Native Law & Policy

The blog was created by the law firm of Walker Law LLC, whose founder, Elizabeth T. Walker (Liz), has been assisting six of the Virginia Indian Tribes with their quest for Federal Recognition through Congress. Various members of the Tribes will be contributing to the blog, including Wayne Adkins the current president of VITAL that is the non profit organization created to promote the efforts to achieve sovereignty or the Acknowledgement by the Federal Government of the Tribes' sovereign status.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Last Day in England-Celebration of New Relationships.

Tired and relieved to have a day free to tour, the Virginia Indians following two busy days visiting schools in Kent County, boarded a bus for a day in London. The Tribal Leaders, left for London too, but for formal dipolmatic visits with the Houses of Parliment that included a lunch with the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, and a visit to the British Museum and the work of artist John White, (the only known drawings of Native people in the eastern region of the United states in the early 17th century).

At the end of touring on one of the hottest days this summer, the Virginia Indians celebrated their trip with a reception and dinner. It began with the drum and native singing - it was a very happy occassion. The love and friendship between the British host and the Virginia Indians was outwardly apparent. Alex King, Deputy Leader, of the Kent Colunty Council, was given by the Chiefs his Indian name, "Dream maker" . He was credited with fullfuling on what at one time seemed an impossible dream, and then taking the dream beyond what anyone could have imagined possible. Mr. King, was given a Virginia Indian headdress.

Mr. King told how proud and honored he and the other organizers had been been by the new relationships with the Virginia Tribes and he knew this would carry on long into the future. He stated "this is the end of the beginning not the beginning of the end."

The Tribal leaders, all shared their thanks and appreciation for the trip to Mr. King and the many others such as Rebecca Cassion and Steven Dukes. They acknowledged the significance of the trip in bringing unity between the Tribes and the British Government. Wayne Adkins gave on behalf of the Tribes a dreamcatcher to Rebecca Casson, as a symbol of how the circle of the dream continues to renew with new bonds and relationsships. Assistent Chief Warren Cook, presented special gifts hand made at the Pumunkey Reservation.

In the end, Mr. King, pledged his support in helping the Tribes accomplish their goals of receiving their long overdue Recognition from the United States government. "It is something we must do".

The evening ended, in the spirit, of love, unity, joy and appreciation.

Behold how good and how pleasnt it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!...for there the Lord commanded the blessing...Psalms 133.

Photos from Last Day in England, tour of London.

Photos from the Last Day, Reception and Celebration.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Virginia Indian Festival Seminar, 'Culture and Identity Today', County Hall, Maidstone.

Today the Kent County Council hosted a seminar for members of the Council and other city officials that featured the Virginia Indian Tribal leaders on the topic of culture and identity. After opening remarks by Peter Gilroy, the Chief Executive, of Kent County Council, Chief Kenneth Adams of the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe, facilitated the presentation by the Tribal leaders, and began by describing his experience growing up in Virginia and the forced separation of his family as siblings were sent out of state for education. He described in touching authentic detail the impact the education policies in Virginia had on his family. He explained that he was not reunited with his brother until they found themselves in the same state serving in the military during the Vietnam war. He went on to discuss the history of his tribe and the importance of the church community to the survival of his tribe and other tribes in the State. His own parents met at a church gathering, and the church today remains central to all the tribal communities.

Chief Adams then introduced, the other Tribal leaders, that described their Tribal communities and their lives as Native Americans in Virginia. They spoke of the diversity in their community that is not to different than others with a variety of professions and occupations. Each described experiences that emphasized the importance of their sense of community, family, and their strong desire to reclaim their identity by telling their history- the truth of the past. Many emphasized the importance of their efforts through Congress to achieve Federal Recognition of their sovereignty.

Powhatan Owens from the Chickahominy tribe addressed what he termed the threshold of their federal recognition effort. He explained that reclaiming their identity has been about standing together. He said it is for us as a community "to renew it, to reclaim it and to live it. We will tell our story again... The Indian people must have their recognition or the 7th generation will not survive."

Karen Wood, the Chairperson of the Virginia Council of Indians, spoke about the revitalization of Indian culture. She explained that it has not been easy for Indian people to overcome the stereotypes and myths about Indians as portrayed by Disney films and popular culture. The non Indian culture has expectations about Indians that are not easy to meet. "Indians don't see themselves in the history that has been written about them. Indians often get seen as relics of the past." She believes now is a good time to live, to be welcomed like the tribes have been in the UK. Now is the time they are being treated more as equals. "Indian people can make history by changing how they are seen, the way they have been represented. They can participate now more as equals and that is a good time to be alive indeed".

