Provided by Congressman Rob Wittman’s Office
Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) today applauded House passage of H.R. 984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017, legislation that grants federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes. The bill passed by voice vote.
The legislation would grant 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.
“These ‘first contact’ tribes deserve equity and parity under the law – it is absolutely long overdue,” Rep. Wittman said.“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’m encouraged by today’s strong vote in the House and hope the Senate acts on this bill soon.”
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 serve the other 566 federally recognized tribes.