Friday, May 28, 2021



The Overlooked Opechancanough: An Indigenous Hero

Interestingly, his inherited domain included Arlington Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and a number of military establishments in the DMV. Yet, because American history only begins with the arrival of the English in 1607, he, as a formidable Indigenous leader is the true "Unknown Warrior" who was the primary leader to die for his country in the first battles of homeland security

(Above): This is an image of a Pamunkey descendant of Opechancanough and how he may have appeared wearing the traditional turkey feather headdress, freshwater pearls and symbolic body paint. He was the Algonquian leader (who succeeded his late brother Powhatan II or 
Wahunsennachaw) of a vast "empire" (The only one of its kind encountered by the English). The Powhatan Paramountcy, whose territory included large areas in the states of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia-- Like his older brother, he would have also visited Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to caucus with surrounding nations.

  "He began in 1610 what the American Revolutionaries achieved in 1776"

Iwould seem that this man should be the first Native American to be called a hero and given those deserved rights and privileges, like the Civil Rights heroine, Rosa Parks.
Opechancanough was the architect of the First Anglo-Powhatan War that took place from 1610-13 in Virginia.
Never one to claim defeat as long as he lived, he rebounded with the Second Anglo-Powhatan War that took place from 1622-32. "In 1622 the English knew they were at war. On March 22 there was a massive [coordinated] assault on the English plantations on the James River. English trading vessels in the York River basin, and perhaps the Rappahannock area, were also attacked. About one-fourth of the English living in Virginia on that day; at least another fourth died within the year from Indian sniping, from the famine caused by English inability to plant crops under Indian fire."-- Powhatan Foreign Relations: 1500 - 1722, Edited by Helen C. Rountree, Pg. 190.

During the Third Anglo-Powhatan War (1644-46), Opechancanough, bercause of his advanced age (of 92 years old), was taken to the battlefront on a litter. He was later captured and martyred when shot in the back by an English colonist while imprisoned.

His descendants are Still Here!

Opechancanough's Descendants

(Top): Photograph of one of the youngest descendants of Opechancanough who bears his name, Naat'aani Opechan. He is with his Dine (Navajo) mother. Next to her is a non-Native Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro. Naat'aani's Pamunkey/Tauxenent father is on the right. In Dine, Naat'aani means "Leader". 

(Bottom): Family wisdom keeper and great-grandmother, Georgia Mills Jessup (Pamunkey), is just one of the many descendants of Opechancanough.

In reality the territorial and cultural histories of the United States of America began at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, with the establishment of the first successful permanent English settlement in North America. The American Revolution and Opechancanough's Wars share a similar quest, to rid the fledgling country of the English. The people who became "Americans" (through acculturation) were distinct from the English and had done so by first "going Native" and surviving off Powhatan II's generosity. During those early years, the English survived by trading or stealing Powhatan corn since they did not grow enough crops to feed themselves. The English were more interested in growing "brown gold" (tobacco) which was traded overseas as a major cash crop. Pocahontas' second husband, John Rolfe, previously had introduced a milder Taino tobacco to the American colony. The indigenous Caribbean Amerindian cash crop helped to finance the American Revolution. Americans became distinct from their colonial master, the English, by adopting Native American lifestyles and customs. For example, "historians, including Donald Grinde of the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, have claimed that the democratic ideals of the Gayanashagowa [the Great Law of Peace of the Iroquois] provided a significant inspiration to Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and other framers of the United States Constitution"-- It seems fitting that the first hero of this pivotal founding of a country was the Native American, and a man named Opechcancanough (pronounced in English as Opi-can-canoe).

(Top): !980's photograph of Powhatan's Mantle viewed at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England by Rose Powhatan (Pamunkey/Tauxenent)

(Bottom): Photo of the mantle showing a man between his two totems, a mountain lion and a deer. Surrounding them are circles representing 32-34 Algonquian nations in what the English termed a "kingdom", approximately between 18,700 to 19,250 square miles.

We should make a commemorative statue to the American hero Opechancanough who was a  younger brother of  paramount chief Wahunsenacawh  (Powhatan II, the statesman who expanded the confederation of 8 Algonquian nations into one of 34 before he was 60 years old). As seen above, Opechancanough was  primarily known as the  nationalist war chief who masterminded the inter-tribal Indian rebellion  of 1622, and later 1644, until he was assassinated (shot in the back) while held in captivity by  the English colonists in  Virginia in 1646. There are many theories about the true identity of Opechancanough as well as his rationale for instigating the ingeniously coordinated Virginia Indian rebellions. 

