Associated Press Article on Upcoming Trip to England
Historic crossing: Virginia Indians seek healing in England trip
By DIONNE WALKER
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."