Today, was a historic day for one Virginia tribe, as Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn announced the Pamunkey Indian Tribe is one step closer to becoming the first tribe from Virginia to be federally recognized.
Two tribes were up for federal recognition, and the Pamunkey met all seven mandatory criteria as set forth in 25 CFR Part 83.7. The Meherrin Indian Tribe of North Carolina, however, was denied federal recognition.
According to a Department of the Interior press release the Pamunkey (Petitioner #323) has “continuously identified as an American Indian entity since 1900; has existed as a distinct community and maintained political influence over its members since historical times; has provided governing documents describing its governance procedures and membership criteria; has also provided a list of its current members who descend from an historical Indian tribe and who are not also members of another federally recognized tribe; and is not subject to congressional legislation that has expressly terminated or forbidden the federal relationship,”
The newly recognized federal tribe has occupied a land base in southeastern King William County, Virginia. The area appears on a 1770 map as “Indian Town,” and the tribe has been in the area since the Colonial Era in the 1600s. The tribal land base has existed as a state Indian reservation. The tribe has 203 current members.
The Meherrin (Petitioner #119b) denial resulted from insufficient evidence to “satisfy criterion 83.7(e) which requires that its members descend from an historical Indian tribe or tribes that combined and functioned as a single autonomous political entity,” the findings stated.
Following today’s announcement a public comment period will begin whereby individuals or organizations have 180 days after its publication in the Federal Register to submit arguments or evidence on either of the two findings. Following the comment period, the petitioner will be allowed 60 days to respond to the comments from third parties before the response period closes. At which time the Department of the Interior will begin work on a final determination for the petitioner.
To view the proposed findings and Federal Register notices, visit the Indian Affairs website.