Reintroduced bill seeks recognition for Virginia tribes

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WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. George Allen, R-Va., has once again introduced a
bill that, if passed by Congress, would give six of Virginia's Indian
tribes federal recognition.

Allen on March 1 introduced Senate bill 480, also known as the Thomasina E.
Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act. A companion bill
for the U.S. House of Representatives, sponsored by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va.,
and Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., most likely will be introduced by the end of
March, said Kenneth Branham, Monacan Indian Nation chief.

"It's basically the same bill - nothing's changed since it was first
introduced in the last session of Congress," Branham said.

The Senate bill, first introduced in 2003, would grant the six tribes
federal recognition and place land in trust for the tribes. The tribes that
would receive federal recognition include the Nansemond, the Rappahannock,
the Upper Mattaponi, the Chickahominy and the Eastern Chickahominy Indian
tribes, along with the Monacan Indian Nation.

Opponents to the bill have argued it would allow the tribes to operate
casinos in the state. The bill, however, includes a provision that
prohibits the tribes from utilizing the federal Indian gaming act,
according to Allen's office.

None of the state's Indian tribes have expressed an interesting in
operating casinos, Branham said. Instead, the tribes want to be recognized
as Indians to qualify for educational scholarships, reclaim ancestral
remains, qualify for low-interest business loans and have access to health
benefits available to federally recognized tribes, he said.

"I do look for the bill to move, and I'm pretty confident it will pass in
the Senate this time," Branham said. "If it passes the Senate this year,
then we can concentrate on the House next year. We've been doing it for a
little over five years now, and I would like to see it pass this time."