Many members of the Council and others in the audience asked questions about the tribal culture, and their community and political support. Several asked if Native people have been successful in getting into elected positions. Chief Adams and others explained the reality of the small population of Indians, and the "numbers" made election to office very difficult. Some asked about the impact of racism. Several of the Chiefs explained the impact of race based statutes in Virginia that undermined their voting rights and how they were perceived in the society for many years.

After the presentation and question and answer period. Ekanem Hines, an African Caribbean Historian, gave a dramatic presentation on the sociology of cultures, that have had a history of abuse and racism. She gave a very compelling account of the loss of identity, and inevitable denial that takes over a culture that is based on survival. This presentation focused the Council on the need for policies that could protect the identity of those that come from diverse backgrounds and have suffered racism.

The program continued in the afternoon with discussions by Christopher Woodley, of the Gravesham Borough Council on 'Race, Culture and Identity in Kent'. And by Patricia Green on 'the African American Experience in Virginia'.

You may watch a web cast of the Seminar on the Kent County website at:

Picture taking was not appropriate in this intimate setting, so below is a picture of the County Hall, and the Bus!!

Monday, July 17, 2006

National Symposium, University of Kent, Canterbury.

Today the Virginia Indian Tribal leaders spoke at a Symposium at the University of Kent, on three panels. Dr. Helen Rountree, an Anthropologist who has written extensively on the Virginia Indians, Chief Kenneth Branham (Monacan) and Assistant Chief, Mark Custalow (Mattaponi) spoke on the first panel entitled, Virginia Indian History and culture before and after Jamestown.

Dr. Warren Billings, at the University of New Orleans, Chief Stephen Adkins (Chickahominy) and Chief Anne Richardson (Rappahannock), spoke on the second paneled entitled First Contact between Jamestown settlers and the Virginia Indians. And on the last panel, entitled, English perceptions of the Early Settlement of Virginia and Virginia Indians, Peter Thompson, of Sydney Mayer University, Warren Cook, Assistant Chief (Pumunkey), and Chief Gene Adkins (Chickahominy, Eastern Division), spoke and took questions.

The audience was very interested in the all of the panelist and asked many questions that gave insight into the how the British community perceives the native culture in America and their genuine interest in learning more about the modern culture and heritage of the Virginia Tribes. Many of the tribal leaders spoke to hardships the Virginia Tribes faced and the lack of recognition for their identity and heritage. How the racism over the years had suppress the real history of the tribes and the acknowledgement of their existing culture in modern times. They described life on the existing reservations in Virginia, and how the history of the tribes has not completely been told or honored from a Native American's perspective.

Perhaps inspired by the history of Pocahontas and John Rolfe's marriage, there were many questions about the integration of tribal people with the English culture and the attitudes by both white and Indian culture to bi-racial marriages. It is fair to say that racial issues dominated the question and answer period. The Virginia Tribal leaders also told how traditions in their families had been passed down and influenced their modern lives. How despite the hardships their culture had survived. As Chief Adkins said, "we are survivors".

While all the Tribal leaders successfully peaked the audiences interest about the Virginia Indian story and time ran out before all the questions could be answered during their panels, it was the last panel at the end of the afternoon, that sparked the crowd. Warren Cook and Gene Adkins, used humor, telling stories on themselves and their family. Their talks started peals of laughter that didn't seem to end. The University commentator, remarked on how delightful it was to have such humorous and enjoyable presentations. Their panel ended the day on a very happy note. Its hard to imagine how the symposium could have gone better or been better received.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Photos from St.Georges Church Sunday Service.

St.George's Chruch Service, The Rt Rev. Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester.

The Virginia Indians, were invited to St.George's Church Sunday morning for a Service conducted by the Bishop of Rochester and the Rev. Vic Lawrence. Many dignitaries from the District of Gravesham, including the Mayor and Sherriff of the District,attended. (The Sherriff, is the lady in the photos who wore a fancy white plum in her hat).

The 10:00 am service was the family service this morning, and it is customary for the children to participate by singing special songs. Today they created a totem pole, where they used animals to represent the spirit of love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Everyone was asked to write a prayer on a paper feather, the paper feathers were then made into an Indian bonnet for the alter.

After the presentation and songs by the children, there were testimonials by Chief Gene Adkins and Chief Anne Richardson. Both gave moving testimony to the power of God and Jesus in their life. Chief Richardson spoke elequently about her experience in the private service they held on Friday, for Pocahontas and the importance of Christianity in the lives of the Virginia Indians that was brought to them by the conversion of Pocahontas to Christianity in 1613. Chief Richardson did a special prayer for the young people asking for a healing of all the Virginia Indians from the past and prayed for the future of the next generation. She was inspired by scripture quoting from Isaiah Chapter 9.