Some believe that Opechancanough may have been the captured Indian youth, initially taken to Mexico, where he was baptized and given the name "Don Luís" and educated by the Dominicans. He was later taken to Spain. During his two years in Spain, he met King Phillip II. While he was in Spain, he was generally assumed to be "the son of a Chief". He eventually left Spain for Havana, Cuba, in the company of Dominican missionaries. Don Luis carried on the Powhatan tradition of being a great speaker, and seems to have mastered the art of persuasion. He convinced the Dominicans to return with him to his homeland, under the pretense of helping them in their quest to "Christianize" his fellow tribesmen. Phillip II wanted to establish a missionary settlement in the Tidewater region of Virginia (then known as "Ajacan"). Some historians believe that Opechancanough was that unnamed captive, and his experiences among the Spanish may have influenced his deep distrust of European settlers in the "New World". He must have known that their plans for colonization would result in the cultural annihilation and displacement of his people by the Europeans.

The above caption under the illustration exhibits the writer's (Rountree) misgivings. First, the English concept of royalty allowed them to recognize "kings" and "queens" among the Native American leadership, especially because of the expanse of Powhatan II's territory. Second, Algonquians, who the 17th century English met, were considered to be extremely tall (e.g. Powhatan II was described as over six feet tall). In comparison, the average height of late 16th century Englishmen was 5 feet 6 inches.


Another theory about Opechancanough's distrust of Europeans can be found in the writing of John Smith. Smith boasted of having shamed the well-respected leader by holding a pistol to his breast while marching him in front of his assembled tribesmen. Smith, as seen in his memoirs of the Pocahontas Story (Pocahontas: Patron Saint of Colonial Miscegenation? by Kiros Auld --, tended to exaggerate his power and stature. The Pamunkey warriors laid aside their weapons in an attempt to save the life of Opechancanough, not out of cowardice, but in solidarity of their love for him. Opechancanough was shown an egregious lack of respect by John Smith -- ibid

On March 22nd, some Eastern Woodlands Native Americans, in the know, will quietly celebrate Opechancanough's strategic attempts to rid his territory of the increasing number of English interlopers. Why not join Virginia Natives by including in your meal for that day, turkey or venison (or any Virginia game animal, i.e. raccoon, muskrat, etc.), plus vegetarian succotash and corn bread or pone (two Powhatan Algonquian words). Or, as a learning assignment, you may want to practice a few of their following American words:
"In addition to other current Algonquian dialects and dictionaries, the Powhatan's language is not dead. Algonquian is the language of the first indigenous Americans to intimately interact with the English. Their words below survive in the English language as Caucus -- from corcas. from caucauasu or "counselor". First recorded by Captain John Smith. Today, it is a political meeting, especially on Powhatan II's old territory where, according to an English chronicler, he liked to caucus with surrounding tribes (on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC) to make decisions. 

During the Third Anglo-Powhatan War (1644-46), Opechancanough was taken to the battlefront on a litter. He was later captured and martyred when shot in the back by an English colonist while imprisoned.
His descendants are Still Here!



In addition to other current Algonquian dialects and dictionaries, the Powhatan's language is not dead. Algonquian is the language of the first indigenous Americans to intimately interact with the English. Their words below survive in the English language as Caucus -- from corcas. from caucauasu or "counselor". First recorded by Captain John Smith. Today, it is a political meeting, especially on Powhatan II's old territory where, according to an English chronicler, he liked to caucus with surrounding tribes (on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC) to make decisions. The chronicler also stated that "Powhatan never left his territory"; Chipmunk -- from chitmunk. Hominy -- corn; Honk-- from is from cohonk, the source of honk, honkey (or honkie), honky-tonk, from the cohonk, a noisy Canadian goose. It is associated with the sound made by the bird, or associated with winter or a year. The Powhatans called the "Potomac" River, called Cohonkarutan, "the River of the Cohonks" for the noise made by the yearly arrival of the geese there.; Match coat -- from matchcores, skins or garment; Maypop -- from mahcawq, a vine with purple and white flowers that has an edible yellow fruit; Moccasin -- from mohkussin, a shoe; Muskrat -- from mussascns; Opossum -- also possum, from aposoum, or "white beast"; Papoose -- an infant or young child; Pecan -- a nut, from paccan; Persimmon -- a fruit; Poke weed -- from pak, or pakon, blood + weed; Pone (Corn Pone) -- from apan, "baked". Powwow -- from pawwaw, an Algonquian medicine man. A dance ceremony used to invoke divine aid in hunting, battle, or against disease. Now used as a Pan-Indian word for a social dance festival; Racoon -- from aroughcun; Susquehanna -- from suckahanna, water; Squaw --  from Werowansqua, a female chief associated now with a derogatory term for an Indian woman or a vagina, now obsolete; Terrapin -- a turtle, from toolepeiwa; Tomahawk -- from tamahaac, tamohake, a weapon. From temah- (to cut off by tool) + aakan (a noun suffix); Tump (tump line) -- a strap or string hung across the forehead or chest to support a load carried on the back. -- "

