Pamunkey Tribe wins final federal recognition decision from BIA

Chief Kevin Brown of the Pamunkey Tribe, center, is blessed with an honor song during the New Day Now rally at the U.S. Capitol on June 16, 2015. Photo by Indianz.Com

The Pamunkey Tribe of Virginia has finally secured federal recognition.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs announced a final determination in favor of the tribe, whose ancestors welcomed the first European settlers at Jamestown. The decision came after a six-year process that included four trips to England to find all the necessary documents.

"We met the criteria and met every challenge," Chief Kevin Brown told The Washington Post. "And we were challenged all the way. It wasn’t easy.”

The tribe satisfied all seven mandatory criteria for recognition, Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn said. The review by the Office of Federal Acknowledgment stretched back to the 1600s.

"The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has occupied a land base in southeastern King William County, Virginia - shown on a 1770 map as 'Indian Town' - since the Colonial Era in the 1600s," the BIA said in a press release.

The decision was not unexpected. The BIA announced a proposed finding in favor of the tribe in January 2014.

But opponents and African American members of Congress raised questions about an outdated law that appeared to bar marriages between tribal members and African Americans. Brown said the law was repealed and 2012 and was never used to discriminate against anyone.

In the final determination, Washburn said the issue did not affect the tribe's qualifications. "This argument does not merit a revision to the evaluation or conclusions under the criteria," he wrote in a notice of the final determination that will be published in the Federal Register.

The tribe is the first in Virginia to complete the federal acknowledgment process. Several others in the state have been discouraged from going to the BIA due to cost and time restraints so they are seeking recognition through Congress.

After welcoming the settlers at Jamestown in 1607, several tribes negotiated treaties with the British and had reservations set aside for them in the 1600s. Their members were later subjected to racist policies and laws in Virginia that refused to acknowledge the existence of Indian people in the state.

Get the Story:
A renowned Virginia Indian tribe finally wins federal recognition (The Washington Post 7/2)
Pamunkey Indian tribe granted federal recognition (The Newport News Daily Press 7/2)
U.S. grants federal recognition to Virginia's Pamunkey tribe (The Lynchburg News & Advance 7/2)

Relevant Documents:
Letter to Chief Brown | Notice of Final Determination

Federal Register Notice:
Proposed Finding for Federal Acknowledgment of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe (January 23, 2014)

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