The Long Injustice Must End For Virginia's Native American Tribes

Published 3:31 pm Thursday, June 27, 2013

The placard affixed to the lectern read, “Justice Long Overdue: Recognizing Virginia's Indian Tribes.”

Behind the lectern stood a bipartisan gathering of Virginia's congressional delegation-all of them should have been there-to speak on legislation that would finally grant federal recognition to six of Virginia's Native American tribes.

The federal government can't recognize them?

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Come on.

There they are.

How ironic that the National Football League team in the nation's capital is called the Washington Redskins. If they were the Virginia Redskins they would go unrecognized. Here's betting that many of the politicians and bureaucrats responsible for the lack of recognition for Virginia's actual Native American tribes have been, and are, huge Washington Redskins fans.

They have no trouble recognizing Robert Griffin III, just as they recognized Joe Theismann, Sonny Jurgensen and Sammy Baugh for all the years that federal recognition of Virginia's Native American tribes has been cruelly denied.

They are all singing “Hail to the Redskins” while they turn a blind eye to our Native Americans. Build a monument to that in Washington.

The words “long overdue” are barely adequate and the lack of recognition defies description, leaving one to look for a word with greater depth than “injustice.” The continued lack of recognition strikes at the very core of our nation's soul.

The six tribes-the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond-lack the proper so-called documentation because they lack formal treaties with the U.S. government. These tribes are so linked with our history, and have been for so long, that their treaties were with the King of England, signed a century before there ever was a United States of America.

Creating additional bureaucratic hurdles, according to the Virginia congressional delegation, is the impact of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which created a “paper genocide,” the congressmen point out, by destroying birth records, marriage certificates and the land titles of Virginia's tribes.

Jamestown was settled more than 400 years ago and the federal government still can't recognize them?

No more alibis.

Not another excuse.

There they are.

Federal recognition is more than some paperbound formality. The six tribes would be granted legal standing and status in relationships with the federal government, the congressional delegation pointed out, enabling 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 that serve the other 565 federally recognized tribes.”

Congressman Jim Moran, speaking during the press conference, said, “In the name of decency, fairness and humanity, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation and bring closure to centuries of injustice Virginia's tribes have experienced. Federal recognition is long past due, and with strong bipartisan support, this should be the year Virginia's tribes finally receive the recognition they have earned.”

If the broken promises and failed commitments to Native Americans were stacked together they would rise as tall as the Washington Monument.

Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins will be holding their training camp in Richmond, Virginia. You know, the capital of the state whose Native American tribes are not recognized by Washington, D.C.

All of Washington, D.C. will be turning its gaze deep into the heart of Virginia to see how well Robert Griffin III's knee is healing, the fate of an entire season depending upon it.

Perhaps during time-outs and water breaks at the Redskins' training camp those bureaucrats and politicians will take a moment and look around them. Perhaps they will recognize that a healing knee and the fate of an entire season are meaningless when compared with the healing and fate of six tribes of Native Americans.

Hail to the Redskins for moving a football 100 yards?


Hail to the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond for persevering so long for the kind of justice and equality under the law that this country claims to believe in and be founded upon.

“Our path leading up to today has been difficult,” Chief Steve Adkins, of the Chickahominy tribe, said during the press conference. “Difficulties the Virginia tribes have faced never broke our will. Doing the right thing may not always be easy, but doing the right thing is always right. We see the dawning of a new day and with the support evidenced by the members of congress standing with us today, our hope is renewed and our expectations are high. We will prevail.”

Hail to that.