Northam Executive Order requires consultation with Tribal Nations on permits for environmental, cultural and historic resources

Politics

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia’s indigenous tribes will now have more input on how the Commonwealth’s land with environmental, historic or culture significance is used going forward.

Under a new Executive Order, state permit applications for development projects that could hurt the environment, or alter tribe cultural and historic resources will now be evaluated by Virginia’s Tribal Nations in addition to state agencies.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam implemented Executive Order 82 on Thursday evening.

“As the original inhabitants of Virginia, Native people are deeply invested in protecting our
Commonwealth’s rich heritage while promoting continued economic growth for all Virginia
residents, which are the values affirmed in this action,” Marion Werkheiser of Cultural
Heritage Partners, legal counsel to six of the seven federally recognized tribes in the state, stated in a press release from Northam’s office.

The new order requires that state agencies consult with indigenous tribes to identify potential issues with development plans. The Secretary of the Commonwealth will appoint an official to work with Tribal Nations and The Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Historic Resources, and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

These agencies have been given 90 days to create a policy working Tribal Nations into their permit review process.

People from Virginia’s seven federally recognized indigenous nations will be the ones consulting on these decisions. That includes the following tribes:

  • Chickahominy Indian Tribe
  • Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division
  • Monacan Indian Nation
  • Nansemond Indian Nation
  • Pamunkey Indian Tribe
  • Rappahannock Tribe
  • Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe

“This executive order is an historic step forward in advancing the government-to-government
relationship between Tribal Nations and states in this country, and we applaud Governor
Northam’s bold and courageous leadership for honoring tribal sovereignty and the inherent right
to free, prior, and informed consent,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the National Congress of
American Indians.

Del. Paul Krizek (D-Fairfax) stated in Northam’s release that he hopes to further build on the executive order in the General Assembly to continue increasing the sovereignty of Tribal Nations. Also cited in the release, Republican and former Virginia Gov. George Allen, said that tribal sovereignty shouldn’t be a partisan issue and that he is glad to see Northam building on a history of wrongs that the state has perpetrated against tribes.

“This order helps advance the relationship between the Commonwealth and our tribes, after the
United States recognized our sovereignty in 2018, and affirms the Commonwealth’s obligations
under treaties stretching back more than 300 years,” said Anne Richardson, Chief of the
Rappahannock Tribe.

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