October 30, 2013

Kaine Renews Push For Federal Recognition Of Virginia’s Native American Tribes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Speaking before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine made a passionate case for passage of the “Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2013” – a bill that would grant federal recognition to six of Virginia’s Native American tribes.  Kaine has long-supported federal recognition for the six tribes - the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond – having testified on their behalf before this committee as Governor of Virginia in 2008.  

In his testimony, Kaine detailed how their “peculiar circumstances” have left them without required documentation to receive formal recognition by the United States despite their important role in our nation’s history. He also recognized the extensive efforts of Congressman Jim Moran and Senator Mark Warner on this issue.

“I cannot put into words how strongly I feel about this issue,” Kaine said. “It’s clear that Jamestown succeeded where other earlier efforts had failed because the Virginia Indian Tribes saved the English settlers at many points along those early decades of their history. … The story of the tribes is a story of triumph and overcoming, but the story of the lack of recognition is a tragic one. These tribes have explored recognition via the Bureau of Indian Affairs process but they were told in the late 1990s that because of their peculiar circumstances, there would be no chance of recognition within the lifetimes of any of the tribal leadership that have worked so hard and for so long to gain appropriate recognition.”

“The first problem is – the tribes made peace with their neighbors too soon,” Kaine argued. “The tribes entered into the Treaty of Middle Plantation in 1677 with the English, 100 years before there was a United States of America. … Since the Virginia tribes made peace with the English, they’re treated as a sovereign respected people by the English government, welcomed with a red carpet treatment every time they go to England, but they’ve never been recognized by their home country even though the members of these tribes have fought proudly under the American flag as American troops in every war from the Revolutionary War through the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The second, more tragic problem, Kaine noted, has to do with the destruction of the tribes’ ancestral records as a result of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924.

“The Racial Integrity Act compelled that anyone who could not demonstrate they were not Caucasian would simply be labeled ‘colored’ for purposes of all other state laws and records,” Kaine said. “There would be no distinction between an African-American, somebody who immigrated from another nation, or a native Virginian.”

This “paper genocide,” which destroyed birth records, marriage certificates, and land titles of Virginia’s tribes, was part of “the shameful history in Virginia that has stood as a barrier to recognition of these tribes through the normal administrative process,” Kaine continued.

In closing, Kaine described a special Thanksgiving tradition in Virginia dating back to the 1670s. Every year, the tribes travel to the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond to formally pay tribute to the governor and honor the longstanding bond between the Commonwealth and the tribes.

“These tribes pay tribute to the governor of Virginia in a way to honor this friendship,” Kaine said. “It’s time we pay these tribes a tribute. 406 years after the first interaction between the English and these tribes, 336 after these tribes pledged to live forever in peace with their Virginia neighbors, it’s time the government of the United States finally recognize them. I strongly urge your support for S. 1074.” 

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