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
Dynamic Homes
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:
Lakota Country Times: Not guilty verdict after Lakota 57 trial (9/1)
President Obama meets Native leaders after landing in Alaska (9/1)
Rhonda Pitka: Alaska Natives put priority on subsistence rights (9/1)
Transcript: Obama remarks following Native leaders roundtable (9/1)
94-year-old Alaska Native elder greets Obama with Denali song (9/1)
Politicians in Ohio oppose return of Alaska Native name for peak (9/1)
Passamaquoddy Tribe takes a step toward marijuana cultivation (9/1)
Center for Native American Youth seeks new executive director (9/1)
Supreme Court takes up petition in Kialegee Tribal Town dispute (9/1)
NCAI pushes for court rehearing in tribal labor sovereignty case (9/1)
Education Department awards $50.4M in grants to tribal colleges (9/1)
Native Sun News: Teens attacked on Rosebud Sioux Reservation (9/1)
Clara Caufield: Cheyenne brothers and sisters share language (9/1)
Terese Marie Mailhot: Shutting down a new generation of hate (9/1)
Jennifer Fielder: Tribes struggling to break free from bondage (9/1)
Brian Pierson: Big decision in Seminole Tribe's taxation case (9/1)
Navajo Nation hires firm to pursue Gold King Mine spill lawsuit (9/1)
Young tribal members cited for wild rice harvest in Minnesota (9/1)
Lake named for war secretary who pushed for removal of tribes (9/1)
Tribal college students participate in NASA challenge in Virginia (9/1)
La Jolla Band welcomes visitors to longest zip line in California (9/1)
Chukchansi Tribe still aiming for reopening of casino this month (9/1)
Cherokee Nation contributed $11M to upgrade road near casino (9/1)
President Obama restores Alaska Native name of highest peak (8/31)
BIA announces $1.75M in grants fot tribal education programs (8/31)
Multiple Capitol Hill hearings set into disaster at Gold King Mine (8/31)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux counselor combats youth suicide (8/31)
Native Sun News: Lakota 57 parents seek counseling for incident (8/31)
Ernestine Chasing Hawk: I remember I am alive and a survivor (8/31)
Mary Annette Pember: Native women betrayed in violence fight (8/31)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Blood quantum used to judge Indian people (8/31)
Sally Jewell: Native youth serve as Ambassadors for the Arctic (8/31)
Turtle Talk Poll: The enduring legacy of Supreme Court decision (8/31)
First Native woman Ashley Callingbull wins Mrs. Universe title (8/31)
Native boy lands role as son of Leonardo DiCaprio in new film (8/31)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe considers petition to legalize hemp (8/31)
Spirit Lake Nation declares state of emergency to fight drugs (8/31)
Mississippi Choctaws pick Phyllis Anderson as chief once again (8/31)
Former Pokagon Band leader to leave Michigan civil rights post (8/31)
More executives targeted in Chippewa Cree Tribe criminal probe (8/31)
Pueblo water system held hostage by county in trespassing spat (8/31)
Kootenai Tribe to create recovery plan for last wild caribou herd (8/31)
Chair of Duwamish Tribe presses Secretary Jewell on recognition (8/31)
Opinion: Islamic extremists are making inroads on reservations (8/31)
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.