Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Tribal consultation bill moves forward

Del. Krizek arrives
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Del. Paul Krizek, D-Fairfax, arrives to present HB 1157, which would require the adoption of a consultation process with federal recognized tribes on certain projects, to the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 in Richmond, Virginia.

Only ‘federally recognized Tribal Nations’ are included in the legislation.

A bill that would require state agencies to set up a consultation process around “environmental, cultural, and historical permits and reviews” with federally recognized Indigenous tribes in Virginia cleared a committee hurdle Tuesday.

HB 1157 would require the appointment of a tribal ombudsman, who would create a list of localities where projects require consultation with Virginia Indigenous tribes. The tribes would not have veto power over projects or permits but would need to be consulted on possible impacts in those localities.

“We're certainly not against economic development, we just think it wise that if we know something is buried in the ground that you ask us before you start digging, so you won't have to shut your operation down,” Frank Adams, chief of the Upper Mattaponi tribe, told members of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources committee.

The bill comes as policymakers change their legal relationship between the commonwealth and Virginia Indigenous nations following delayed federal recognition of seven tribes. Federal recognition of Indigenous sovereignty gives tribes legal status in relationships with the government, akin to the relationship with foreign countries.

The departments of Environmental Quality, and Conservation and Recreation, as well as the Virginia Marine Resources Commission would also be required by the bill to consult with the tribes in certain instances.

The proposal includes an exception around burial permits, which would require consent from a tribal nation if an existing burial site would potentially be disturbed by a project — language that the Department of Historic Resources contested during the hearing.

“When it comes to their burial grounds, this is something that they stand strong on,” said Del. Paul Krizek (D-Fairfax), who brought the bill. “I'm respecting their position, and that's where we're gonna have to beg to differ with the administration.”

The committee forwarded the bill to the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee in a 10-2 party-line vote. Two Republican Senators also abstained.

Sen. Richard Stuart (D-King George) said he was abstaining because the chief of “another tribe” wrote a letter to Stuart saying that the tribe was being discriminated against by the bill — which excludes Virginia Indian tribes not recognized by the federal government.

Terry Price, chief of the Wolf Creek Cherokee, told VPM News that the bill would further exclude his tribe, which has been seeking state recognition.

This is not the first time Krizek has filed the bill, which codifies a 2021 executive order by former Gov. Ralph Northam. In 2022, legislation died in the Republican-controlled House.

Virginia has recognized 11 tribes, seven of which are also recognized by the federal government. Virginia had colonial treaties with the Mattaponi and the Pamunkey that predate the United States, but most tribes weren’t recognized by the commonwealth until 1983. The first federal recognition wasn’t until 2015, when the Pamunkey were recognized. In 2018, six more tribes were federally recognized. An effort to recognize the Patawomeck is also underway in the U.S. Congress.

Another bill this legislative session, HB 200, extends the tenure of a commission reviewing Virginia law to reflect the responsibilities of federal recognition and laws covering tribal sovereignty. After passing the House, it has yet to be heard in the Senate.

Jahd Khalil covers Virginia state politics for VPM News.
Related Stories