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In Longstanding Tradition, VA Tribes Present Gift in Lieu of Tax - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

In Longstanding Tradition, VA Tribes Present Gift in Lieu of Taxes

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Governor McDonnell talks with Native American chiefs Governor McDonnell talks with Native American chiefs

It’s one of the oldest Virginia traditions, dating back to colonial times. Native Americans from two of the state's earliest tribes presented Governor Bob McDonnell with a tribute Wednesday morning: two deer and a turkey - in lieu of taxes.

This tradition reminds us of the longstanding relationship between the commonwealth and its native people. But despite that relationship, all 11 of Virginia’s recognized tribes are still fighting for recognition from the federal government.

Established by treaty more than three centuries ago, the tradition continues to this day. The chiefs of Virginia's Pamunkey Mattaponi tribes presented McDonnell with two deer and a turkey Wednesday.

“This is how we pay our taxes to the commonwealth of Virginia,” said Chief Kevin Brown, leader of the Pamunkey tribe. “It's an agreement that we struck in 1677, and we've carried it on ever since.”

But in this time of thanks, Virginia's native people find themselves facing a challenge. Of the commonwealth's 11 tribes, none are recognized by the United States government.

“Our treaty is with the crown, the King and Queen of England,” said Chief Mark Custalow, leader of the Mattaponi tribe.

“We've been working on it for 25 years. The other tribes have been at it around 10 years,” Brown said.

With recognition comes a host of benefits - additional funding for things like housing, healthcare, and education. But first, tribes must meet several criteria to prove their heritage.

“We feel it's a matter of historical justice, as long as we've been here, as long as the reservations have been here,” Brown said.

Both the Mattaponi and Pamunkey tribes are seeking recognition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but the process could still take years.

Custalow said, “We are the poster children of federal recognition, and we feel like we have a good chance of making it happen.”

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