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Monacan Indian Nation re-elects Branham as chief

MADISON HEIGHTS, Va. - Kenneth Branham of the Monacan Indian Nation will serve another four years as tribal chief and chairman of the Monacans, having been re-elected in June.

For 12 years, Branham has served as the Monacan chief, helping to educate the public about the tribe, improve the tribe's museum, and work with legislators and five other Virginia tribes as they seek federal recognition.

''I was surprised at the amount of support I had,'' said Branham, noting he thought the election would be a closer race. ''I just ran on my record, and I decided I wouldn't change things from the way I had being doing them because of the election. It's been a busy time, and I'm pleased with the support I received.''

Election results were announced June 23, and the Monacans also supported George Whitewolf, electing him for a second term as assistant chief.

Voter turnout in the Monacan election was low as it has been in other Virginia elections, which Branham said disappointed him. However, Branham plans to work on improving voter turnout for future elections, he said.

One of Branham's goals for the upcoming year is to begin an economic development committee to find new enterprises to support the Monacans. For now, the tribe's pow wows serve as the major fund-raisers. In creating the committee, Branham said Herb Hicks, who ran against Branham for chief, has a business background and would be a good person to head the committee to develop future projects.

Also, Branham said he's interested in making the Monacan Ancestral Museum self-sufficient.

''I'm looking forward to working with the Monacans in the upcoming weeks on developing economic initiatives,'' Branham said. ''I think it's going to be a good year for the Monacans.''

The Monacan Indian Nation, a Siouan tribe with about 1,400 members, is located in Amherst County in the Appalachian Mountains and is one of eight state-recognized tribes in Virginia.

Six of the Virginia tribes, including the Monacans, are seeking federal recognition through legislation. A bill called the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2006 was approved unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives in May. The tribes now await action from the U.S. Senate, which has referred the bill to the Indian Affairs Committee.

Branham said Virginia Indians remain hopeful as they continue to work with legislators on the tribes' federal recognition.