Pamunkey Indians become first Virginia tribe given federal recognition

Posted at 7:41 PM, Feb 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 07:58:45-05

KING WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. -- A decades-long fight in Virginia is now over. The Pamunkey tribe, whose members are believed to be descendants of Pocahontas, is now the first Virginia tribe to be recognized by the federal government. The new status means that Pamunkey Native Americans across the nation will be recognized.

"Yes I'm proud to be a Pamunkey," Bradby Brown, the Assistant Chief of the Virginia Pamunkey tribe, said.

After a decades-long fight dating back to 1982, the tribe gained federal recognition, some 400 years after English Settlers first saw the Pamunkey.

"Our tribe was here when the English came in 1607 and we've been here ever since,” Brown said.

"It's a good day, long overdue recognition is my thought," a proud Debra Martin said.

The Commonwealth had long recognized the tribe and its 1,200-acre reservation in King William County. Federal recognition could mean much more to the tribe members.

"There's lots of opportunities and responsibilities that will come with being a federally recognized tribe,” Brown said. "Education is going to be important to all of them. Housing will be important here. And Health Care is going to be important to all of them, so those are three of the main reasons why we applied for federal recognition and we're hoping to find out what benefits or what opportunity that's going to be for everyone."

Not every member of the tribe expects or wants anything from the federal government, except for the recognition.

"Me personally, I don't need anything out of it,” Martin said. "I just think we should be acknowledged that we are here, and we never went away, we've always been here."