Stories:
A historic moment as Congress approves first tribal recognition bill in decades (January 12, 2018)