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Governor Northam to join leaders of Tribal Nations in Virginia for a special announcement

Posted by Governor of Virginia on Thursday, November 18, 2021
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D): Special Announcement with Tribal Nations – November 18, 2021
Virginia Governor Issues Tribal Consultation Executive Order; First In Nation To Call For Tribal Consent
Thursday, November 18, 2021

The following is the text of a November 18, 2021, news release from Cultural Heritage Partners, legal counsel for six of the seven federally-recognized Indian nations in Virginia.

RICHMOND, Virginia — Governor Ralph Northam today signed an executive order establishing a first-in-the-nation process for identifying state permits that may be denied without tribal consent.

Executive Order 82 requires formal consultation with Tribal Nations in the Commonwealth of Virginia when evaluating applications for state permits that protect environmental, historic, and cultural resources. While thirteen other states have consultation requirements with Tribes, Virginia’s order goes further; it mandates a process through which Tribes will recommend permits that will not be granted without their consent. The inherent right of indigenous peoples to free, prior, and informed consent is widely acknowledged outside of the United States. Governor Northam, however, is the first Governor to urge his state to live up to these basic human rights principles for Tribal Nations.

Governor Northam joined with the Chiefs of the seven federally acknowledged Tribal Nations indigenous to Virginia, including the Chickahominy Indian Tribe, Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division, Monacan Indian Nation, Nansemond Indian Nation, Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Rappahannock Tribe, and Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe, as well as the leadership of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Historic Resources, and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to sign this Executive Order. This Order ensures the Commonwealth of Virginia provides opportunities for meaningful and culturally appropriate, written consultation with potentially impacted Tribal Nations when evaluating certain state permit applications for activities with potential impacts to environmental, cultural, and historic resources.

Long before the English arrived in Jamestown in 1607, The Commonwealth of Virginia was home to Tribal Nations, where Algonquian, Siouan, and Iroquoian speaking people flourished on these lands. And while the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation promised to respect boundaries of Tribal lands, the Virginia Colony, and the Commonwealth it became, sought to displace and erase these Nations and their members. This Executive Order for consultation is consistent with the Commonwealth’s continuing obligations under the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation and part of a continuing effort to undue racist and assimilationist policies of the past.

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While proposed development projects involving federal funds or permits require federal agencies to consult impacted Tribal Nations, Virginia has lacked equivalent requirements for state agencies to consult Tribal Nations on state-permitted projects. Consultation is important for the Commonwealth to identify potential negative impacts of proposed development projects on environmental and cultural concerns of the Tribes, and it helps developers gain predictability in their project budgets and timelines. For example, had Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) consulted with the Monacan Indian Nation before it permitted a project that would disturb the burials of Monacan ancestors, the DEQ could have required changes to the project early on and avoided a very public and costly battle between the Monacan Indian Nation and the James River Water Authority. See, e.g.,

“This executive order is an historic step forward in advancing the government-to-government relationship between Tribal Nations and states in this country, and we applaud Governor Northam’s bold and courageous leadership for honoring tribal sovereignty and the inherent right to free, prior, and informed consent,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the National Congress of American Indians.

“We are glad to see Virginia taking proactive steps to appropriately respect and acknowledge the inherent sovereign rights and authorities of Tribal Nations. Their efforts to establish processes for meaningful consultation and, ultimately, securing Tribal Nation consent, should serve as a model for other states considering how to strengthen their relationships with Tribal Nations,” said Kitcki Carroll, Executive Director of United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund (USET SPF).

“This order helps advance the relationship between the Commonwealth and our tribes, after the United States recognized our sovereignty in 2018, and it affirms the Commonwealth’s obligations under treaties stretching back more than 300 years,” said Anne Richardson, Chief of the Rappahannock Tribe.

Congressman Rob Wittman remarked: “The Tribes are important partners for economic development in the Commonwealth. They are bringing medical clinics, broadband, and job opportunities. This order reflects that partnership by recognizing their voices in projects that impact them.”

“The 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation established a government-to-government relationship between the Tribes and the Governor. Governor Northam’s action today takes steps to follow through on the promises made to the Tribes three hundred forty-four years ago,” explained Marion Werkheiser, attorney at Cultural Heritage Partners, legal counsel to six of the federally recognized tribes in Virginia.

Chief Stephen Adkins of the Chickahominy Indian Tribe remarked, “We thank Governor Northam for his leadership and look forward to working with the Youngkin Administration to build on this common-sense approach to dialogue between our governments.”

“Tribal sovereignty is not a partisan issue, and I am glad to see Governor Northam building on the record we established during my administration to begin redressing the wrongs that Virginia has perpetrated against the tribes,” stated former Governor George Allen.

Virginia Delegate Paul Krizek stated, “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to build on this Executive Order, which simply respects the sovereignty of these Tribal Nations.”

“As the original inhabitants of Virginia, Native people are deeply invested in protecting our Commonwealth’s rich heritage while promoting continued economic growth for all Virginia residents,” which are the values affirmed in this action, said Marion Werkheiser of Cultural Heritage Partners, legal counsel to six of the seven federally recognized tribes in the state.

“Investors and developers around the world are realizing that it makes good business sense to seek input, and ultimately consent, from Tribes that are impacted by their projects,” explained Marion Werkheiser, attorney at Cultural Heritage Partners, legal counsel to six of the federally recognized tribes in Virginia. “We are seeing investors and developers clamoring for better regulations to ensure that indigenous people provide free, prior, and informed consent to their plans.”

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Tribal nations welcome formal consultation policy in Virginia (November 18, 2021)