The Bishop then gave his sermon, and brought out the importance of understanding both the fruits and gifts of the holy spirit. That from the spirit of love and gentleness came the gifts of justice and healing. The Bishop's sermon about the power of Gods love in Jesus' name, captured the significance of the visit by the Virginia Indians to honor their faith. Words cannot fully express the Bishops ablitiy to bring the threads of the service together in a completely moving and inspiring manner. He captured the joy of the children and the power of the Chiefs testimony to touch hearts and inspire the spirit of reconciliation.

A reception followed the service in the Garden of the Chruch. The Virginia Indians then departed to prepare for their cultural presentation at the Big Day Out.

More Photos from the Big Day Out.

More Photos from the Big Day Out.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Big Day Out-A Big Success.

The pictures speak for themselves. A large crowd turned out for the Virginia Indians and their cultural presentation. Wayne Adkins' informative commentary of the drum and the dancers' performances held the attentive crowd for over 90 minutes. The weather was sunny and pleasant with no humidity! A perfect day. Many in attendanced stayed to ask questions and to take photographs. The Big Day out was a big success.

First Day in the UK, Associated Press Article.

American Indians make pilgrimage to England to grave of Pocahontas

By Sarah Ball
1:41 p.m. July 14, 2006

GRAVESEND, England – Americans Indians from Virginia traveled to the burial place of Pocahontas on Friday as part of celebrations marking next year's 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the oldest English settlement in the New World. A 50-member delegation attended a private ceremony to honor their fabled ancestor, who acted as an ambassador between British settlers and her Algonquin kinsmen in the early 17th century.

“We're here to acknowledge the fact that the people of England have protected the remains of Pocahontas – they have honored her memory, and I think they've just done due diligence,” said Chief Stephen Adkins of the Chickahominy tribe. The moment was tinged with sadness for Adkins, who noted that when the first English settlers landed in 1607 there were 35 to 40 Virginia woodland tribes. “There are now eight,” he said. The visit was part of a series of events on both sides of the Atlantic to mark the anniversary of Jamestown's settlement in 1607. The Virginia Indians reveled in the chance to do the journey in reverse – from the New World to the old one – and to show off the finer points of their culture.

Amid blustery summer winds, spectators lined the manicured hedges of an Elizabethan manor lawn to watch as nine men from the delegation – most swathed in fringed buckskin tunics, turkey feather bustles and deerhide pelts – circled around a drum, pounding in unison and singing the names of the tribes. The rest of the delegation formed pairs, marching and dancing around a fountain in the garden to the drum beat – the ritual a colorful focal point of a welcome ceremony in the southeastern English town of Gravesend.

Lord Watson of Richmond, the co-chairman of the Jamestown 2007 British committee, stressed the longtime ties between the two groups as he spoke after the dance. The tribesmen presented local representatives with gifts from their home state including a traditional Pamonkey clay pot and a large bundle of dried tobacco leaves, the cash crop of Virginia that attracted English investors. “It is tradition that when you go to visit an elder or a dignitary, you respect them by bringing tobacco – one of the four sacred herbs,” said Kevin Smith, a member of the Nansemond tribe. “It is only fitting that since we have been welcomed by this country, that we respect and honor them in the same way.”

Members of the delegation also enjoyed traditional English summertime food. Rappahannock tribesman Jacob Fortune-Deuber, 15, sat in one of the manor's libraries in a rigid 17th-century Windsor chair in his full feather-and-deerskin regalia, eating strawberries and cream out of a silver bowl. “This is a chance for all the tribes to get together – we haven't been together in a long time,” Fortune-Deuber said.

Pocahontas is known for saving New World explorer Capt. John Smith from execution in 1607, and legend has it the two later became lovers. About five years later she was kidnapped by the English to be used as a pawn in dealings with her father, Powhatan, chief of the Algonquin Nation. Pocahontas converted to Christianity in 1613 and married tobacco planter John Rolfe. The couple sailed for England in 1616, but the newlywed princess became ill and died of an undetermined illness the next year. Though historians know little about her, fictionalized accounts of her life have appeared in art and media for centuries – most recently in a 1995 animated Disney musical and a live-action historical thriller, “The New World,” released in January.
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Friday, July 14, 2006

Photo's from St. George's Church.

Sacred day in England visiting Pocahontas' burial cite.

The day began, with an official welcome at Cobham Hall with the Mayor of Gravesham and members of the royal family. Gifts were exchanged and words of welcome where given. Then the representatives of the Virginia Indian Tribes were taken to St. George's Church in Gravesend to the burial site of Pocahontas for a private ceremony.

