RICHMOND, Virginia – Native Americans honored an almost 350-year-old peace treaty on Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
The Mattaponi and Pamunkey tribes presented a tax tribute of two deer to Governor Ralph Northam, following the agreement between the tribes and the leaders of the Virginia Corporation at the time.
With two deer lying in front of the Executive Mansion, Governor Northam joked that these awards were “much bigger this year than they were for Governor McAuliffe.”
The Middle Plantation Treaty was signed in 1677, granting tribes rights to their lands as well as state protection with tribute instead of monetary taxes.
“As we all know, the United States government and its state governments have not always honored the end of their contracts with tribal governments,” Governor Northam said. “It is of the utmost importance to me that the Commonwealth respect its end of the contract and that we maintain friendly relations with these two tribes.”
As the form of the tribute has shifted from beaver pelts to deer, 341 years later, the ceremony shows the connection between the tribes and the Commonwealth.
âVirginia is stronger and bigger when we celebrate and welcome our differences,â added the governor.
There are 11 recognized tribes in Virginia. Chief Mark Custalow of the Mattaponi Tribe and Chief Robert Gray of the Pamunkey Tribe both said they feel honored to continue this tradition among their people. Gifts were shared from the two tribes with the Northams as well as dancing and singing.
âWe continue this traditionâ¦ by honoring our people who came before us and who made it,â said Chief Custalow.
While these traditions continue, there are new developments with the Pamunkey community.
The tribe plans to build a $ 700 million resort and casino in Virginia. While the tribe would not be taxed on the project, Chief Gray said they would work with the state.
“We can work with the state in other ways to help alleviate the cost that state and locality share as a burden on a business like this,” said Chief Gray.
As previously reported, the Pamunkey Tribe also estimate that the complex would create 4,000 full-time jobs.
Chief Gray said the project would bring economic development to the people of Pamunkey so that they do not have to rely heavily on federal government funding for programs.
At present, they are still trying to find a location for the station.
âWe are working with the state. Finding a locality with which we want to work and which welcomes us, that was a big deal. We only want to go where we are welcome, âsaid Chief Gray.
“When we have it all together at the state level, we approach the federal government and ask for the land in trust.”
There has been talk of installing it in New Kent County. In a public meeting held with county supervisors, some residents criticized a casino, saying it could bring crime to the area.
The project is still years away. Chief Gray says that in the coming months, tribal leaders hope to find a suitable place and locality to work with.