NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Jasmine Anderson says laws that were first enacted by tribal and local governments more than 150 years ago are still in effect, and they are standing between her and her ancestors becoming members of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.
Anderson says she has at least seven generations of Pamunkey blood.
The Pamunkey tribe, which has a reservation in King William County and has proposed building a controversial resort-casino in Norfolk and Richmond, was the first Virginia tribe to obtain federal recognition in 2015.
The tribe’s history extends back beyond when the English arrived in Virginia in 1607.
“The Black Law was supposedly repealed in 2014, yet it remains in force against me, my family and others like us,” Anderson said in a Norfolk press conference Wednesday morning.
Black laws were enacted right after the Civil War in Virginia and other Southern states as a way to suppress African Americans. The tribe denies that and says African-Americans are part of Pamunkey life.
“There is evidence that there are biracial relationships and children of biracial relationships currently members of the tribe and even living on the reservation,” said Pamunkey spokesman Jay Smith.
Anderson says her ancestors were banished from the tribe in the 1860s for providing free education to newly-freed slaves. The tribe says it has even recently expanded the list of historical tribal members to create more opportunity for modern-day membership.
“Pamunkey’s last reform is nothing more than a repackaging of its revisionist racist history,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s press conference was organized by Jackie Glass, the community activist that leads the opposition group Informed Norfolk. The group is encouraging voters to strike down the referendum on Nov. 3 that the project needs to move forward.
The tribe denies that it is racist, and says it does not have sovereign immunity to shield itself from someone bringing a civil action involving discrimination.
“If they slip and fall [at the proposed casino] or feel like they’ve been discriminated against in hiring or want to file a lawsuit, they absolutely can just like any other private company.”
The referendum on the $500 million casino, restaurant and hotel complex is on Norfolk’s Nov. 3 ballot. If approved, it would be located adjacent to Harbor Park.
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