Virginia Indian Memorial Commission Nears Approval by Legislature

--Resolution to Honor the American Indians of Virginia Passes House Unanimously-- Virginia Indians may soon be recognized at the State Capitol for their contribution to the Commonwealth. Patroned by Delegate Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover) House Joint Resolution 680 expresses the General Assembly's support for and calls upon the Governor to establish a commemorative commission to honor the life, achievements, and legacy of Virginia Indians on the grounds of Capitol Square. Modeled after the Civil Rights Commission, this project must submit findings and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly no later than the first day of the next Regular Session of the General Assembly for the 2009 and 2010 interims. This bill passed the House by a vote of 95-0.

“As the representative of several state recognized tribes in the 97th district I believe that we do each citizen honor when we so recognize the achievements of these original Virginians,” said Del. Peace.

The legislation points out that despite hardships brought about by the loss of lands, languages and civil rights, American Indians in Virginia persisted and continued to contribute to the Commonwealth through agriculture, land stewardship, teaching, military and civil service, the arts, and other avenues of productive citizenship. A memorial to Virginia Indians and their ancestors would remind everyone who visits the Capitol grounds that Virginia Indians' courage, persistence, determination and cultural values have significantly enhanced and contributed to our society for centuries. Delegate Peace is delighted to have commitments from the 8 state recognized tribes to press forward, a very strong majority. Deanna Beacham, Virginia Council on Indians, expressed, "This is a wonderful idea. I did not expect to see it addressed this year."

The resolution draft follows the model of the Moton School commission which recently unveiled the Civil Rights Memorial in 2008. When asked for his input on the legislation, Robert Vaughn, who represents the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, stated, "Many thanks for undertaking this resolution to create a commission. [This legislation addresses] explicitly the historical omission and misrepresentation of Virginia Indians in the flawed "official" histories that have shaped public understanding until very recently."