Archaeological evidence shows that people have been living in what is now Virginia as far back as 16-22,000 years ago. Virginia’s modern day tribes were firmly established in ancestral lands long before the English arrived to settle at Jamestown. These tribes contributed significantly to the newcomers’ ability to survive those first few years upon their arrival to present-day Virginia. Over the four hundred years since the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia’s native people have contributed greatly to the vitality of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the nation, and continue to do so.
Over the centuries, the relationship of Virginia’s Indian population and the Commonwealth has varied greatly. In 1982 the Virginia General Assembly began a process to study and identify tribal groups that would be formally recognized by the Commonwealth in carrying out its governmental mission. This process was handled largely through the Virginia Council on Indians, a formal body established to advise the General Assembly and the Governor or the General Assembly itself. In 2012, at the request of a majority of the tribal leaders, Governor McDonnell proposed, and the General Assembly agreed, to eliminate the Council and create a new mechanism of communication for the chiefs of Virginia’s State Recognized tribes. In 2014, the General Assembly passed HB903 directing the Secretary of the Commonwealth to serve as the Governor’s liaison to the Virginia Indian Tribes.