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Tribe continues long tradition of treaty ceremony in Richmond

20220422 Treaty Tribute.jpg
Jahd Khalil

For 309 years citizens of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe of Southampton County in Virginia have marked a treaty with the English Crown with a tribute.

It's a sunny Friday afternoon in Richmond. Chief Red Hawk of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe of Southampton County in Virginia and Governor Glenn Youngkin are standing in the shade of the Governor’s Mansion.

Chief Red Hawk first greeted the attendants.

Flanked by tribal citizens Chief Red Hawk also presented Youngkin with an annual tribute as required by the Spotswood Treaty.

"This is three peace arrows in according with the treaty of February 27, 1713, wrapped in a beaver pelt because the beaver pelt represents the treaty and it took place…"

Treaties are an annual reminder of how tribes in Virginia are sovereign entities on a more equal footing with the state. Virginia’s 11 state-recognized tribes have special rights separate from the U.S. and Virginia Constitution.

Former Governor Ralph Northam signed an executive order late last year that requires state agencies to consult with tribes when projects have an impact on environmental, cultural or historic resources.

Youngkin has rolled back some of Northam’s efforts, but didn’t indicate his stance on that order.

"Chief Red Hawk and I were just discussing a number of topics that I think we need to engage in," Youngkin said. "And these are the kinds of topics that we need to fully engage with."

An effort to enshrine the executive order into law failed in this year’s General Assembly session.

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.