Thousands of Indians make their way to nation’s capitol to celebrate heritage

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Representatives from the six Virginia Indian tribes were among the 20,000 Indians who descended upon Washington, D.C., Tuesday to celebrate the grand opening of the National Museum of the American Indian.

Keith Smith of Richmond represented Suffolk’s Nansemond tribe.

Although Sandy McCready, the tribe’s secretary, had planned to attend the celebration, she was unable to make it due to illness.

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&uot;I was sorry I couldn’t be there,&uot; she said. &uot;The celebration looked wonderful (on television)

&uot;I think it’s fantastic that there is a national museum honoring the American Indian.&uot;

Dot Dalton, state coordinator for the Nation American Resource Network, agreed.

&uot;To me, it was a grand day for the native Americans,&uot; Dalton said. &uot;I couldn’t be there but my heart was with them.&uot;

The Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Rappahannock, Upper Mattaponi, and Monacan tribes were the others from Virginia at the day’s festivities. They were among 500 Indian tribes represented at the event.

Before the opening, tribal representatives met with Sen. George Allen, R-Va., who has been fighting to gain federal recognition for Virginia’s Indians.

Allen introduced a bill, which has been approved by the Committee on Indian Affairs and is awaiting a vote in the full Senate, to grant federal recognition to the tribes. That would allow tribal members to receive federal benefits and services extended to other recognized tribes, such as grants for higher education and health care through the Indian Health Service.

&uot;The American Indians in Virginia contribute to the state’s diverse, exciting nature and heritage,&uot; said Allen. &uot;The six tribes seeking federal recognition have suffered humiliation and indignities that have gone largely unnoticed in the past.

&uot;The opening of this grand museum is a fitting tribute to the many contributions of Indians to the culture of Virginia and the nation,&uot; he said. &uot;The beauty and dignity of the building and its exhibits reflect a proud tradition that our nation must never forget.&uot;