Mary Pugh, of St. George's church, told the history of St. George's and Pocahontas. Pocahontas on a trip to England with her husband John Rolfe, became ill and after she boarded a ship to return to her native land her condition grew worse and she was brought back to Gravesend, died and was buried in the chancel of the parish church, the place reserved for clergy and notable parishioners. Her remains have not been disturbed and are buried in the chancel of the church to this day. In 1896, the memorial tablet to Pocahontas was put in the chancel of St. George's Church, the memorial windows were presented by the Colonial Dames of America in 1914. St. George's Churchyard was laid out as the Princess Pocahontas Garden in 1958 and the Queen gave to St. Georges the replica of the chalice and paten used in 1607. The legend is that the vicar of St. George's received the statute of Pocahontas in the garden as a gift after a trip to Virginia. The tablet commemorating Pocahontas reads:

This stone commemorates Princess Pocahontas or Metoak daughter of the mighty American Indian Chief Powhattan. Gentle and humane, she was the friend of the earliest struggling English colonists whom she nobly rescued, protected, and helped. On her Conversion to Christianity in 1613, she received in Baptism the name Rebecca, and shortly afterwards became the wife of John Rolfe, a settler in Virginia. She visited England with her husband in 1616, was graciously received by Queen Anne wife of James I. In the twenty second year of her age she died at Gravesend preparing to revisit her native country and was buried near this spot on March 21st 1617.

When Mary Pugh completed her presentation, the non native visitors were asked to leave the sanctuary and a private ceremony was conducted by the Virginia Indians visiting the Church. Afterwards pictures were taken in the courtyard and the party left and visited "The Promenade" on the River Thames to prepare for the Big Day Out on Saturday and Sunday.

Appropriately, the St. George's Church Guide, contains this prayer:

May your Church, Lord, be a light to the nations, the sign and source of your power to unite all men. May she lead mankind to the mystery of your love. Amen

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Departure Ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian

The Ceremony began with acknowlegement by the museum representatives of the historic visit of the Virginia Indians to England, and the honor they felt at NMAI to be apart of such a significant occasion. Both Chief Stephen Adkins and Chief Kenneth Adams spoke to the audience of the importance during the commemoration of the 2007 anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in America, to tell the Virginia Indian story. Ben Denby representing the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation, and the Jamestown 2007 Commission, spoke to the crowd of the significance of the historic relationship of the Tribes to the English Government.

Then, Wayne Adkins acknowledged the audience and those who were supporting the Tribes trip and brought forth the dancers who then perform a traditional Virginia Indian dance.

After the dance performance, Rev. John Barton lead a prayer asking everyone who was departing to touch or hold hands as a way of creating the spiritual energy between them for this important mission. The power of the prayer and emotion among those embarking on the journey, touch, moved and inspired all of us in the room.

Senator George Allen and Congress Jim Moran, long time supporters and friends of the Tribes were in attendance and took time to speak to many of the tribal members and take interviews from the press. Congressman Moran and Senator Allen are sponsors of the bill seeking Federal Recognition for Six of the Virginia Indian Tribes. The bill recently had a hearing in the Senate on June 21, 2006. See link to the Senate Testimony of Chief Stephen Adkins.

Then everyone loaded onto the buses and headed for Dulles airport bound for the UK.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Traditional Native Dance and Music Program for Big Day Out

On July 15 and 16, 2006, members of the state-recognized tribes of Virginia will present a program of dance and music at the Big Day Out, an annual county-wide cultural event in Kent, England. The program will feature traditional dances of the Virginia Indians as well as some of the more modern dances learned from other tribes. An eight-member Virginia Indian intertribal drum will accompany the dancers.

The program will last an hour-and-a-half and consist of 15 different dances done by men, women and couples. Before each dance is done, the audience will learn its meaning and why it was done, whether for a special occasion, to mark the passing of a season of the year or for social reasons. The dances will recreate hunting activities, highlight the connection to the natural world, emphasize spirituality and also show the social, fun side of the native people. Each style of regalia worn by the dancers will also be explained.

Glenn Canaday (Chickahominy) and Judy Fortune (Rappahannock) have been chosen to head the dance group and will lead the procession into the dance area.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Associated Press Article on Upcoming Trip to England

Historic crossing: Virginia Indians seek healing in England trip
Associated Press Writer
Friday, July 7, 2006

RICHMOND, Va. - The first major group of travelers from England arrived on Virginia's shores 400 years ago, with visions of wealth and success. July 12, a group of Virginia Indian chiefs will journey to England, this time to raise awareness of their tribes and make peace with their ancestors' conquerors. Representatives from Virginia's eight recognized tribes will spend a week touring England and discussing their history and culture as part of the 18-month Jamestown 2007 commemoration of America's first permanent English colony.