Friday, April 30, 2021

Indigenous DC, A Hidden History

from Michael Auld at the

Who are the Indigenous Washingtonians?

The 1970 painting below was done by a Washington Pamunkey artist who was descended from a family of 21 siblings. She was one of many family members with deep roots in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area. In keeping with Native American tradition, one must be familiar with their identifying tribal surnames. In the “DMV” area, Indigenous names are mainly those associated with Powhatan Paramountcy affiliation. Indigenous Washingtonians live among the city's populations but have just not yet been "discovered" by the mainstream. They are literally “hidden in plain sight." 

One of the most overlooked stories of our Nation's Capital is about its Indigenous Washingtonians. The assumption is that the city is a barren plum only sought after by outside tribes or other newcomers. DC is often thought of as having no real history of its own before the arrival of Europeans. On the contrary, there is a vast underground of local Native Americans who never left the DMV area. Their roots go back over 10,000 years.

Most documentarians of DC’s Indigenous people are not linked to the Powhatan Paramountcy. However, there are five writers who are Pamunkey and/or Tauxenent. They include Georgia Mills Jessup’s, We're Still Here", her daughter Rose Powhatan’s “Surviving Document Genocide", and Rose’s sons, Alexei Auld’s "Tonto Canto Pocahontas: A Review," Kiros Auld’s "Pocahontas:Patron Saint of Colonial Miscegenation?", and their cousin's, "Pocahontas' First Marriage: The Powhatan Side of the Story" by Dr. Phoebe Mills Farris. They all have roots in DC and have written about their city's tribal nations while the Indigenous DC history is mostly written by non-Natives.

 Unfortunately, DC's Indigenous story is often interpreted by newly arrived Euro-American historians who mostly don't have a clue about who our living Indigenous Amerindians are as well as the international impact of the city's Indigenous Washingtonians. Some seem unable to connect the dots. One case in point is the portrayal of Pocahontas as a 17th century Virginia Indian first married to widower John Rolfe. His newly introduced Christian religion forced her into a bigamous marriage (see the "Various romanticized versions" of Pocahontas below). To the contrary, Pocahontas was already married to Kocoum, a young war captain with whom she is believed to have had a son. Indigenous men usually moved to their wife's village, so It was from his village where she had moved for safety that she was lured into abduction with the help of a Patawomeck sub-chief and his wife in Stafford CountyVA.  Also, it was within her father, Powhatan's domain that the boundary stones of the Federal City were included.

"Urban Renewal" (1970) by Washingtonian artist, Georgia Mills Jessup (Pamunkey). In the darkened center of the painting it shows her, an Indigenous Washingtonian surrounded by the city's residential majority at that time. This collage painting is a statement about her city's unseen people of color in their home "under the Capitol," where they have become invisible. The city's Indigenous descendants also became “extinct”, due to racial politics. --Photo by the author.


Some contemporary Eurocentric skeptics, underestimated Amerindian genius, and had little faith in the cultural impact of Powhatan’s immense Indigenous territory with its unique form of Amerindian freedoms within a political group. Although political unions like his had been present in the Americas for thousands of years, one glaring mistake is that some writers believed that Native Americans never ventured out of their immediate tribal areas. On the contrary, Amerindians traveled extensively and left their homes on long distance trading expeditions. Models of Amerindian empires abound and their populace included cosmopolitan adventurers. For example, the seafaring Taínos of the Caribbean traveled around the time of the birth of the Jewish Christ. They originated from the Orinoco River Basin in South America, going island by island up into Florida, creating a large civilization with stratified leaderships. Elsewhere in Central and South America, the Spanish had encountered extensive Amerindian political ventures. Archeologists discovered that this type of political process was common in the Americas' vast, highly sophisticated empires.

