Sovereignty and Native Resurgence Among the Pamunkey Indians



Jongema, Matthew L

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Native sovereignty is the inherent power of the native tribe to claim sovereign power by right of their identity. Native tribes have often been subject to inequalities in the relationships between the tribe and U.S. State or Federal governments. Due to equitable terms of past treaties many of these tribes have defined tribal-state relationships through policies of reconciliation in which they have accepted the inequalities of these treaties as a means of retaining part of their sovereign power. Reconciliation places the native in a subordinate role by which their native voice and identity is perpetually questioned and defined by outside polities. The theory of native resurgence argues that tribes should seek to gain recognition of their identity and sovereign power through the conscious embodiment of their agency and native identity. The Pamunkey Indians of Virginia, historically a tribe under treaty with the Commonwealth of Virginia, are one of many tribes that has historically followed a policy of reconciliation and been subject to historical inequalities. A history of violations of their sovereignty by the Commonwealth of Virginia led the Pamunkey to seek and obtain Federal recognition over the course of the 20th through 21st centuries. The case of the Pamunkey is reflective of the value of native resurgence as well as the importance of the conflict between reconciliation and recognition. I argue that while native resurgence and recognition over reconciliation is not the only, nor always the ideal, route for the native to address historical inequalities these theories are important in understanding native sovereignty in the context of tribes seeking Federal recognition.



Native Resurgence, Pamunkey, Virginia Indian, Recognition, Sovereignty