March 21, 2017

On 400th Anniversary Of Pocahontas’ Burial, Warner & Kaine Introduce Legislation To Grant Federal Recognition For Six Virginia Indian Tribes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, on the 400th anniversary of Pocahontas’ burial, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine introduced legislation to federally recognize six Virginia Indian tribes, which include descendants of Pocahontas’ Virginia Powhatan tribe. The Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017 would grant the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government.

Coinciding with the anniversary, Upper Mattaponi Chief Ken Adams, Chickahominy Chief Stephen Adkins, and Rappahannock Chief Anne Richardson traveled to England to participate in a series of events to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Pocahontas’ death. On Tuesday, there will be a plaque dedication ceremony at the church where Pocahontas is buried.

“Four hundred years after the death of Pocahontas, our country continues to do a disservice to her descendants by failing to recognize the major role Virginia’s tribes have played in American history and the fabric of our nation,” said the Senators. “These six tribes have treaties that predated the United States, but because of this historical quirk and the systematic destruction of their records, they have been denied federal recognition and the services that come along with it. Congress can fix this injustice by passing our bill and granting these tribes the federal recognition they deserve.

Federal recognition would allow Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in direct relationships with the U.S. government. Further, it would allow tribes to: 

  • Compete for educational programs and other grants only open to federally recognized tribes;
  • Repatriate the remains of their ancestors in a respectful manner. Many of these remains reside in the Smithsonian, but without federal status there is no mandate to return the remains; and
  • Provide affordable health care services for elder tribal members who have been unable to access care.

The bill has passed the House of Representatives in two previous Congresses. Kaine and Warner introduced two previous versions of the bill in the 113th and 114th Congress. Both passed out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs but never were brought to the floor for a vote.

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