Powhatan’s territory was the largest Indigenous political organization met by the English in North America. However the main similarity to the pyramid builders of Central America was that Powhatan was buried in a pyramid inspired mound on the Pamunkey Reservation. Their original men were stated as "coming from the south." Some believe they came from the direction of the Yucatec "Pauhatun." An old set of Bacabs, or four part deity or deities of the four directions and four colors who are also four pillars which hold up the world. This possible Powhatan origin story could be that in addition to similar political acumen in Meso-American politics, Powhatan's burial site may have been a part of Central American pyramid inspired mound building tradition which had spread north to Ohio's 70 mounds. The travel of Mexico's botanical invention of maize, had already reached north to Canada centuries before.

Powhatan's power left an indelible impact on the expanding British Empire. The DMV has an unmatched record with published information on one of its Indigenous historic Amerindian groups, the Powhatan Paramountcy (See below). However, the city of Washington, DC was built on ancient Indigenous Amerindian ground. It is seen by newcomers to DC with no general knowledge of its ancient Indigenous past, as a transient area. Yet some of its Indigenous citizens have deep unbroken Native American roots in the Metropolitan area. They are proudly "Still here."

Over 100,000 people claim descent from one woman, Pocahontas. Her father, Powhatan had 100 wives, mostly from villages within his domain. Two examples of his lineage are Taux Powhatan whose mother was Tauxenent or Dogue. He was a half brother to Pocahontas. Keziah Powhatan, an 18th century Tauxenent leader in Fairfax County has many blood relatives in the DMV area. Additionally, many contemporary Indigenous nations from the Carolinas to Washington, DC, once within the Powhatan Paramountcy, have descendants from the unions between Powhatan and his wives from those nations. This common international practice among leaders was to create loyalty to the Paramountcy.

DC's Federal City was carved out of at least three Indigenous Algonquian territories of the Nocotchtank (DC proper), the Pamunkey (MD, DC & VA) and the Tauxenent or Dogue (VA & DC) and inaugurated on July 16, 1790. Although at the time of Captain John Smith's arrival in 1608, the now extinct Nocotchtank had been recorded to have at one time been a part of the Powhatan Paramountcy. The Pamunkey was the leading nation in the Paramountcy to whose governing family Powhatan (or Wahunsenacawh) and Pocahontas belonged. According to historians, these three DC Algonquian tribes were part of the Indigenous group whose residency went back 3,000 to 10,000 years prior to the Little Ice Age which suddenly began in 1275 AD and petered out by 1700 AD.

One example of tribal movement during that cooling of the Earth was Maryland’s Piscataway who in 1300 AD came from the freezing north into the Chesapeake shoreline to live among the original Algonquians who were already there thousands of years before. They were considered enemies of the Powhatan Paramountcy. This move ended in 1711 when they were forced out by the unbridled emigration of their English Catholic “friends,” with whom they had no wars. They dispersed and some moved back north to the Iroquois while others went west into the powerful warrior territory of the Powhatan Paramountcy.

As for Anacostia’s Nocotchtank, after their town was bombarded and destroyed by Jamestown residents intent on grabbing the beaver pelt trade, with the help of their Patawomeck allies (who were responsible in the luring and kidnapping of Pocahontas), some surviving Nocotchtank remnants moved to the Tauxenent's Roosevelt Island for a time, then left the area in 1685 to go north to Ohio.

The 1600's were especially violent times in the Americas. To the south, the Spanish extended the American branch of their empire into areas not yet conquered. In the north, Englishmen and women began to move into the Chesapeake area following the enslaving Spanish who had first moved into the Caribbean in 1493, beginning with the arrival of Christopher Columbus’ 17 to19 invading ships. These Iberians euphemistically considered themselves “settlers” of territories already settled thousands of years before them. They found it more self-aggrandizing to call themselves “conquistadors,” who were actually pandemic bearers, church and royal sanctioned Amerindian enslavers, murderers and rapists, as seen in the diary written by Columbus’ Italian friend and lieutenant, Michele da Cuneo. He chronicled the first rape of a Caribbean woman. Using his rope whipping followed by the raping of a young Carib (Kalinago) woman off the coast of St. Croix in 1493.

