Wittman’s Virginia Tribes Recognition Bill Headed to the President’s Desk

WASHINGTON – Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) applauded Senate passage of his legislation, H.R. 984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017. This legislation grants federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes. Following passage in the House last spring, the bill passed the Senate today with bipartisan support and now awaits the President’s signature.

“Today we have taken a critical step forward in correcting the Federal Government’s failure to recognize the ‘first contact’ tribes of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Rep. Wittman said. “Decades in the making, federal recognition will acknowledge and protect historical and cultural identities of these tribes for the benefit of all Americans. It will also affirm the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Virginia tribes, and help create opportunities to enhance and protect the well-being of tribal members. I want to thank Senators Kaine and Warner for their support to give these tribes the recognition they have long deserved.”

“Today with renewed pride in our country, we walk our lands. While I always knew in my heart of hearts Congress would do the right thing, this moment renews my faith in the United States of America. We are proud as the federal government finally recognizes us to be the people we are. I can’t thank Representative Wittman enough for his long-standing leadership and support,” said Chickahominy Indian Chief Stephen Adkins

This bipartisan legislation grants federal recognition to the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond tribes. These tribes have received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia but have faced barriers preventing them from receiving federal recognition because of gaps in official records

The Virginia tribes lack formal treaties with the U.S. Government because they made peace with England well before the establishment of the United States. The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 also led to a “paper genocide,” which destroyed birth records, marriage certificates, and land titles of Virginia’s tribes, denying them necessary evidence to gain recognition.

Federal recognition would grant Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in relationships with the U.S. government. This status would enable the tribes to pursue repatriation of historical and cultural artifacts, comment on federal agency actions that could affect their future, and gain access to a number of federal programs that already serve the other 566 federally recognized tribes.