Historic Vote Sees Mattaponi Tribe Adopt First Written Constitution

Attorney Jeffrey Nelson

The Mattaponi Indian Tribe of Virginia held a groundbreaking election on April 29th, 2023, where voting members unanimously elected their first-ever written constitution, drafted with the assistance of mctlaw attorney Derril Jordan. This landmark election represents a significant step towards the Tribe becoming federally recognized.

With 35 years of experience in Indian law, Jordan is a member of the Mattaponi Tribe and has dedicated his career to representing Indian Tribes and strengthening tribal sovereignty. Working on the constitution holds special meaning for Jordan, who fondly remembers spending time on the Mattaponi Reservation as a child and playing with the children, some of whom are today’s tribal leaders. 

“After working for other tribes across the country over the last 35 years, and serving in the Department of the Interior, this is the first time in my career that I’ve been able to work for my own tribe, helping to develop the Tribe’s laws and in seeking federal recognition,” says Jordan. “It has been an honor.” 

Before the vote on the constitution, the Mattaponi Tribe required an election code. Derril’s colleague at mctlaw, attorney Sophie Asher, drafted the Tribe’s first election code, paving the way for last week’s unanimous vote. 

The newly adopted Mattaponi constitution serves as the foundation for the Tribe’s future, including federal recognition, and it also defines the Tribe’s sovereign rights and relationship with the U.S. government. This document is vital for the future success and unity of the Mattaponi people.

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