Opinion — Discussing Virginia’s federally recognized tribes

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, August 11, 2022

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I have followed for the last 17 years the plight of the six Virginia tribes who were seeking federal recognition, although they have been fighting to achieve this for much longer. I wonder if we ever stop to take the time to think about how the Native tribes have contributed to our culture.

We have put their monikers and images on numerous things: Chinook helicopter, Red Man chewing tobacco. We even name our rivers the Meherrin and Mississippi; I can go on. Did we ask permission to do so? Is it done for mockery or a sign of respect? How much grace can a people demonstrate when their name is associated with something where no permission was asked?


It’s unfathomable to me that you know who you are but you have to prove to the “powers that be” who you are. Reginald Tupponce, director of VITAL(Virginia Indians Tribal Alliance for Life) sent me the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act bill in its entirety and I encourage you to access a copy because it gives a history lesson in the tribes’ origins and ancestral lands.

It was proposed before the U. S. Congress and Senate on March 1, 2005 and March 1, 2007 but didn’t get passed until January 29, 2018. Various members of Congress were involved with its introduction, including George Allen, John Warner and Robert J. Wittman.

For the record, Thomasina E. Jordan was a Native American woman who worked tirelessly to secure federal recognition for the Chickahominy, Chickahominy Eastern band, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Monacan and Nansemond tribes by the U. S. In having this resolution as law these American citizens and Virginia citizens could obtain federal assistance for higher education and health care, which all other ethnic groups have access to. Of course, it was an uphill battle to get to this point.

Furthermore, this bill details the origins of these Virginia tribes. For example, the Chickahominy were forced from their ancestral home in New Kent and Charles City counties to live on a reservation in King William County in 1646, even though it was done under a signed treaty. The Monacan Indians’ ancestral land is near Bear Mountain in Amherst County, yet, Dr. Walter Plecker, in his infinite wisdom, as director of the Bureau of Vital Statistics of the Bureau of the Census, documented the Monacans and all other tribes as African Americans in the 1930s.

Moreover, the Chickahominy eastern band’s ancestral home was on the coastline of Virginia. Ironically, in 1614 the tribe signed a treaty with Sir Thomas Dale, governor of Jamestown Colony to supply two bushels of corn per man and send warriors to keep the colonists protected while Sir Dale agreed to allow the tribe to keep their tribal governance. The Upper Mattaponi’s ancestral home was twenty miles from Jamestown, later moving to New Kent. The Rappahannock band lived initially in Quiyoughcohannock, which was across from Jamestown on the James River while the Nansemond tribe lived about thirty miles from Jamestown.

The federal recognition of these six Virginia tribes enables them as our fellow citizens to have the ability to seek access to funds that will enable them to start a business, attend college and get medical treatment. In addition, it demonstrates that the Native Americans as indigenous Americans can partake in the inalienable rights endowed by the Creator.

Judy Moore lives in Wylliesburg and can be reached at v5agabond2@gmail.com. She works as a tour guide at The Central High Museum.