A sign on the Pamunkey Reservation in Virginia marks the grave of Powhatan, who was a leader of the Pamunkey people during the 1600s. Photo: Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program

'Economic self-sufficiency': Pamunkey Tribe pursues casino in Virginia

The Pamunkey Tribe is moving forward with plans for a casino after securing federal recognition.

The tribe's reservation in Virginia was one of the first ever set aside for an Indian nation. But the tribe doesn't want to use that land for a casino so its leaders have been looking elsewhere for development.

"Our primary goal is economic self-sufficiency," Chief Robert Gray told WVTF. "If it didn't have to be casinos, that would be great. But the federal government has carved out certain rules that allow us to do this because they see it as an economic venture that works and allows gain the capital to find other opportunities to diversify."

The tribe's financial backer has secured a 600-acre site outside of Richmond, the state capital, for a potential casino. But Gray told WVTF that the tribe hasn't made any final decisions regarding that property.

Regardless of the site, the tribe will need to need to have land placed in trust before opening a casino. The process typically takes about a decade, due to legal, regulatory, political and other hurdles that tribes must overcome.

Trojan TV Crew / Broadcast Class at New Kent High School: New Kent County Town Hall Meeting

Despite the obstacles, some local officials and residents in New Kent County are worried about the development. The county held a public meeting on the issue last month but didn't invite the tribe.

“The social impact on the community is not going to be positive," a resident said at the May 25 meeting, The Virginia Gazette reported. "I think you’ll see an increase in crime, decrease in revenue and the citizens will have to make up the difference.”

The tribe gained federal recognition by going through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As a result, the tribe should be eligible for all Indian services and programs, including the land-into-trust process.

But since its status wasn't finalized until 2015, the tribe may have to address the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Carcieri v. Salazar. The ruling states that tribes must have been "under federal jurisdiction" in 1934 in order to qualify for the land-into-trust process.

Six other tribes in the state went through Congress to confirm their status. H.R.984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act, authorizes them to go through the land-into-trust process but it bars them from engaging in gaming,

Read More on the Story:
Opportunity And Opposition In Pamunkey Tribe's Casino Proposal (WWTF June 14, 2018)
New Kent residents excited about reopening of Colonial Downs, wary about possible casino (The Virginia Gazette May 25, 2018)
New Kent neighbors speak out on potential Pamunkey casino (WTVR May 25, 2018)
Neighbors passionate about return of Colonial Downs and possible casino (WRIC May 24, 2018)
Neighbors concerned about proposed casino in New Kent (WWBT May 24, 2018)

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