Effort to recognise Virginia tribe draws ire
Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus are urging the Obama administration to withhold federal recognition of a Virginia Indian tribe because of its history of banning intermarriage with blacks.
In January, the Interior Department proposed recognising the Pamunkey tribe in southeast Virginia, which would make members eligible for special benefits in education, housing and medical care — and allow the tribe to pursue a casino. A decision on recognition, which would be the first for a Virginia tribe, is due by March 30, 2015.
The Congressional Black Caucus members urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Attorney General Eric Holder to hold off until the Justice Department investigates any discriminatory practices by the tribe.
Neither department has responded to the request, made in a September 23 letter, according to a spokeswoman for Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, who signed the letter.
The letter cited a report by the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs that quoted tribal law: "No member of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe shall intermarry with anny (sic) nation except White or Indian under penalty of forfeiting their rights in Town."
The bureau said it had no indication the tribe had changed its ban, but Pamunkey Chief Kevin Brown responded in a letter to the CBC that the ban has been repealed. He said in an interview that the change was made in 2012.