The Road Traveled
The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has lived, farmed, hunted and traded with other tribes across much of central and eastern Virginia for more than 10,000 years. Throughout their long history, they have remained resilient in the face of change. During the colonial period of U.S. history, Pamunkey Indians persevered in maintaining a way of life as English colonists continued to settle and expand into Virginia. The tribe also engaged in peace treaties with England and the colonies in the years following settlement activities. Pamunkey Indians even fought alongside revolutionaries to win the American War for Independence in 1777.
In the 20th Century, the tribe worked hard to preserve its traditions and way of life despite the injustices they encountered. Facing discrimination and the challenges associated with those beliefs, many members of the Pamunkey Tribe left Virginia to find work and educational opportunities. Fortunately, many Pamunkey Indians have since returned to Virginia and have been building a life here in the Commonwealth.
In 2015, the United States government, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, granted federal recognition to the Pamunkey Tribe. This was the culmination of over 30 years of work by the Tribe to gain this recognition. They are the first and only tribe in Virginia to receive such recognition through this process. With this status, Pamunkey Indians have access to federal grants and programs to increase access to healthcare, educational opportunities, better housing and improved infrastructure. It also allows them to pursue economic development opportunities that will ensure the long-term viability of the tribe and a means for them to give back to fellow Virginians.
While they have endured hardships throughout their long history, the tribe prides itself on being good stewards of the land and fostering a culture of generosity. Members are proud to consider themselves Virginians just as much as they are Pamunkey Indians and continue to seek out ways to be contributing members to the success of the Commonwealth.
The Vision Forward
In 2019, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that permitted the Pamunkey Indian Tribe to pursue gaming in Norfolk. During the subsequent legislative session, the General Assembly authorized casino gaming in the Commonwealth. The legislation required eligible cities to hold a referendum for voters to decide if casino gaming is permitted in their respective cities.
The Pamunkey Tribe signed an agreement with the City of Norfolk to purchase 13.4 acres along the Elizabeth River to build a resort and casino next to Harbor Park. Norfolk voters overwhelmingly voted to support the Tribe’s gaming operation in the city. Once completed, the resort and casino will be a destination that attracts visitors from across Virginia and out-of-state providing a significant economic boost to the local economy and creating thousands of jobs.
The Norfolk resort and casino will allow the Tribe to have financial independence, rather than relying on federal programs, and provide a better quality-of-life for tribal members. Revenue from the project will also enable the Tribe to help support other disadvantaged communities in Virginia.