Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Public Support

In a June letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine asked the committee to schedule a markup date of the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the bill in May 2007. The next step in the process is for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to approve the bill and send it to the Senate for a full vote.

Additional support from Virginia state Senator Jim Webb who also communicated with the Committee on Indian Affairs, Chairman Senator Byron Dorgan, and the committee's staff, urging them to mark up the bill.

Kaine's letter reiterated Webb's requests and remarked that the bill has made progress during the 110th session of Congress as evidenced by its approval by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007. To prevent the lost of all the work so far Kaine urged the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to take action.

The Virginia Indian Tribal Alliance for Life, an independent public organization that supports Virginia Indians, has worked closely with Webb and Kaine's staff, asking the governor for a letter to express his support.

Time will be the judge to tell if the governor's letter will influence the Committee on Indian Affairs to make efforts to markup of the bill. Public support is critical to the pursuit of federal recognition since Virginia tribes have not received federal recognition yet, especially one year after the commemoration of Jamestown's 400th anniversary.

The Virginia tribes are distinctive because unlike other American tribes that have federal recognition when they signed peace treaties with the federal government, tribes in Virginia signed their peace treaties with the British monarchy. However, while the Virginia tribes have received official recognition from the commonwealth of Virginia, acknowledgment and federal recognition has been slow to come partly due to the systematic mistreatment over the past century.

A "paper genocide" enforced by the passage of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 for nearly 40 years changed Virginia Indians' racial designations from Indians to "colored" on birth, marriage and death certificates. The complex BIA process, which is the normal procedure to obtain federal recognition, but because of the paper genocide make this route all but impossible.

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