indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Opinion: Pocahontas and one tribe's bid for federal recognition

Filed Under: Opinion | Recognition
More on: pamunkey, pocahontas, race, stereotypes, treaties, women
   

Laurie Gwen Shapiro travels to historic Jamestown in Virginia and learns about the Pamunkey Tribe:
It was easy enough to get to the wedding, a straight eight-hour train ride from New York’s Penn Station to Williamsburg, Virginia. There was a free shuttle bus from the 18th-century Colonial Williamsburg to 17th-century Jamestown, 15 minutes away. But how was I going to get an indigenous perspective unfiltered by pomp and press releases?

It was simpler than I thought. Wandering around the grounds of Colonial Williamsburg, the first person I spoke with was Jeff Brown, an archaeologist digging by a slope near a cobblestone street. “You have to call my brother Kevin, I swear, he’s the current chief of the Pamunkey tribe.”

“I am the chief,” Kevin Brown said firmly over the phone, and added that he would have plenty to say on the wedding matter.

With the clomping of horses in the background, I made arrangements to meet him the next day in the upstairs bookstore café at the College of William & Mary. “Look for a man with a beaded pendant on his neck.” Then he gently advised me, “You really don’t have to keep saying ‘Native American’ in Virginia. We use the word ‘Indian’ here. Or we just name the tribe.”

I didn’t want to be uninformed going to an unexpected meeting with a tribal chief, so I quickly read up on the unusual status of Indian tribes in Virginia. In 1924 an astonishing law was passed called the Racial Integrity Act that restricted who could marry based on race. Anyone with a hint of black ancestry was considered black and prohibited from marrying a white person. But according to a subsection of the law known as the Pocahontas Exception, since the oldest Virginia families claimed descent from Pocahontas, a person with one-sixteenth Indian blood was considered white.

The law protected Native Americans somewhat from Jim Crow laws. But the long-term unintended effect of classifying people with Native American ancestry as white is what Laura Feller, a curator for the National Park Service and the foremost expert on this ugly asterisk of history, has termed “administrative genocide.” It has left “a modern-day legacy where today’s Virginia tribes struggle to achieve federal recognition because they cannot prove their heritage through historic documentation.”

Chief Kevin Brown was indeed sporting a colorful pendant the next day over his light blue oxford shirt and vest; his head was shaved bald except for a short black ponytail. “The marriage has never been a big story to our community,” he said. “A lot of little girls lived then who wed white men. Many other chiefs ruled beneath Powhatan, who used his children as a way to secure allegiances. He had as many as 50 daughters, and Pocahontas was not of as high a station as some of the other girls were. He had a child of his living at almost every tribal community, and viewed Jamestown as another opportunity to secure influence. Influence was currency back then.”

Get the Story:
Laurie Gwen Shapiro: Pocahontas: Fantasy and Reality (Slate 6/22)

Related Stories:
Pamunkey Tribe observes anniversary of Pocahontas wedding (04/08)
Pamunkey Tribe went to England to document recognition bid (02/04)
Pamunkey Tribe awaits final answer on federal recognition (1/27)


Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Violence against Native women is on the rise (10/24)
Morgan Howard: Corporate dividends confict with Tlingit values (10/24)
David Wilkins: Abandon the Doctrine of Discovery in Indian law (10/24)
Navajo Nation candidate Chris Deschene won't halt campaign (10/24)
Tribes receive $1.2M in Sovereignty in Indian Education funds (10/24)
Language preservation a top issue as AFN opens annual meet (10/24)
Rep. Don Young to speak to Alaska Natives amid controversy (10/24)
Think Progress: South Dakota county suppresses Native vote (10/24)
Opinion: Tribes turn their acumen to Internet lending industry (10/24)
Chickasaw Nation signs compact with state for license plates (10/24)
Federal judge won't be removed from Miccosukee Tribe's case (10/24)
Radio: NPS allowed destruction of tribal burial mounds in Iowa (10/24)
BIA announces intent to put Cowlitz Tribe gaming site in trust (10/24)
Feinstein opposes North Fork Rancheria off-reservation casino (10/24)
Salt River Tribe arrests man who left children in casino garage (10/24)
Closure of Chukchansi Tribe's casino could affect contributions (10/24)
Opinion: Shinnecock Nation's casino plans remain under cloud (10/24)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe heads to election season (10/23)
Al Caroll: Recognize tribal sovereignty in new US Constitution (10/23)
Michael Baines: Senate candidate battles Alaska Native rights (10/23)
President Barack Obama urges early voting for Alaska Natives (10/23)
Ho-Chunk Nation woman named president of Girl Scouts board (10/23)
3rd Circuit won't force town to repatriate Jim Thorpe's remains (10/23)
Navajo Nation's top court orders new ballots without candidate (10/23)
Alaska Federation of Natives ready to open annual convention (10/23)
Alaska governor to sign Native languages bill six months later (10/23)
Rep. Don Young blames government 'largesse' for suicide rate (10/23)
Washington player says tattoo represents Cherokee heritage (10/23)
Crow Tribe seeks renewal of Indian Coal Production Tax Credit (10/23)
Native advocates come together to combat domestic violence (10/23)
Agua Caliente Band and DOJ submit briefs in water rights case (10/23)
Former health executive from Chippewa Cree Tribe sentenced (10/23)
Final person sentenced in theft from Blackfeet Nation program (10/23)
Opinion: Tribes exploit loopholes in America's political system (10/23)
Otoe-Missouria Tribe announces plans for new gaming facility (10/23)
Rival leaders of Chukchansi Tribe to meet amid casino closure (10/23)
Navajo Nation challenges lawsuit over death of casino patron (10/23)
Law Article: Judge restricts BIA authority in Class III dispute (10/23)
Column: Election won't end North Fork off-reservation casino (10/23)
Eyapaha Today: Oneida singer follows in mother's footsteps (10/22)
Native Sun News: Candidate seeks investigation into program (10/22)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.