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Tribal recognition
With gambling off the table, Virginia's Indian tribes should gain federal recognition.

Date published: 7/28/2008

GOV. TIM KAINE has put his weight behind a move in the U.S. Senate to grant federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes. It's a honor that's well overdue.

For years, the argument against recognition centered around one major bugaboo: gaming. In other parts of the United States, federal status has opened the door to casinos on reservations, which bring with them many unintended consequences, like attracting organized crime, encouraging gambling addiction, failure to alleviate poverty on the reservation, and other social woes. Many Indian leaders share these concerns, including officials of the Navajo Nation, which remains casino-free.

The Virginia tribes have made it clear they will not establish gaming facilities on their reservations. Chief Stephen Adkins of the Chickahominy tribe told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "I'm a deacon in my church, and I probably would be kicked out of my church if we brought gambling to the community We have said we would never game as long as the commonwealth says 'No.'"

The six tribes--the Upper Mattaponi, Monacan, Chickahominy, Chickahominy-Eastern Division, Nansemond, and Rappahannock--would benefit by gaining access to scholarships and educational grants. Then, too, there is the question of honor and equity: Most Indian tribes achieved federal recognition when they signed peace treaties with the U.S. government. Virginia's Indians signed their treaties with the British crown. They predated the emergence of the United States as a nation. In other words, they were a nation before we were.

Now that gambling is off the table, the argument against federal recognition is moot. Virginia's tribes should be given full status--and better late than never.