Tribal recognition wins panel’s backing

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 12, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) – A bill to give six Virginia Indian tribes federal recognition has a favorable committee report as it edges toward a vote in the U.S. Senate.

Virginia tribal leaders hope to win recognition before the events marking the 400th anniversary, in 2007, of Jamestown’s founding. The tribes have been working for recognition from Congress for four years.

The tribes participating in the federal bill are the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Nansemond and Monacan Indian Nation.

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Chief Barry Bass, leader of the Nansemond tribe, said, &uot;I just think it’s a good step. It’s something we’ve beeen hoping for, working for a good regular while. Something we’ve been really fighting hard for. It’s just been a long struggle. Something we think is way overdue. It’s very important that these things come to light. We can preserve our heritage.&uot;

The favorable report was issued last week by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

&uot;We have been waiting for this,&uot; said Gene W. Adkins, president of Virginia Indian Tribal Alliance for Life, a group pushing hard for the legislation.

Backers hope the Senate will pass the bill and spur the House of Representatives to act, said Adkins, from the Eastern Chickahominy tribe.

In light of &uot;substantial evidence, and the unique history and circumstances …,&uot; the report said, the committee finds the tribes &uot;are, and always have been, Indian tribes warranting acknowledgment by the federal government.&uot;

It portrayed the Virginia tribes in a strongly positive light, saying the most striking feature of their history &uot;is that their responses to adversity have been overwhelmingly constructive ones.&uot;

&uot;They lost all but the smallest remnant of their aboriginal territory,&uot; the report noted, &uot;and yet they have abided by treaties and in the 20th century they have shown themselves, by the number of their men in military service both in and out of war-time, to be very patriotic citizens indeed.&uot;

Suffolk News-Herald Managing Editor Stephen H. Cowles contributed to this story.