(DC, MD, and VA's tri-state area)

John White's 1585 watercolor of a Secotan woman and child from the Chesapeake Bay. Both probably died almost immediately after contact from an English disease when this watercolor was made.


During the 17th century over 32 local tribes, mainly from Maryland’s Indigenous people, were forced out of their area by the aggressive land hungry English working class people (mostly called serfs). This antagonistic class set of English men and women sought first time land ownership and riches away from their densely populated European homelands, not similarly endowed with precious reserves. They conveniently believed that their God had given their race domain over the land, animals and the Americas’ Indigenous human beings. The term was “Manifest Destiny.”

 The newly formed Virginia Territory's dominant Powhatan Paramountcy who fought three major homeland security Anglo-Powhatan Wars, remained in their area which had been settled by their ancestors 3,000 to 10,000 years before. Known as formidable warriors of a growing empire of Attan Akamik, or “Our Fertile Country,” its capital was called “Tsenacommacah,” or "densely inhabited land." From this location, the Powhatan "Indians" who had developed a complex culture, had a centralized political system of 32-34 Algonquian nations governed by a second Powhatan or “Dreamer” named Wahunsenachaw, who had succeeded his father's eight nations Confederacy.

 Also, in the 17th century, many remaining Indigenous people intermarried with arriving foreigners, some, especially those of the Powhatan Paramountcy, never abandoned their ancestral territories. This retention of Indigenous culture was attributed to descent from matrilineal groups, and was especially true of those whose mothers who were Native.

 “One of the largest tribes in the Powhatan [Paramountcy], the Pamunkey tribe was centered in [Tidewater] Virginia, with villages in next door Prince Georges, Charles and St. Mary's counties of Maryland.” The presence of the unincorporated community of Pomonkey of Charles County, MD and the assignment by the National Park Service as one of Washington, DC's Indigenous tribes, attest to the extent of Powhatan's northern location of his Paramountcy. Virginia’s Tauxenent families also remained in Washington, DC proper. Many of these survivors lived in DC or daily crossed the Potomac River for educational opportunities as well as for Federal and local governmental jobs. 

By 1711, most Maryland tribes south and north of Washington, DC's border either became extinct as identifiable tribal entities within that state’s boundaries, or migrated north or west of Washington, DC. This pattern was not true of those who were a part of the 19,250 square mile Powhatan Paramountcy’s territory whose Accohannock firmly remained in Southern Maryland. Some Powhatan families such as the Tauxenent/Dogue and Pamunkey either remained in Virginia within the Federal City’s original boundary, lived in the city, or moved back and forth across the Potomac River for schooling and job opportunities into the redefined 1847 District of Columbia border. The Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannock on the northern border of the city retreated north to Pennsylvania and New York.

 In Virginia two of its Indigenous nations, the Pamunkey and Mattaponi, remained a part of eleven state recognized tribes. Seven of whom became federally recognized. Maryland’s state tribal recognition only began in 2012 with three tribes, one of which (the Accohannock) was a part of the original Powhatan Paramountcy.

 Descendants of the Powhatan Paramountcy have continued life in the tri-state Metropolitan Area as, among other things, 19th century stone quarry miners and masons who were responsible for the construction of iconic DC structures such as the Washington Monument, portions of the Capitol Rotunda, the Smithsonian Castle, the "Exorcist Stairs" in Georgetown, canals, bridges and other outstanding DC structures. Their accomplishments also included a variety of professions. Many excelled in the arts.

Powhatan Paramountcy descendants fought in or contributed to war efforts from the American Revolution to today’s conflicts. Stories, many books, statues, paintings and movies have chronicled their history, nationally and internationally. The Powhatan Paramountcy is the only Indigenous entity which has continued to have one of the greatest impacts on North American nations. The following photographs tell it all.


Powhatan and Pocahontas’ Descendants

Powhatan with some of his wives, by Captain John Smith (1607).

