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Federal Recognition for Virginia’s Pamunkey Tribe ‘a Long Time Coming’

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe became the 567th federally recognized tribe last week and the consensus was “it’s been a long time coming.”

After receiving a phone call last week from Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn informing them that the Pamunkey Indian Tribe would be federally recognized, the consensus among tribal members was: “It’s been a long time coming.”

RELATED: DOI Issues Determination: Pamunkey Becomes No. 567; First Federally Recognized Tribe in Va.

It was a historic week as the Pamunkey Indian tribe became the 567th federally recognized tribe in the United States and the first tribe to be federally recognized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Pamunkey reservation is in Virginia. midway between Washington, D.C. and Virginia Beach.

Assistant Chief of the Pamunkey Robert ‘Bob’ Gray said receiving Federal recognition after a 30-year wait, “Feels great. It’s been a long time and I am happy along with the rest of the tribal members.”

Tribal member John Collins remarked that not only was he excited that the tribe received federal recognition but was also glad that Washburn had said the Pamunkey “had one of the strongest petitions he had ever seen.”

Pamunkey Museum Director Ashley Atkins Spivey, who is also seeking her Ph.D. in Anthropology says the Federal status will also give the tribe potential access to funding to improve the Pamunkey Museum and cultural center.

“Finally we are going to be recognized for the separate nation that we are and have been by other entities such as the state (of Virginia) and England. Now the United States government recognizes that. We are looking forward to establishing and having that relationship,” said Atkins Spivey.

Former council member and respected Elder Warren Cook has been working on the recognition process for about 30 years. He called the process hectic, time-consuming and really crazy.

Cook says that though the tribe achieved the goal of federal recognition, he is already aware of his identity.

“Well, I’ve already been recognized. The BIA doesn’t do anything for me. We’ve been here for thousands of years just because they say… whatever… It doesn’t mean much to me.”

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