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.