Powhatan had 100 wives and many descendants scattered throughout the areas of his Paramountcy and beyond. For example, there are over 100,000 people who claim decadency from his daughter, Pocahontas. This DNA phenomenon compares to Europe's “30% of all [its] people” who are descendants of Charlemagne and his ten children. In Asia, one study discovered that Genghis Khan has 16 million descendants, while Mohammad is the Middle East’s most famous ancestor.

Images of Pocahontas and Her People

One of two statues of Pocahontas with DC Native, Rose Powhatan (Pamunkey/Tauxenent), in Gravesend, Kent, England (1995). A replica of the statue is at Jamestown, Virginia. The town of Gravesend's main claim to fame is that Pocahontas is burried there. Rose tecnically assisted the local St. Georges Church high school teacher, Di Colman in that year's annual production of the travelling play, "The Pocahontas Story." The minister, Reverend Wiley, told her that they believe that Pocahonas' grave was located under the churche's alter. The second St. Georges Church was built there after the great fire of Gravesend.-- Photo by the author

"Pocahontas Unmasked" is a print by Rose Powhatan showing her interpretation of the unmasked English version. She used the image of a 100% Native American woman, based on the John White watercolors. -- Photo by the author

Various romanticized versions with cartoons and actresses who played the role of Pocahontas. -- Composite by the author

The "Baptism of Pocahontas" is a large painting of her located in the Capitol Rotunda with Roman-like setting and participants. The original event took place in a more rustic Jamestown. Here the Powhatan attendees sit on the ground as secondary individuals or "savages," as they were sometimes called.


A statue of Cockacoeske, the Queen of Pamunkey who points to the 1677 Treaty, as a Virginia Women's Monument in Capitol Square, Richmond.

Artist, Georgia Mills Jessup (Pamunkey) with her grandson, Kiros Auld (Pamunkey/Tauxenent) standing next to their family's Powhatan totem depicting the Mantle of Powhatan, at a yearly Chickahominy festival/powwow. -- Photo by the author

Bronze statue of Powhatan, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Powhatan's Mantle on display from Oxford's Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, with a school group in London, England.

One of the many books on the Powhatan Paramountcy.

A movie made about a fictional love story between a little 10 year old girl (Pocahontas) and the 24 year old Captain John Smith.

Two young Washingtonian descendants of the Powhatan Paramountcy and Diné Nation, who are wearing the sacred colors of the Four Directions (red, black, yellow and white). On their backs are signs which their Diné (Navajo) mother and Pamunkey/Tauxenent father made, stating "Still Indigenous. Still strong. Still here." They are standing on one of their ancestral territories at the Reflecting Pool with the Washington Monument in the background, giving the salute of defiance. Their 19th century Pamunkey and Tauxenent ancestors mined the stones from ancient Indigenous quarries, used for the interior structure of the Washington Monument in the distance. -- Photo by the parents



Wednesday, March 10, 2021


Most Americans think that DC's Indigenous people are extinct.

However, not so. There are Washingtonian families whose history goes back before Captain John Smith's English arrival in 1607. These descendants have continued to be born in DC hospitals, gone to its schools and worked in both Federal and local governments. Yet, because they have been dismissed out of hand mostly by DC's relative newcommers, benign treatment of Native Americans, plus local ignorance of Amerindian history, they have become invisible. Our children deserve some clarity.

So, here is an insight into DC's indigenous history.

Presented by the


Figure 1: Markers around the original ten square mile demarcation of Washington, DC, beginning on April 15, 1791 at Jones Point lighthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

Arriving in Washington, DC in 1962, I have often wondered what became of the Indigenous People of the Metropolitan Area. So, I did my research. 


The Inside Scoop on the People Who Stayed

An indigenous Washington, DC Land Acknowledgement by a Native Wasingtonian. 

Figure 2: (L) Rose Powhatan (Pamunkey/Tauxenent) with the likeness of her ancestor, Tauxenent leader, "Keziah Powhatan: the Firewoman Warrior" traditionally based totem in her Northwest DC Tauxenent home, giving a Land Acknowledgement blessing, August, 2020. Keziah burned down the Fairfax County courthouse in 1752. Her Tauxenent/Dogue tribe's land was given to Lord Fairfax by his cousin the King of England.

(R) Rose on her Fulbright Foundation’s Teacher Exchange (1994-1995) in front of the original Pocahontas statue, St. Georges Church, Gravesend, London. Pocahontas was buried under the alter of the church. While at the St. Georges School, she assisted teacher Di Coleman as a consultant and costume designer in a traveling play on Pocahontas’ life.

