WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner celebrated the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017 finally being signed into law, after decades of bipartisan efforts by Virginia’s elected officials. Kaine and Warner secured final passage of the bill earlier this month. Six Virginia tribes—the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond—will now have the federal recognition they have waited centuries for. Many of these tribes include descendants of Pocahontas’ Virginia Powhatan tribe. These tribes had received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia, but had not received federal recognition, which will grant the tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government.
“Today closes a chapter on a decades-long pursuit of justice for Virginia’s tribes,” the Senators said. “Virginia’s tribes have loved and served this nation, and today our country is finally honoring them with the recognition they deserve. We are inspired by the tribes’ leaders who never gave up and thankful to our colleagues Representatives Connolly, Beyer, and Scott, and Wittman for working with us to ensure this was the year that we righted a historical wrong.”
This federal recognition allows Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. Further, it allows tribes to:
· Compete for educational programs and other grants only open to federally recognized tribes;
· Repatriate the remains of their ancestors in a respectful manner. Many of these remains reside in the Smithsonian, but without federal status there is no mandate to return the remains; and
· Provide affordable health care services for elder tribal members who have been unable to access care.