After a near two-decade long fight for federal recognition through legislation, President Donald Trump has signed legislation, known as the Thomasina Jordan act, to grant federal recognition of six Virginia Indian tribes.
The last tribe to receive recognition was also a Virginia tribe, the Pamunkey. With the passing of this final legislation on Monday, the number of federally recognized tribes in the Commonwealth of Virginia now stands at seven. The amount of federally recognized tribes now stands at 573.
In February of 2017, Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st, introduced H.R. 984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017. The House of Representatives passed the bill by a voice vote in May, and the Senate approved it with unanimous consent on Jan. 11 with the strong support of Senators’ Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both former Virginia governors.
After the president signed the legislation on Monday, Rep. Rob Wittman announced the results on Monday evening immediately after giving tribal leaders of the six tribes — the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Nansemond and Monacan — the good news.
Wayne Adkins, first assistant chief for the Chickahominy, told the Richmond Times, “It’s definitely a historic day for the tribe and for the commonwealth … We’re really looking forward to planning the future of our tribe.”
In a prepared statement, Rep. Wittman said, “Today, we celebrate a decade of hard work. This is an issue of respect … Federal recognition acknowledges and protects the historical and cultural identities of these tribes.”
Senator’s Warner and Kaine said in a joint statement: “Today closes a chapter on a decades-long pursuit of justice for Virginia’s tribes. Virginia’s tribes have loved and served this nation, and today our country is finally honoring them with the recognition they deserve.”
In addition to the statements from Rep. Wittman and Sens. Warner and Kaine, the National Congress of American Indians also issued a statement of congratulations to the six tribes.
“The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) congratulates the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond tribal nations on the recent passage of H.R. 984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017.”
“This is an important moment in U.S. history,” said NCAI President Jefferson Keel. “As the U.S. government continues to correct the mistakes of the past, we look forward to seeing the federal government honor its trust obligations to these six tribal nations in Virginia and all tribal nations.”
After many years of hard work by these six tribal nations in Virginia, there are now 573 federally recognized tribes recognized by the U.S. government. This status provides for a government-to-government relationship between the six nations and the U.S. Government, and endows them with greater ability to create and enforce their own laws and manage their lands and resources.