 (1) Click on this first link to see a DC Land Acknowledgement video segment: :

(2) Or see the Sankofa blessing on the opening of the beginning of Into Action on YouTube:

Indigenous Washingtonians

Other than above photo, have you ever seen a real DC Indian?

Cherokees cannot identify as Navajo, neither can an Apache be a Miccosukee. Yet three related newly state recognized Maryland tribes located 22 miles away from Washington, DC are now trying to make such a name-changing move with Anacostia’s extinct Nochotank. They, against Native American tradition, want to be illegally installed as DC’s Indians. Anyone other than the Pamunkey or Tauxenent is as fake an indigenous Washingtonian as the Redskins football team. Native Americans from our area were dogmatic about tribal identity. These Algonquians even had identifying hair styles, unique feather adornment, a specifically designed bows and arrows, clothes and body tattoos. To steal the extinct Nochotank’s identity, as is a current move by outsiders, is ancestral sacrilege.


Figure 3: A Theodore de Bry (1528 – 1598) etching from John White’s watercolor of Secotan Algonquians of the Chesapeake Bay. John White cataloged the wearer with a tribal marking and other designs associated with Chesapeake Indians. In the Americas this totemic figure or entity design acknowledged tribal identity. All three DC Indian tribes had this practice.


Native Lives Matter and Land Acknowledgement narratives are in keeping with the inclusive movements of our times, as an honoring of our indigenous people, many of whom have become invisible. They suffer nationally from a spate of disappeared women; higher percentages of suicide, alcoholism, poverty and above numbers of devastating illnesses. Yet, Native Americans, including Rose Powhatan, her children, grandchildren, and other local Powhatan descended families who call DC home, have continued to survive in their ancestral Washington, DC homeland. This honoring of an Indigenous people in the spirit of a United Nations edict on indigeneity is necessary. It is an acknowledgement which makes a DC statement that all who are of Native descent can feel welcomed in a city which houses the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, and other indigenous Federal and private sector workers as well as those transplants to our Nation's Capital. Native Lives will indeed matter.



Washington, DC was carved out of Indigenous Amerindian territory originally named Attan Akamik,  which turned into the Virginia Territory, then the states of Virginia, Maryland and other states as far north as New York. 

Earlier in the 1600s, Wahubsenachaw (publicly known as Powhatan) also provided life-saving corn during the harsh 1600s winters. Scientists have recently found that during this era the Americas became much colder, caused by planetary cooling. This was the result of the Amerindian Holocaust instigated by the droves of  European arrivals in this hemisphere. The pandemic and killings caused an estimated 90% demise of indigenous inhabitants in the Americas

The Powhatan people also made clothes for the Revolutionary War effort; Pamunkeys were persecuted for hiding out escaping enslaved African Americans on their Tidewater reservation (the first North American reservation); while cousins were marched off in chains by the Confederates and charged for helping the Union Army during the Civil War. Powhatan descended stone workers from the Tauxenent and Pamunkey, indigenous to the Washington Area’s families, mined rocks from local quarries which were built from their ancient ancestral stone mines. One example is Rock Creek’s 3,000 year old bluestone mine on Quarry Road, NW, on which the National Zoo was later built. This DC mine was active until 1885. The Amerindian antecedents had also knapped arrowheads, axes, hammers, and pecked out cooking utensils from the many sites along Rock Creek.  

 When other nearby indigenous people cowered, beginning in 1610 the Powhatan people fought in all of the wars since the homeland security Anglo-Powhatan Wars. During WWII, one DC mother of her city's Pamunkey children, repeatedly sneaked off her Federal job to go to a downtown movie theater. She serially watched her Pamunkey son riding on his US Army truck into Berlin as part of the US force to liberate that German city. Her son-in-law who was from a large local Tauxenent family survived the Pacific War Theater when his destroyer was shot out from under him. After the war, he defied the segregated bus system, when he told his young Pamunkey wife, "We are Indian, and we do not sit at the back of the bus."

Other sites which these Algonquian descendants helped to construct was the Washington, DC's iconic Exorcist movie steps in Georgetown. Bridges, canals, and other important buildings were constructed from the Seneca sandstone endemic to their Potomac River area. These rocks were used for backing the Washington Monument's marble facade, the Smithsonian Castle (between 1847-1857), as well as the Capitol floors and Rotunda door frames.