For England's Jamestown 2007 organizers, the trip is a chance to revive social and economic links between Kent County where the trip is centered and Virginia. For Indians, it's a first step toward balming scars of violence and betrayal formed long ago. "This gate ... was opened up when the British came," explained Upper Mattaponi Chief Kenneth Adams. "This reconciliation, this 400-year journey that we've been on, is sort of a closing of that circle."

Roughly 60 chiefs and tribal members will make the trip, the first by an official Virginia Indian delegation to England in more than 250 years. Jamestown 2007 organizers in England invited the group to build on their historic relationship, said Alex King, chairman of the Jamestown UK Foundation. For instance, the Fairfax family, which founded the land that is now Fairfax County, hailed from the southeast England region where Kent County is located, he said. Virginia Indian princess Pocahontas is buried there as well. "When we established those historic connections, we saw the opportunity to work together," King said.

Edinburth House, an English firm that restores historic sites, is providing most of the $175,000 for the trip, with private funds rounding out the costs, King said. Indian leaders will visit Parliament and spend two days lecturing on tribal history to students in 16 grade schools and at the University of Kent, Adams said. "The main thing I think we're interested in is that (they know) the Virginia Indians still exist," said Wayne Adkins, assistant chief of the Chickahominy tribe. "The way the history is written, it sounded like the Indians in Virginia disappeared around the mid 1700s."

Englishmen arriving in 1607 Virginia were greeted by the Powhatan Nation, a coalition of coastal Virginia tribes headed by the powerful Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas' father. Representing one of the most complex Indian societies in North America at that time, the Powhatan Nation encompassed more than 6,000 square miles. Virginia Indians numbered as many as 20,000, according to Helen Rountree, an anthropology expert helping authenticate Jamestown 2007.

There are now about 17,613 Indians in Virginia, according to the U.S. Census. Six of the tribes have spent years fighting for federal recognition, which could entitle them to financial aid. Rountree thought the trip could help. "When a government within a foreign country invites your tribes to come specfically to a ceremony that honors you ... the result should be obvious," she said. "They are being taken extremely seriously."

Perhaps most important, leaders say, is the chance to confront the complex emotions surrounding their history _ pride in their ancestors' role in keeping the Jamestown colony afloat, mixed with anger and sorrow at their eventual decimation at the hands of the English. In England, they'll conduct a private church service in Gravesend, at Pocahontas' grave. "The Big Day Out," a two-day festival featuring Indian dance and crafts, also will take place at the resting place of the princess who aided English explorers.

Pocahontas eventually married an Englishman, John Rolfe, and died while sailing on a return trip to Virginia. "When we come together where Pocahontas has been laid to rest, I'm convinced that there will be tears of joy," Adams said, his voice choking with emotion. "And some sorrow."


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Schedule of Events - Virginia Indian Tribes Visit to England July 13-20, 2006

This summer, the Virginia tribes will embark on an historic trip to Kent, England. From July 13-20, sixty to eighty people representing each of the eight state-recognized tribes will be the guests of the citizens of Kent. Many of the representatives will be hosted by citizens in their private homes.

On Friday, the day after arrival, an official welcome will be offered by the Mayor of Gravesham and by a representative of the Queen of England in a ceremony at Cobham Hall in Gravesend, England. Chief Anne Richardson will respond to the welcome on behalf of the Chiefs of the eight tribes. After an exchange of gifts, the tribes will visit St. George’s Church in Gravesend, site of Pocahontas’ burial, for a private ceremony.

On Saturday and Sunday, the group will do craft demonstrations and make a dance and drum presentation at The Big Day Out, a county-wide cultural festival, in Gravesend. Sunday will also include a worship service at St. George’s Church and a multi-faith luncheon with local churches.

On Monday and Tuesday, the Chiefs will participate in a national symposium titled “Learning Lessons from the Past for the Future” at The University of Kent in Canterbury. Six presentations will be made by American historians, Virginia Indians and British scholars. This symposium will be broadcast throughout England. While the symposium is taking place, some members of the Indian delegation will be making historical and cultural presentations to school students in the Gravesend area.

On Wednesday, while the remainder of the group tours Kent, the Chiefs will tour the Houses of Parliament in London and observe Parliament in session from the Distinguished Visitors Gallery. They will also meet the Speaker of the House and the Foreign Office Minister for North America. The day will wrap up with a tour of London and a reception.