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Ralph Northam
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued a statement and proclamation in honor of National Native American Heritage Month on November 1, 2021, Photo: Gov. Ralph Northam
Governor Northam Directs State Agencies to Consult with Tribal Nations, Affirming the Commonwealth’s Commitment to Government- to-Government Cooperation
EO 82 requires formal tribal consultation on state environmental and historic protection permit
Thursday, November 18, 2021

The following is the text of a November 18, 2021, news release from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

RICHMOND, Virginia — Governor Ralph Northam today directed state permitting agencies to consult with Tribal Nations when evaluating applications for state permits that protect environmental, historic, and cultural resources. The action is designed to help identify any potential environmental or cultural concerns for the tribes regarding the proposed development projects.

Executive Order 82 ensures the Commonwealth provides opportunities for meaningful and culturally appropriate, written consultation with Tribal Nations when evaluating certain state permit applications for activities with potential impacts to environmental, cultural, and historic resources.

The Executive Order directs the Secretary of the Commonwealth to designate an ombudsman to work with Tribal Nations and the relevant state agencies. The Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Historic Resources, and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission are directed to establish a Tribal Consultation policy within 90 days to ensure an opportunity for meaningful and timely input by Tribal representatives for the permits and reviews listed in this order.

“The Commonwealth has an important and unique government-to-government relationship with Virginia’s Tribal Nations,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “In recent years, we have worked to address past wrongs and strengthen our relationships with Virginia’s Tribes. Tribal Nations have always been integral to the cultural and historic fabric of Virginia, and this order is among the first steps that will affirm tribal sovereignty and enhance relationships between our governments.”

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 leaders 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.

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

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

“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.

“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,” said Delegate Paul Krizek.

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

“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,” said former Governor George Allen.

“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.

This executive order goes into effect immediately. The Full text of Executive Order 82 is available here.

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