indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
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: Montana basketball legend gives back to youth (1/23)
Mark Trahant: Building the new digital economy in Indian Country (1/23)
James Giago Davies: Washington team insults the first Americans (1/23)
Gyasi Ross: Indian Country can't get enough of Seattle Seahawks (1/23)
Jay Daniels: A tribute to Crow basketball legend Elvis D. Old Bull (1/23)
Richard Thornton: People of One Fire exposing forgotten history (1/23)
NARF: Supreme Court decision impacts rights of Indian inmates (1/23)
Oglala Sioux medicine man dies awaiting trial in sex abuse case (1/23)
No charges filed for deaths of two people on Barona Reservation (1/23)
IRS placed $664K in tax liens on leader of Lower Brule Sioux Tribe (1/23)
Yellowstone National Park starts transferring bison for slaughter (1/23)
Fire in 1865 destroyed Smithsonian collection of Indian portraits (1/23)
Turtle Talk: Gaming compact cases are extremely difficult to win (1/23)
Governor rejects Menominee Nation off-reservation gaming plan (1/23)
Otoe-Missouria Tribe reaches agreement with city for new casino (1/23)
Chehalis Tribe to start work on $40M expansion of gaming facility (1/23)
Idaho lawmakers question gaming machines at non-Indian tracks (1/23)
State of Indian Nations as delivered by NCAI President Cladoosby (1/22)
Sen. Barrasso delivers response to NCAI's State of Indian Nations (1/22)
Native Sun News: Tribes step up with donations for cultural center (1/22)
Ivan Star: Indian Country must put more effort in public relations (1/22)
Steven Newcomb: Indian policy is unmistakenly linked to religion (1/22)
Harlan McKosato: Apache woman develops 'indispensible' guide (1/22)
Tristan Ahtone: Former Native gang member tries to start anew (1/22)
Q&A with Chemehuevi artist Cara Romero on 'Last Indian Market' (1/22)
Sainthood for founder of brutal California Indian mission system (1/22)
Native mayor promises to change city's reputation as most racist (1/22)
Deadline passes to appeal Fond du Lac Band land-into-trust case (1/22)
City rejects Citizen Potawatomi Nation land detachment petition (1/22)
Oklahoma lawmakers debate future of unfinished Indian museum (1/22)
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation inaugurates Leland Kinter as chairman (1/22)
City to enter public transportation contract with Mississippi Band (1/22)
Officials in Idaho won't try to find a new name for 'Squaw Butte' (1/22)
Opinion: Blood Run landmark a place of reverence for area tribes (1/22)
Chukchansi Tribe set to run out of money for gaming per capitas (1/22)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe sues BIA over rejected compact (1/22)
Menominee Nation expects fast action from BIA on new compact (1/22)
Some CSKT leaders question $27.4M expansion of gaming facility (1/22)
Narragansett Tribe wins litigation filed by former gaming partner (1/22)
Column: Tribes concerned about commercial casinos in New York (1/22)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe contests uranium expansion (1/21)
Clara Caufield: Run recalls days of horror for Northern Cheyenne (1/21)
Brandon Ecoffey: Officer shooting reveals anti-Indian sentiment (1/21)
Ron Allen: Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe supports bond for schools (1/21)
Erik Stegman: Setting the record straight on gaming per capitas (1/21)
Jacqueline Keeler: Keystone fight is about more than a pipeline (1/21)
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.