WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Trump signed in to order a bill that recognized six Native American tribes in Virginia on Tuesday, and did so after many Virginia politicians, both Republican and Democrat, helped make it happen.
The legislation that was led and pushed forward by Virginia Representative Rob Wittman, and was introduced by the Congressman in February 2017, will give land grant federal recognition to the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan and the Nansemond tribes.
These tribes received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia but faced barriers preventing them from receiving federal recognition due to gaps in official records, according to a press release from Wittman’s office.
“Today we celebrate a decade of hard work. Our ‘first contact’ tribes of the Commonwealth of Virginia will finally receive the recognition they deserve,” Rep. Wittman said.
The name of the bill is called the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017, and is something that Wittman and his fellow Virginia legislators believe will give protection and rights to these tribes, which did not previously give them the recognition they needed.
In all, the grant will also give federal recognition to Virginia’s tribes by allowing them to have legal standing and status in relationships with the U.S. government. It will also allow 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.
“This is an issue of respect; federal recognition acknowledges and protects the historical and cultural identities of these tribes. Not only will it affirm the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Virginia tribes, but it will create opportunities to enhance and protect the well-being of tribal members,” said Rep. Wittman. “I want to thank Senators Kaine and Warner and Representatives Scott, Beyer, and Connolly for supporting my efforts as we finally give these tribes the recognition they have long deserved,” he added.
Rep. Wittman introduced H.R. 984 on February 7, 2017. The bill passed the House by voice vote on May 17, 2017 and the Senate by Unanimous Consent on January 11, 2018, before being signed by President Trump.