- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

RICHMOND — Chickahominy Chief Stephen Adkins said yesterday that Virginia Indians would be troubled if they didn’t receive federal recognition before the Jamestown 2007 commemoration, but stopped short of saying they would boycott the 18 months of events in response.

“I think it’s going to happen before then,” Mr. Adkins told journalists gathered at the fifth annual AP Day at the Capital. “I’m an eternal optimist.”

Mr. Adkins spoke on issues facing Indians — from tribal recognition to Indian-inspired sports mascots — at the event, which familiarizes journalists with issues likely to arise during the upcoming legislative session.

Despite increased visibility, Virginia’s Indians continue to struggle with basics like getting accurate Indian history lessons in schools, Mr. Adkins said.

Mr. Adkins, whose Charles City County-based tribe has roughly 800 members, recounted a recent lecture in which he asked graduate students to name the state’s eight tribes. Nobody could do it.

“If we want our story to be told, we’ve got to tell it,” said Mr. Adkins, who said that sentiment encouraged him to sit on the Jamestown 400th Commemoration Commission, despite criticism that he was supporting a racist event.

Journalists, he argued, are also responsible for ensuring that the story of Virginia’s Indians is told.

Mr. Adkins said that can be as simple as omitting culturally offensive words such as “Redskin” from print, or paying attention to terms that reinforce the idea of America’s “discovery,” ignoring the nation’s pre-colonial history.

“It’s time to look at the things we’re doing and the things we’re saying,” he said. “Take a look at what you print.”

Perhaps more pressing, though, has been the attempt by six Virginia tribes, including the Chickahominy, at securing federal recognition. Tribal leaders have spent years seeking the status, which would make them eligible for things like federal assistance programs.

Critics argue the recognition would be a stepping stone to Indian-run casinos in Virginia. Indian leaders say they’re not interested in gambling.

The issue remains stalled in Congress.

Mr. Adkins said he didn’t think any tribes would take action should recognition not be granted before the Jamestown 2007 commemoration gets in full swing. But he said he thought tribal disappointment could “take the glitter off” the events.

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