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.
By Editorial Board
In the government shutdown crisis that Congress moved to resolve on Monday, or at least put on pause, there were so-called leaders who saw an opportunity to score cheap political points. Others went AWOL from their duty to help end the standoff. And then there were some, Republican and Democrat alike, who tried to make government work.
Among the unfortunate new lows of the episode: Vice President Pence using soldiers as political props, attacking Democrats as he spoke to U.S. troops in the Middle East. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, whose job of protecting the United States should be above politics, choosing to pile on instead: “Benefits for millions of illegal immigrants instead of paying Americans who put their lives at risk daily to protect ours? I don’t think so.” And, sadly, President Trump himself, approving an attack ad that accused Democrats of being “complicit” in murders committed by undocumented immigrants. All of this nastiness eroded rather than built the trust needed to end the dispute.
Then there were those who could have helped to end the standoff and failed to do so. That starts, again, with Mr. Trump, who repeatedly appeared ready to make deals before the shutdown began but backed away each time. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) also sat by, unwilling to make simple commitments that would have broken the logjam. An assurance that House leaders would allow an up-or-down vote on “dreamers” legislation would have helped unlock negotiations earlier. It also would have been the right thing to do.
By contrast, a bipartisan group of 25 senators spent the weekend talking instead of excoriating one another. This included Democrats who had voted earlier to keep the government open, such as Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), and Republicans who had voted to force the standoff, such as Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). The talks resulted in compromise; Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ultimately promised to bring an immigration bill to an up-or-down vote in the Senate within three weeks, and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) joined most other Democrats in voting to reopen the government with that commitment in hand. Partisans on both sides could find grounds for displeasure, but the bargain was reasonable. If the deal does not result in the passage of an immigration bill, Democrats still have leverage over federal funding next month.
From here, that core group of moderate, dealmaking lawmakers should feel empowered. The broad middle in both houses of Congress should no longer wait for direction from a chaotic White House or spineless congressional leadership. They may discover that they have more in common with members of the other party also interested in competent, responsive government than they do with the ideologues in their own camp.
Because what distinguishes the senators working toward a solution, including Virginia Democrats Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, is not a lack of ideals but an interest in achieving positive change — including, most importantly, for hundreds of thousands of dreamers. These are law-abiding immigrants, brought here as small children, eager to contribute to the only country most of them have ever known. They need solutions, not political one-upmanship.