Commentary: Happy Indigenous People's Day

Commentary: Happy Indigenous People's Day

Last year, I proposed legislation that designated the day before Thanksgiving as Indigenous People’s Day. The day before Thanksgiving is the day when the Pamunkey and Mattaponi tribes present a deer and turkey to the Virginia governor as part of a 338-year tradition as their tax tribute. The Mattaponi and Pamunkey have reservations based in colonial-era treaties ratified by the colony in 1658 and their treaties included providing this tribute to the Crown, now replaced by the Commonwealth. The tribute will be ceremoniously handed over to the Governor at 10 a.m.

Working together with local tribal leaders to find a day in the calendar that would recognize our Virginia tribes and their historic and current contribution to our Commonwealth, the day before Thanksgiving was the day that they decided upon as the best day to be recognized as Virginia’s Indigenous People’s Day. The General Assembly unanimously voted to pass the legislation as a joint resolution and this year is the first year Indigenous People’s Day will be commended in Virginia.

I decided to sponsor the legislation because Native Americans are too often marginalized through a lack of access to education, and the problem is compounded with a lack of recognition for the issues confronting Native Americans both on the federal and state levels. There is an overall misinformation and confusion about the 11 state-recognized tribes in Virginia who deserve to have their history and culture acknowledged and appreciated:

  • Chickahominy - Charles City County

  • Eastern Chickahominy - New Kent County

  • Mattaponi - Mattaponi River/King William County

  • Upper Mataponi - King William County

  • Nansemond - Cities of Suffolk and Chesapeake

  • Rappahannock - Indian Neck/King and Queen County

  • Monacan Indian Nation - Bear Mountain/Amherst County

  • Pamunkey - Pamunkey River/King William County

  • Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) - Courtland/Southampton County

  • Nottoway of Virginia - Capron/Southampton County

  • Patowomeck - Stafford County

My hope is that this day will raise awareness for Native Americans in Virginia and educate the general public on historic and current struggles of these tribes. The role our American Indian tribes played, and continue to play, in shaping the history and culture of the Commonwealth deserves to be acknowledged and appreciated, through learning from educational resources that focus on the traditions, culture and background of Native Americans. It is a day to celebrate the heritage of Native Americans, our Indigenous people, and for both native and non-native cultures to unite so the many aspects of native culture can be shared.