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Youngkin honors Virginia's native tribes in annual Thanksgiving ceremony

Governor Glenn Youngkin accepts gifts from local Virginia native tribes as part of the 346th tribute ceremony.
Brad Kutner
Radio IQ
Governor Glenn Youngkin accepts gifts from local Virginia native tribes as part of the 346th tribute ceremony.

Governor Glenn Younkin welcomed members from two of Virginia’s native American tribes to the executive mansion Wednesday morning. The event honors the bond between early Virginians and the local tribes who’ve inhabited the region for thousands of years.

First signed in 1677, the Treaty of Middle Plantation aimed to give the tribes who signed guaranteed control over their traditional homelands, as well as hunting and fishing rights, as long as they were loyal to the English crown.

346 years later, Youngkin said the annual ceremony, celebrated the day before Thanksgiving, acts as a reminder of the deep relationship between Virginia and the local tribes who inhabited the land before us.

Flanked by members from both the Mattaponi and the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Youngkin thanked them for their commitment to that relationship.

“Not just caring about a ceremony, but upholding the values that underpin our commonwealth, our country and, of course, each one of your tribes,” Youngkin said.

The ceremony included the gift of two deer, one from each tribe to the governor, as well as smaller gifts of gourds and earrings and a decorated feather to Youngkin and his wife, Suzanne.

It ended with a traditional dance featuring the vocal and drum stylings of Mattaponi Chief Mark Custalow.

Youngkin also asked for a moment of silence during the annual Thanksgiving Tribute Ceremony following several inches of rain which helped firefighters combatting the Matts Creek fire in Bedford County.

“It was a big moment, we needed it. It also allowed us to fully contain the wildfires and forest fires that have been burning across Virginia,” the governor said.

Wednesday morning, the U.S. Forest Service said the Matts Creek fire near Big Island is about 60% contained, but further spread isn’t expected.

The fire has burned more than 11,000 acres. Youngkin called a state of emergency to help combat it and others, but the rain is believed to have been the greatest weapon against the out-of-control blaze.

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

Updated: November 22, 2023 at 3:10 PM EST
This story was updated with some additional information about the Matts Creek fire in Bedford County.
Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.