Leaders of six tribes from Virginia at the U.S. Capitol on January 11, 2018. Photo: Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia)

Trump budget includes funds to assist six newly-recognized tribes

The Trump administration is seeking nearly $1 million to help the newest members of the federally recognized family of Indian nations.

The fiscal year 2019 budget for the Bureau of Indian Affairs includes $160,000 each for the Chickahominy Tribe, the Eastern Chickahominy Tribe, the Monacan Nation, the Nansemond Tribe, the Rappahannock Tribe and the Upper Mattaponi Tribe. It's now up to Congress to fulfill the request.

"These critical funds would help each tribe carry out the day-to-day responsibilities and operations of a tribal government," Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Virginia) said in a press release on Tuesday.

Wittman was the sponsor of H.R.984, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act. President Donald Trump signed the bill into law on January 29, bringing the total number of federally recognized tribes to 573.

"We congratulate those tribes on that long overdue process," President Jefferson Keel of the National Congress of American Indians said at the organization's winter session in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. A number of other speakers at the event also congratulated the tribes on their historic achievement.

"It took about 15 years" of "hard work" and "perseverance," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told tribal leaders.

Fiscal year 2019 doesn't start until October but the BIA won't be waiting that long to help the tribes. They are eligible for existing funds in the current year, according to a budget document.

"In 2018, funds from within available sources will be provided to these tribes upon recognition, pro-rated from the day of recognition," the document states.

The $160,000 for "New Tribes" is based on enrollment numbers. According to the BIA's formulation standards, the amount is provided for tribes with 1,700 citizens or less.

The tribes are considered "New" for the first three years of recognition, according to the BIA.

The "New Tribes" funding is separate from the existing federal programs for which the tribes and their citizens now qualify. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it would cost the federal government $78 million over the next four years to provide health, education, law enforcement and other services to the tribes. The figure is based on programs at the Department of the Interior, which includes the BIA, and the Indian Health Service.

Video courtesy Sen. Tim Kaine: H.R.984 - Virginia Tribes Federal Recognition Bill

Wittman and other members of Virginia's Congressional delegation have asked the BIA to schedule a briefing with the tribes as soon as possible to help get them up to speed. Most of them are based around Richmond, the capital of Virginia, which is about a two-hour drive from Washington, D.C.,

A spokesperson for the BIA was looking into the request on Thursday.

The tribes were the first to welcome new European settlers at Jamestown in present-day Virginia. Their ancestors signed some of the first treaties with European nations but they waited more than 400 years for formal acknowledgment by the United States.

The recognition law is named in honor of the late Thomasina E. Jordan. Though she was a citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, whose federal status wasn't acknowledged until 2007, she was known as a champion of the indigenous peoples in Virginia, where she resided for most of her adult life.

Indianz.Com on Google Maps: Tribes in Virginia

“Thomasina said the Virginia tribes deserved recognition, because they kept the colonizers more or less at bay for 200 years, giving the tribes in the interior of the country some breathing room,” Danielle Moretti-Langholtz, the director of William & Mary’s American Indian Resource Center, said in a College of William & Mary news release.

The BIA published the annual list of Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible To Receive Services From the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs on January 30. The document had been signed on January 11, which happened to be the same day H.R.984 cleared its final hurdle on Capitol Hill.

It's possible the BIA will update the list to include the new tribes. The agency did so in May 2016, when the Pamunkey Tribe, whose homelands are also located in Virginia, gained federal status after the list had been published in January of that year.

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