Pamunkey Tribe Gains Federal Recognition; First in Virginia

Pamunkey Tribe logoINDIAN TOWN, VIRGINIA – The Pamunkey Tribe has become the first federally recognized tribe in the state of Virginia.

On Thursday,  Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn today issued the final determination that allows the Pamunkey to become a federally recongized tribe. With Thursday’s acknowledgement there will be 567 federally recognized tribes.


The Pamunkey Indian Tribe, located 40 miles east of Virginia, was found to have met all seven mandatory criteria for Federal acknowledgment as set forth in 25 CFR Part 83.7. This is the second federal acknowledgement to take place during the Obama Administration.

“This work reflects the most solemn responsibilities of the United States,” Washburn said. “Our professional historians, anthropologists, and genealogists spent thousands of hours of staff time researching and applying our rigorous acknowledgment criteria to these petitions.”

Specifically, the Interior Department determined that the Pamunkey Indian Tribe has:

  • Continuously identified as an American Indian body since 1900;
  • Existed as a distinct community and maintained political influence over its members since historical times;
  • Provided governing documents describing its governance procedures and membership criteria;
  • Provided a list of its current members who descend from a historical Indian tribe and who are not also members of another federally recognized tribe;
  • Never been subject to congressional legislation that expressly terminated or forbade the federal relationship.

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has occupied a land base in southeastern King William County, Virginia – shown on a 1770 map as “Indian Town” – since the Colonial Era in the 1600s. Today, the area exists as a state Indian reservation. The Tribe has a current membership of 203 individuals and elects its own leaders.

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