indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Native American Bank - Native people investing in Native communities
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:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Indian Health Service discusses LGBT issues at 'historic' meeting (7/28)
Haskell students to study fracking on North Dakota reservation (7/28)
Erica Pinto makes history as first woman leader of Jamul Village (7/28)
Native Sun News: Young artist wins top award at Native market (7/28)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe hosts war pony races (7/28)
Steve Russell: The hypocrisy of race and Cherokee citizenship (7/28)
Terese Marie Mailhot: I was raised to be angry at White women (7/28)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Indian Country stuck with bad Republican (7/28)
Aaron Angerman: Alaska Natives not consulted about mine plan (7/28)
IHS hired physician who was sanctioned by Justice Department (7/28)
Cherokee Nation candidate emerges victorious in new election (7/28)
Ponca Tribe reclaims small part of ancestral lands in Nebraska (7/28)
Tuscarora Nation returns to ancestral home in North Carolina (7/28)
9th Circuit sides with Suquamish Tribe in fishing rights dispute (7/28)
10th Circuit affirms convictions of former Paiute Tribe employee (7/28)
Warm Springs Tribes welcome early start to huckleberry season (7/28)
Young man from Omaha Tribe sentenced for sexual abuse of child (7/28)
Makah Nation man charged for assault during attempted escape (7/28)
Miami Nation stays out of public school mascot debate in Indiana (7/28)
Tohono O'odham Nation wins round in casino battle with Arizona (7/28)
Wisconsin asks Supreme Court to rule on Ho-Chunk Nation poker (7/28)
Navajo Nation Council passes tax on alcohol at gaming facilities (7/28)
Seminole Tribe reiterates request for mediation in casino dispute (7/28)
Mohegan Tribe fired worker who helped casino regular break rules (7/28)
War of words escalates on mine at sacred Apache site in Arizona (7/27)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to take up land-into-trust fix (7/27)
Senate panel sets hearing on substance abuse in Indian Country (7/27)
Red Lake Nation schedules August 19 referendum on liquor sales (7/27)
Poarch Creeks win injunction blocking county from imposing tax (7/27)
Native Sun News: Indian elders suffer from higher dementia risk (7/27)
Lakota Country Times: Lawmakers hear about tribal economies (7/27)
Mark Trahant: Press the Republican candidates on Indian issues (7/27)
Brandon Ecoffey: Race remains an issue for police in Rapid City (7/27)
Cynthia Dunne: Justice has been served in Leonard Peltier case (7/27)
Carly McIntosh: Native name brings me closer to Mother Earth (7/27)
Mississippi Choctaw family seeks answers for county jail death (7/27)
Judge can't reopen Keepseagle case after $380M goes unspent (7/27)
Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation won't drop federal recognition bid (7/27)
Editorial: New Jersey governor quietly obliterates three tribes (7/27)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe wins approval for liquor ordinance (7/27)
Seminole Tribe reports lack of progress in casino pact dispute (7/27)
Catawba Nation in talks to bring Hard Rock into gaming plans (7/27)
Graton Rancheria to break ground this fall on hotel at casino (7/27)
Sen. Barrasso defends quick movement on transportation bill (7/24)
Tribal gaming industry sees modest growth to $28.5B in 2014 (7/24)
House lawmakers introduce new version of land-into-trust fix (7/24)
Special Trustee Vince Logan reaching out to Indian Country (7/24)
Native Sun News: Deadwood mayor welcomes Native culture (7/24)
Lakota Country Times: Police aim to improve race relations (7/24)
James Giago Davies: Mixed-race Indians shamed over blood (7/24)
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.