The Powhatan descendants are not to be just dismissed entities, but are living people who have continued to contribute, born, educated, work, die and buried in DC and its surrounding Metropolitan Area.


1.    The original “Washington County” (or DC) was mainly carved out of Montgomery County (Susquehannock tribal territory) to the city’s Northwest and Northeast, and Prince Georges County to the Southeast and Southwest DC. These western and southern counties were Algonquian. The city’s boundary was located in Virginia’s Arlington County, and still includes the Tauxenent’s Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River. Arlington County seceded back to Virginia so that voters could participate in the election of George Washington for whom the District of Columbia was also named.

2.    Some Maryland Pamunkey (whose capital in the 32-34 tribal  Powhatan Paramountcy, and its leading tribe, originated in Prince William County, Virginia) while some of their villages were located near other Algonquian tribes which lived in Prince Georges County (they as well had other villages in Charles and St. Mary’s Counties of Maryland). The only remaining presence of the Pamunky in Maryland is the township of Pomonkey in Charles County. They, along with the Tauxenent/Dogue were trade partners with the Piscataway, “a loosely knit smattering of tribes” (whose center was in Moyaone or Accockeek, with 1,000 souls) in Maryland where they existed “between the fourteen and seventeen century.” During the 17th century upheavals brought on by encroaching European colonists, “from 1642 to 1685 leading to the destruction of Susquehannocks in 1676 [in Maryland] and the removal of the Piscataway in 1699 to Virginia where they melted in with local tribes. By 1711, the Piscataway no longer [existed] as a separate tribal community.” – .

3.    So, what happened to Maryland’s Indians? In the case of the state’s indigenous history it shows that in the 1700s the state was left with a mélange of tribal remnants who intermarried with European and African arrivals, three newly state recognized tribes being called by sociologists “Tri-racial Isolates.”  There were three major tribes within DC’s Boundary Markers; they were the Tauxenent of Arlington County and Washington County, the Nochotank and Pamunkey in Washington and Prince Georges Counties. During the post European Colonial encroachment,  Amerindian history of Maryland and Virginia became horrific. Deaths by murder, wars and European pathogens caused most surviving tribes to remove themselves from ancestral lands. Native refugee patterns show that, in Maryland alone many of its indigenous populations who survived European diseases and attacks were routed and forced to leave the state, some crossing the Potomac River to join the powerful Powhatan Paramountcy who themselves were at constant war with the Jamestown invaders. Other indigenous Marylanders fled the fledgling European state to melt into eastern Virginian and northern tribal nations as far as New York and Ohio. Similar to the later 1838 Cherokee’s Trail of Tears, in the case of Marylanders some stopped along the way north to melt in with Algonquian Delaware, Iroquoian Pennsylvania and New York tribes. To see the turmoil of Amerindian relocation within the original counties of Maryland which bordered Washington, DC and beyond Maryland’s Historic Tribes is a state’s governmental document which describes all of that state’s historic tribes by county locations before and after European contact.

4.    Then, what happened to Virginia’s Indians? After the First Anglo-Powhatan War in 1610, many kept their territories via the British introduced reservation system in 1658, even after the 1677 treaty of Middle Plantation with Cococoeske the Queen of Pamunkey and those Indians under her. The treaty was between her and Charles II, the King of England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Virginia. ( . The Pamunkey have the oldest reservation in America since theirs and the Mattaponi’s were established in 1658. Others lost theirs in the 18th century. For example, the the Rappahannock and Chickahominy in 1718; the Nansemond sold theirs in 1792 after the American Revolution. Native Americans did not believe tyhat humans could own the Creator's land. So, the Manhattan "sale' of that island to the Dutch for beads, fits the Native concept thatat land belonged to  the Great Spirit. They must have thought that they got over on the stupid Dutch belief in owning segments of Mother Earth. After losing their reservations to encroaching colonists, “some landless Indigenous members in Virginia and Maryland intermarried with other ethnic groups and became assimilated. Others maintained ethnic and cultural identification despite intermarriage. In their maternal kinship systems, children of Indian mothers were considered born into her clan regardless of their fathers.’”—Wikipedia.   Only the Pamunkey and Mataponi held on to their reservations. Seven of Virginia’s 11 state recognized tribes are federally recognized.