GLOUCESTER, Va. (WAVY) — Seven local American Indian Tribes celebrated their federal tribal recognition with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on Wednesday.
The event took place at Werowocomoco along the York River. It’s believed this site was a place of leadership and spiritual importance to American Indians and was the 1607 meeting place between Captain John Smith and Powhatan, the leader of many Algonquian tribes, according to the Department of Interior.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed a bill into law recognizing six of the tribes — the Chickahominy, Chickahominy-Eastern Division, the Monacan, the Nansemond, the Rappahannock, and the Upper Mattaponi.
The Pamunkey Tribe, which also attended, received their federal recognition in 2016.
“It’s been about 418 years to get us to where we are now,” said Nansemond tribal chief Lee Lockamy.
Congressman Rob Wittman presented recognition plaques to each tribe’s chiefs.
He said that they had all worked hard for years and finally accomplished what they wanted despite many setbacks and obstacles.
Wittman said that the tribes played an historic role in American history.
“If it were not for these contact tribes, we would not be here today as Americans,” he said.
Secretary Zinke congratulated the tribes and was honored to share the historic day with them.
“The story today here is a story of promise. Seven great nations that once were large, powerful and had the destiny of their own future. Today, we celebrate that future,” he said.
The tribes presented Zinke, Wittman, and representatives from Senator Tim Kaine and Mark Warner’s office with gifts of appreciation.