Editorial Board Published 5:25 p.m. ET Feb. 2, 2018 | Updated 6:17 p.m. ET Feb. 2, 2018
From an early age, schoolchildren in Virginia learn about the native people of this land and the history of interactions between the tribes and colonists.
“When the first English settlers founded Jamestown in 1607, the Monacan lived above the falls of the James River.” This and many other facts are recited to our kids, and they mostly learn them to pass SOL tests or spur projects in social studies.
But behind our school history textbooks’ version of facts lie many real-life truths. Tribal people have been treated shamefully for centuries in Virginia. In the old days, they widely faced rape, murder, deceit, family separation, disease and land theft. In recent decades, discrimination and disadvantage have still pursued some in their communities.
Across America, this of course is not unique. No consistent and public response to these injustices, that is sympathetic and educated and progressive, has ever taken hold.
We have to own what happens in our own state, though. So let’s be plain about Virginia’s horrific history of treatment of Native Americans. And let us dedicate our future civic progress - at least in some small way - to be intentional and inclusive of these communities. So they can share in gains our Commonwealth makes going forward.
This week, we do celebrate progress. A step. Just a small one - but one long needed.
Six tribes in Virginia have claimed their rightful federal recognition, thanks to President Donald Trump, thanks to Republican lawmakers and to some Democrats who played a key role, such as U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.
This recognition for the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Nansemond and Monacan people cracks some barriers. They will now be more able to pursue advances in education, housing and health care.
Bertie Branham, a Monacan Indian, explains cookingBuy Photo
Bertie Branham, a Monacan Indian, explains cooking techniques to a group of second graders from Covington at the Monacan Indian Village at Natural Bridge in this file photo. (Photo: File/News Leader)
Trump deserves credit for signing the legislation, as does U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st District, for working on its behalf. “Today, we celebrate a decade of hard work,” Wittman said in a release Monday night. “This is an issue of respect. Federal recognition acknowledges and protects the historical and cultural identities of these tribes.”
Warner and Kaine helped get the measure approved in the Senate.
The recognition from the U.S. government has changed futures for many tribes across the country. It’s time for Virginia’s native people to share more broadly in this chance for success.
We hope for continued enlightened moves to do right by these communities.
Our View represents the opinion of our Editorial Board: Roger Watson, president; David Fritz, executive editor; and William Ramsey, news director.