Indian Tribes Closest Yet in Recognition Bid
Byline: Gary Emerling, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A congressional bill to give federal recognition to six Virginia American Indian tribes will come before a Senate committee this month, marking the closest the tribes have come to that goal after years of trying.
It just gives us more encouragement that we are making progress, said Wayne Adkins, an assistant chief with the Chickahominy tribe and president of the Virginia Indian Tribal Alliance for Life, which has lobbied for the bill's passage. It's been a long, slow process, so any positive step like that gives us a little more to hold onto.
The Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act would allow the Chickahominy, Chickahominy Eastern Division, Monacan Indian Nation, Nansemond, Rappahannock and Upper Mattaponi tribes to compete for educational funds and other grants, as well as health care benefits open to federally recognized tribes.
Virginia Rep. James P. Moran, a Democrat, initially introduced the bill in 1999. But the measure has seen limited progress over the years, in part because of concerns that it would result in the tribes pursuing casino and gambling interests in the state, accusations the bill's supporters deny.
The House passed a version in May 2007 that curbed the tribes' ability to pursue casino deals, marking the first time the measure had cleared either congressional chamber. The bill then was sent to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and is scheduled for a hearing Sept. 25 - one day before Congress is scheduled to adjourn.
Lawmakers are not expected to return until after the November presidential election, meaning time is short for the measure to make it to the Senate floor for possible passage this year.
We know we're up against pretty tall odds right now, because time is running out, Mr. Adkins said. Being an election year, too, it's just going to be difficult.
Mr. Moran said it's conceivable that lawmakers could pass the measure in a last-minute rush this year, but added he's not optimistic. He said having the hearing will at least build momentum for efforts to pass the bill next year.
It means that even if we don't get the legislation done at the end of the year, we have a stronger record to begin next year's effort, Mr. Moran said. I think eventually we will get this.
The six tribes covered by the bill consist of roughly 3,500 people residing mostly in the Tidewater area of the state, Mr. …