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Virginia tribes, congressmen ask Senate to approve federal recognition bill

WASHINGTON - Virginia Indians from six of the state-recognized tribes joined Sen. Jim Webb Nov. 8 at the Capitol, asking the U.S. Senate to approve the tribes' federal recognition bill.

After endorsing the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2007, Webb joined Reps. James P. Moran and Bobby Scott, along with members of six Virginia Indian tribes, in urging the Senate to approve the bill.

Webb announced his support of the bill in October and wrote a letter to the leaders of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, requesting the committee approve the federal recognition bill.

''I have come to the conclusion that this recognition is justified based on principles of dignity and fairness,'' said Webb, a Democrat, in a prepared statement. ''I have spent several months examining this issue in great detail, including the rich history and culture of Virginia's tribes. My staff and I asked a number of tough questions, and great care and deliberation were put into arriving at this conclusion.

''We now have the answers. These six tribes meet the established standards for proper recognition on a federal level and should be placed on equal footing with our nation's 562 other federally recognized tribes.''

The six Virginia tribes that would receive federal recognition through the legislation include the Monacan, Upper Mattaponi, Chickahominy, Chickahominy - Eastern Division, Rappahannock and Nansemond.

Moran, who wrote the federal recognition bill and has been a longtime supporter of the tribes, said 400 years was a long time for the tribes to have to wait to gain the recognition they've deserved all along.

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''Virginia's tribes were there at our nation's founding; they greeted the first settlers at Jamestown and in subsequent centuries were subjected to state sponsored racism and a brutal repression meant to erase them from the historical record,'' said Moran in a prepared statement.

Also in support of the tribes' federal recognition, Scott commended Moran and Webb for supporting the bill and said, ''With Senator Webb's help, I hope that the Senate will soon act on this bill.''

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill in May. Since then, the bill has remained with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; and during that time, the tribes continued to work with Webb to gain his support. Although Virginia's Indian tribes have sought federal recognition through the BIA, the process is backlogged and can take decades, in some cases, to accomplish - a concern Webb noted in his letter to the Committee on Indian Affairs.

''I'm hopeful, and until this point, we were at a standstill with the Senate,'' said Chief Gene Adkins of the Chickahominy Indian Tribe - Eastern Division and president of the Virginia Indian Tribal Alliance for Life. ''I feel Senator Webb endorsed it very strongly.''

Webb told the tribes he did his research, and he believes that the tribes should have federal recognition and believes the congressional way is the way for the tribes to receive recognition, said Adkins, who attended the press conference.

''I believe Senator Webb is the kind of person that when he gets behind an issue, he works hard for it, and we're hopeful that's what he'll do for our recognition,'' Adkins said.

Nansemond Chief Barry Bass, though not at the press conference, said he was happy when Webb announced his support of the tribes' federal recognition bill.

''I think it's good we have his support,'' Bass said. ''We had been working for months to meet with Senator Webb and work with him to gain his support.''