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Federal Recognition
Editorial: No recognition for Virginia's tribes


"Let's face it. Without them, we probably wouldn't be here. Those "first contact" Indian tribes, like the Patawomecks from our area gave us much more than interesting place names. They provided early colonists with food and local knowledge and helped Jamestown survive when that English beachhead was first established in 1607.

But the relationship between American Indians and the European colonists was an on-again, off-again affair, sealed on occasion by intermarriage, trading, and a mutual need to survive, yet more often marred by mutual distrust, outright hostilities, and eventually, legal discrimination. Four hundred years down the path, we've learned a bit more about living together and today, some of the commonwealth's Indians are seeking federal recognition for their tribes. Is this a status due our first residents?

The answer is not easy. On the one hand, honoring the contributions and the distinct ethnicity of Virginia's Indians is simply right. On the other, federal status opens a Pandora's box of problems.

The upside of federal recognition for tribes is access to programs that help with housing, health care, education, and economic development, and the ability to sell artistic products. In a misguided attempt to keep phonies from selling "Indian" goods, the Native American Arts and Crafts Act of 1970 forbids marketing of these items by anyone other than a member of a federally recognized tribe. That leaves out a lot of gifted Native American artists.

Would that we could recognize our Indians without all the baggage current federal law brings. Would that we could applaud and encourage the Indians' contributions and heritage and provide aid as needed without creating yet another division in our culture and opening the door to casino gambling. Until we can, federal recognition should remain out of reach."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Talking tribes (The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star 10/10)

Virginia Recognition Bill:
Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act (H.R.3349)

Rappahannock Recognition Bill:
To extend Federal recognition to the Rappahannock Tribe (H.R.5130

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