RD26 - Annual Executive Summary on the Interim Activity and Work of the Virginia Council on Indians

    Executive Summary:
    Virginia Council on Indians Executive Summary - 2005

    I. Meetings

    During 2005, the VCI held seven business meetings, in January, April, May, July, September, October and November, as well as a half-day planning meeting in October. In addition the 11th annual VCI Conference on Indians Affairs was held March 4-5, again attracting a record number of attendees. Keynote speaker for the event was the Director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, Kathleen Kilpatrick.

    II. Legislative and Membership Changes

    House Bill 1712 passed by the 2005 General Assembly made changes to both the membership and the duties of the Virginia Council on Indians. It removed the requirement that an Indian-at-large member be appointed to fill the vacancy if a Virginia tribe does not appoint a representative. Instead the seat remains vacant until the tribe chooses to appoint a representative. Making this change required that two seats be added so that no current members would have to be removed. This change was requested out of respect for tribes who have not appointed representatives to the Council in the recent past. The bill also revised the language describing the duties of the Council so that it is equivalent to that of similar advisory councils for other ethnic groups. It added an emphasis on the responsibility of educating the general public about Virginia Indians, which has long been a top priority of the Virginia Indian community.

    The General Assembly also passed a budget this year that repaid the VCI for budget monies not appropriated to them the previous year through a legislative oversight, increased the VCI budget sufficiently to allow for a full time position for the VCI office, and allocated an additional position to the Secretary of Natural Resources personnel roster to accommodate the VCI staff person. In addition, the General Assembly made a one-time grant of $25,000 to the VCI for the Virginia Indian Heritage Trail.

    As no Council membership terms expired during the 2005 calendar year, there were no new appointments this year.

    III. Second Annual Tribal Leadership Summit

    The second annual Virginia Tribal Leadership Summit was hosted by the Virginia Council on Indians in January 2005. Held in Williamsburg, the Summit was attended by leaders or representatives of all eight of Virginia's recognized tribes as well as the directors of major Indian organizations in Virginia. A highlight of this year's Summit was a presentation by VCI members on proposals for events for Jamestown 2007. This presentation was followed by the agreement of the tribal leaders to establish a Virginia Tribal Advisory Committee for the Jamestown 2007 organization. The Virginia Tribal Advisory Committee was subsequently formed, and as assumed the role of planning for Jamestown 2007 events, with regular reports being made to the Virginia Council on Indians as an interested party. As in 2004, another tribal leadership meeting was also convened in Richmond in July.

    IV. Significant Decisions, Accomplishments and Recommendations

    A. Although the VCI decided in 2004 to implement the concept of a Virginia Indian Heritage Trail, only $25,000 was allocated by the General Assembly for this project. Additional funding from project partners was pursued by the VCI chair and office staff, and a total of another $100,000 was raised, through contributions by partners Jamestown 2007, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and the Virginia Tourism Corporation. It was determined that the Virginia Council on Indians office, being a part of the Governor's Cabinet, did not have the accounting support to administer a program on the scale of this project. The VCI chair approached the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, administrator of the African American Heritage Program regarding their willingness to assume this role. Accordingly a Memorandum of Agreement between the two organizations was created, and in November the Council unanimously approved this agreement. $125,000 in Trail funds was transferred to the VFH for administration in December 2005.

    Research for the Virginia Indian Heritage Trail was begun in May 2005, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Several sites throughout Virginia have been visited and evaluated for inclusion in the trail. Sites will be considered eligible if their interpretive content about Virginia Indians is both accurate and balanced in terms of cultural sensitivity.

    B. In March, the Virginia Council on Indians and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities co-sponsored a panel for the Virginia Festival of the Book, entitled Myth, Legend, History and Truth. The panel, moderated by Suzan Harjo and featuring authors Camilla Townsend, Paula Gunn Allen and Helen Rountree as well as Chickahominy Chief Stephen Adkins, explored the stereotypes and myths built up around the girl Pocahontas, as opposed to what is known about her through history. The session was held in front of an overflow crowd and filmed by CSPAN, and received very positive feedback from all.

    C. During the year, Virginia Council on Indians collaborated with the chiefs and other tribal organizations on the development of several findings and recommendations to be made to the Commonwealth of Virginia. At the November business meeting, this list of findings and recommendations was edited and unanimously approved by the Council members. The list included the following:

    • 1. The Governor should issue a statement regarding the hardships inflicted on Virginia’s indigenous peoples and acknowledge the inherent wrong in this treatment, with particular mention of the state’s past involvement in the eugenics movement as well as Native marginalization in general.

    • 2. Mandate inclusion of Virginia Indians on SOL Review Committees and revision of SOLs to include more extensive, accurate and culturally sensitive information on Virginia Indian history and cultures, stressing intellectual honesty in presenting both positive and shameful episodes of the past.

    • 3. Strengthen existing partnership efforts at Virginia Tech, William & Mary, and UVA by providing funding for tenured faculty and administrative positions in American Indian Studies and related subjects. State universities should be encouraged to hire American Indian faculty members whenever possible for these positions, to correct the imbalance that currently exists. Additional funds should be sought for Visiting Scholars in these fields.

    • 4. Address a history of racial inequality in higher education by providing tuition waivers to land grant and state-funded universities for tribally enrolled American Indians who are Virginia residents, to at least the same extent as the “massive resistance” initiative for African Americans.

    • 5. Consider purchase of land for state parks and land conservation easements near centers of state-recognized tribal populations.

    • 6. Dedicate a Governor’s office Summer Internship to the Virginia Indian Heritage Trail for assistance with research.

