Local tribe’s fight for state recognition halted again

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Wolf Creek Cherokee Indians thought they had finally drummed up enough support to be recognized as an official Virginia Indian tribe.

Last year, the tribe first shared their struggle to earn the state status.

“We felt like the Wolf Creek Cherokee tribe had a very good chance of achieving state recognition this year,” said Annette Price whose husband is Chief of the Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe. 

A bill to give them that state status passed unanimously in the Senate, but was blocked in the House.

“One of the questions that was asked is have you filled out your application?” Price told 8News. Problem is, no application exists.

In 2016, the General Assembly passed legislation to create an Indian Advisory Board.

“I think the legislature thought it would make sense to put a process in place,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson.

Thomasson’s office oversees the board. She told 8News the board consisting of historians and other tribe members was to create criteria for recognition and an application for those seeking the honor.

A year and a half later, the application still hasn’t been created.

“The board is very close to finalizing the criteria, the process, I expect it will be done in the next month or so,” said Thomasson.

The Secretary says it takes time to put a board together and find the right people.

“This is something that is important, it’s important to the Wolf Creek, it is important to Virginia’s history,” Thomasson explained.

Yet, stuck waiting and caught in the middle of it all is The Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe.

“Once you fill out the application, what are the time restraints, on how long it will take to look the application over?” asks Price.

“It is a little bit aggravating to say the least,” said Councilman Jeffrey Ladd, a member of Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe.

“Our history is here in Virginia, we have always been a part of Virginia,” says Ladd.

The tribe has a museum on Osborne Turnpike filled with relics and artifacts dating back some 12,000 years.

“We know that we had people who were Cherokee, who lived to the falls of the river. They lived in Petersburg area,” explains Price.

“No one else has gone through such a process,” says Ladd.

Councilman Ladd is correct. The 11 other State recognized tribes did not have to apply for the status.
In fact, records show six tribes earned the title back in 1983 with just one sentence written about their heritage.

“I think it is a prejudiced idea,” says Price.

Once the application is ready and the advisory board reviews it, they can only make a recommendation for state recognition.

So even if the advisory board recommends the state status for the Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribe, the final say still must come from the General Assembly.

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