© 2022
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Mattaponi and Pamunkey fulfill 1677 treaty obligations at governor's mansion

Northam Tribute Native American 344.jpg
Jahd Khalil
Radio IQ
Governor Ralph Northam receives tributes under the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation at the Governor's Mansion on Wednesday November 24, 2021.

Chief Mark Custalow presented one of the deer to Governor Ralph Northam.

“I bring you greetings from the Mattaponi People,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be here today to continue a treaty that, as the Governor said, has been going on for 344 years.”

The Mattaponi and the Pamunkey have continued to bring tribute in keeping with the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation, which was signed by five tribes after Bacon’s Rebellion.

Before the Pamunkey gave their tribute to Northam, Ishi Brown sang a song about friendship.

Northam said he saw friends in the audience.

“We as an administration have really tried to build on the relationships that we have with the Native Americans,” he said. “We all should remember and remind ourselves that when the Europeans came to this country these lands already had people on them, and that was your ancestors. We need to make sure we honor and recognize that.”

The annual tax tribute ceremony is a reminder of Tribal Sovereignty, which means Native American tribes and nations have their own citizens, that those citizens and tribal governments have rights separate from the US constitution, and state and federal governments should interact with those governments as sovereign bodies. But tribal sovereignty has frequently been ignored.

Earlier this month, Northam signed an executive order that requires consultation with Tribes living in Virginia. They’ll need to be included in decisions that impact environmental and historical issues.

“We are sovereign governments. Our governments have existed prior to the colonies and to the United States. So it's very important that there's a recognition of that and our rights as sovereigns,” said Reggie Tubbins, a tribal administrator with the Mattaponi, at the executive order's signing last week. “Signing this executive order basically puts these different departments on notice that they need to work collectively with the tribes.”

There are 11 Native American tribes recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia, seven of which are federally recognized.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.