    • 7. Assist the eight state-recognized tribes in developing a relationship with the Smithsonian to identify and return “culturally unidentified” or “culturally unaffiliated” human remains that should be repatriated to Virginia.

    • 8. Include Virginia Indian representatives on state Boards, not limited to but including Education, and Boards of Visitors of state-supported universities.

    The list was subsequently submitted to the Governor's office. Later that month, Governor Warner announced the beginning of implementation efforts for most of the suggestions.

    D. With the administration of the initial stage of the Virginia Indian Heritage Trail program established, the VCI Chair opened conversations with the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities regarding the expansion of this initiative into a Virginia Indian Heritage Program, which would enhance the trail concept with the addition of a research data base on Indian heritage in Virginia, summer workshops for teachers on Virginia Indian topics, funding for grants for tribes and museums who wish to develop or improve their interpretive content about Virginia Indians and support for annual meetings of the Virginia Indian Nations Summit on Higher Education initiative. VCI and VFH representatives consulted with Congressional offices on federal funding sources, but were advised that the best initial funding source would be the state budget. Accordingly presentations were made to the Secretary of Natural Resources and the Chief of Staff regarding the Heritage Program, with a proposed biennium budget of $300,000 the first year and $200,000 the second year. Plans were begun to obtain sustained funding from other sources, including federal sources and private foundations if the initiative could get off to a good start. In December, Governor Warner announced that his proposed budget for the next biennium would include full funding for the Virginia Indian Heritage Program at the requested amounts.

    V. Major Collaborations, Consultations and Projects in 2005

    A. In 2004 the Virginia Department of Historic Resources announced that in 2005 VDHR would fund ten highway markers on Native topics as part of their Diversity Highway Marker initiative. The VCI administrator and VDHR highway marker manager co-chaired a Native marker committee that collected more than 25 suggested topics, researched, authored and prioritized the markers. By the end of the year, 11 Native-themed markers had been approved by the Board of Historic Resources, one of which was funded by the College of William and Mary and has already been installed. The remaining markers are scheduled for installation in 2006. Topics included paramount chief Powhatan, Opechancanough's headquarters, the Paspahegh Indians, and Cockacoeske, among others. In addition, the VCI continues consultation with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources on any state historic highway markers relating to Indians.

    B. Although the Virginia Council on Indians is no longer participating directly in the planning for Jamestown 2007, the staff and members continue to refer communities participating in 2007 to the appropriate tribes or Virginia Indian advisory councils for Native input.

    C. Cooperative efforts with the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, and Virginia Tech continue. The University of Virginia hosted the fourth annual Virginia Indian Nations Summit for Higher Education in March. The VCI also received regular reports on the activities of the education initiative.

    D. Consultation with Haley-Sharpe Design, Colonial National Historic Park and the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities continued throughout 2005 in preparation for the new interpretive content at Historic Jamestowne.

    E. The Chair of the VCI continues to participate in a Department of Historic Resources-sponsored consortium on the treatment of human remains.

    F. The VCI administrator now participates as a member of the VDHR's Historic Highway Marker Editorial committee and the Virginia Department of Transportation's Scenic Map Advisory Committee.

    G. The VCI administrator continues to participate on Technical Advisory Board for the National Park Service's John Smith Gateway project.

    H. The VCI office has provided consultation on the interpretive content for the Department of Conservation and Recreation's John Smith's Adventures on the James project, and consequently the VCI has become a partner on that project.

    I. The VCI office is providing consultation on the interpretive content for the Jamestown 400 Sultana project's planned shallop display and excursion scheduled for May through September 2007. As a result the VCI has become a partner in that project and will continue consultation through 2007.

    J. Virginia Council on Indians member Mitchell Bush continues to represent Virginia at the Governor's Interstate Indian Conference.

    K. The VCI office is consulting with the Library of Virginia publications office on the next edition of the Handbook of Virginia History.

    L. The Chair of the VCI is part of a planning effort with officials from England regarding a scheduled visit of a contingent of Virginia Indians to England in the summer of 2006.

    M. The Virginia Council on Indians has begun consultation with Isle of Wight County regarding a planned Historic Public Trade Day, scheduled for November 2006.

    N. The VCI administrator has been named as a peer reviewer for the National Park Service's study on the John Smith Water Trail.

    O. The VCI continues to consult with various federal agencies as required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act whenever Virginia Indian sites eligible for the National Register of Historic Places may be impacted by development or construction. Current and completed consultations for 2005 include the Byrdwood development project; the Cane Creek project; the Castleton tract project; the Cobbs Creek reservoir project; the Columbia Gas Gala site project; the Columbia Gas Hardy pipeline; the Dulles Airport expansion project; the Elmont-Chickahominy line project; the Exmore-Nassawaddox water treatment project; Fort Lee; Fort Monroe; the Jewell Ridge gas pipeline; the Kings Highway bridge replacement project; Langley Air Force Base; the Lynchburg City programmatic agreement; the Maersk Portsmouth Terminals; the Maury River bridge construction project; Occoneechee State Park; the Patriot's Landing development project; the Petersburg National Battlefield City Point projects; the Plum Tree Island project; the Roanoke flood wall projects; the Route 1 expansion project; the Route 5 Barrett's Ferry bridge replacement project; the Route 30 expansion project and the new State Fair site; the Smith Mountain Pumped Storage project; TVA's South Holston fork project; the US Fish and Wildlife damage assessment and restoration project; USDA's statewide agreement for the Natural Resources Conservation Service; and the Washington County Service Authority project.