400 years after Jamestown, House approves recognition of 6 Virginia tribes

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Nearly 400 years to the day that English settlers first landed in Virginia, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that would grant federal recognition and status as sovereign nations to six Indian tribes from the state.

The unanimous voice vote came just days after tribal chiefs danced, drummed and greeted Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent settlement by the English in what they called the New World.

Steve Adkins, chief of the Chickahominy tribe, who watched from the House gallery, said it has been hard for Virginia Indians to ask for something they have felt they've had for centuries. "But today is historic, that in the eyes of the federal government, they've restored our status," he said.

Adkins said the tribes, which have been recognized by the state of Virginia in recent years, want federal recognition not just for their pride and to preserve their culture but for access to housing and health grants, as well as scholarships available only to children in federally recognized tribes. Without federal recognition, he said, Virginia Indians have been "stigmatized" and seen as in "inferior" by the 562 federally recognized Indian tribes.

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