Indian Affairs Committee Passes Moran-Webb Tribes Bill
Congressman Jim Moran hailed today’s Senate Committee passage of legislation to officially recognize Virginia’s Indian tribes. The Virginia Democrat commended his colleague Senator Jim Webb and Chairman Byron Dorgan for their strong leadership on the issue.
“This is another major step forward in the long-standing effort to officially recognize Virginia’s Indians,” said Moran. “Senator Webb has been a champion for the tribes; his support and tireless advocacy is driving action on the Senate side. With Chairman Dorgan’s backing, a big hurdle has been cleared. In the coming weeks, we’ll be pushing hard for a vote on the Senate floor, the next major milestone.”
In June, the House of Representatives approved Rep. Moran’s tribal recognition legislation (H.R. 1385) by a unanimous voice vote. Congressman Moran has been working on this issue for the past decade, having first authored the legislation in 1999.
Virginia’s tribes were the first to greet the settlers at Jamestown, despite having waited 400 years for federal recognition. The Commonwealth of Virginia first recognized the tribes at the state level in the 1980′s. The six tribes seeking federal recognition include: the Chickahominy Tribe, Chickahominy Indian Tribe Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock Tribe, the Monacan Tribe, and the Nansemond Tribe.
Governor Timothy M. Kaine submitted the following statement for the record to the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. The Committee held a business meeting today and passed S. 1178, the Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2009. The legislation was passed by voice vote.
“I am writing today to express my strong support for S. 1178, the Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2009. It is my sincere hope that the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will vote to report out the bill as quickly as possible.
I would like to express my deep thanks to Chairman Dorgan for his efforts on behalf of the six tribes covered under S. 1178: the Chickahominy Tribe, the Chickahominy Tribe – Eastern Division, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock Tribe, Inc., the Monacan Indian Nation, and the Nansemond Indian Tribe.
By bringing this legislation to a vote before the Committee we are closer than we have ever been to finally righting an historic wrong for Virginia and the Nation. Indeed, the recognition of Virginia’s Tribes by the Federal Government is long overdue.
Virginia is justifiably proud of our Native Tribes and the many contributions these communities make to our Commonwealth. The Tribes have been recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1983. Both the Virginia General Assembly and a long list of former Virginia Governors support Federal recognition of these Tribes.
Our nation owes a great deal to Virginia’s Native American Tribes. The early English settlers and explorers came into contact with the Tribes living throughout Eastern Virginia almost immediately upon landing at Jamestown in 1607. While the relationship between the Native Tribes and the English settlers was not always easy, Virginia’s Native American Tribes played an integral role in helping the settlers survive those first harsh winters. In fact, there can be little doubt that without accommodations on both sides, the Jamestown settlement and the history of our country would have met a dramatically different fate.
Two years after the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown, it is especially tragic that these tribes still have yet to receive equal status with the 562 other Federally Recognized Tribes in the United States.
Now is the time to honor their heritage.
Virginia’s Tribes are unique. Unlike most tribes that obtained federal recognition when they signed peace treaties with the United States government, Tribes in Virginia signed their peace treaties with the British Monarchy. Hostilities between the Tribes and the European settlers effectively ended in 1677 with the Treaty of the Middle Plantation, yet these Tribes continued to be tested by centuries of racial hostility, state-sanctioned coercive actions, and systematic mistreatment.
For five decades the official policy of Virginia, enforced under the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, required all segments of the population to be registered at birth in one of two categories “white” or “colored.” From that point on no reference was allowed for other ethnic distinctions and no reference was allowed for Indian Tribal peoples in Virginia. It became criminal in Virginia for Native peoples to claim their Indian Heritage. Not only were Native peoples denied their race in the everyday requests for birth and marriage certificates, but the Commonwealth went into its records and changed the race of their documented ancestors. In addition, five of the six courthouses that held the vast majority of the records that the Tribes would need to document their history to the degree required by the U.S. Department of Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) were destroyed during the Civil War.
In 1997, Governor George Allen signed legislation acknowledging the “paper genocide” of Indians in Virginia. This legislation called for the correction of state records that had been deliberately altered to list Virginia Indians on official state documents as “colored.”
Each of the tribes also petitioned the BIA for official recognition under the process set forth in 25 CFR Part 83, “Procedures for Establishing that an American Indian Group Exists as an Indian Tribe.” The Virginia Tribes have also submitted letters of intent and partial documentation to petition for Federal acknowledgment. Unfortunately, these applications have been denied as incomplete. Without proper records and complete documentation the Tribes cannot fulfill the requirements of the BIA process. As a result of years of systematic efforts to deny their heritage the ability of Tribes to comply with the BIA process has become nearly impossible.
Congress has the power to recognize Native American Tribes. It has exercised this power in the past, and it should exercise this power again with respect to our Virginia Tribes. I believe that the Tribes’ situation clearly distinguishes them as excellent candidates for Congressional action. Virginians consider this a matter of fundamental justice.
Once again, I would like to express my deep appreciation to Chairman Dorgan and the entire Committee for your efforts on behalf of the Virginia Tribes. I would also like to thank Senators Jim Webb and Mark Warner for their leadership on this important issue.”