Virginia to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day for first time in 2020


Virginia State Capitol (Photo taken by 8News’ Dean Mirshahi)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia is the latest state to choose to observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Columbus Day.

Gov. Ralph Northam made the announcement on Friday with a video, saying it’s a another “important step forward in our work to build an inclusive Commonwealth.”

“For the first time in Virginia history, we are recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day—this year on Monday, October 12, Northam said. “As a country and as a Commonwealth, we have too often failed to live up to our commitments with those who were the first stewards of the lands we now call Virginia—and they have suffered historic injustices as a result.”

11 state-recognized Indian tribes call Virginia home, including Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe, Chickahominy Indian Tribe, Chickahominy Indians Eastern Division, Mattaponi Indian Tribe, Monacan Indian Nation, Nansemond Indian Tribe, Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia, Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Patawomeck Indian Tribe of Virginia, Rappahannock Tribe, and the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe. Seven of those are also recognized at the federal level. The Nansemond Tribe in Hampton Roads celebrated federal recognition in 2018.

“Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebrates the resilience of our tribal communities and promotes reconciliation, healing, and continued friendship with Virginia’s Indian tribes,” Northam said. “In making this proclamation, we pay tribute to the culture, history, and many contributions of Virginia Indians and recommit to cultivating strong government-to-government partnerships that are grounded in mutual trust and respect.”

In a press release, Northam touted recent land acquisition and land trust agreements with the Chickahominy Tribe and Mattaponi Indian Tribe as “significant actions in rectifying the past” after the state allowed their reservation land to be encroached upon.

Virginia is also set to open Machicomoco State Park, the Commonwealth’s 40th state park, at the end of the month on the Middle Peninsula. It will be the first devoted to interpreting the experiences and history of Virginia’s Indian tribes and the Algonquin nation, Northam’s office says.

Other states in recent years have chosen to forgo celebrating Columbus Day, which is a federal holiday, in favor of recognizing the native populations who were killed and displaced after Columbus landed on several Caribbean islands and other European explorers came to mainland North America.

North Carolina started designating the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day in 2018 under proclamations from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

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