Just for the month of November, let’s...
This month, we at the Powhatan Museum are beginning with recognizing some of our local contemporary indigenous people. To give a rounded view, we will also share some origin influences which came from the indigenous Americas.
The month of November was set aside yearly to honor those ancestors and their descendants on whose many traditional territories the United States of America was built. This first article for the month is a Land Acknowledgement intended as a brief introduction to the history of Indigenous descendants of the District of Columbia, once called Attan Akamik, "Our Fertile Country."
Since one of the three major historic nations, the Nochotank next to the Anacostia River in Southeast DC became extinct in the 1600s, a myth about other contemporary survivors prevails. Contrary to the current fairytale of total local eradication, many descendants of the other two named local nations are still here. Their nations belonged to the Powhatan Paramountcy.
Meet DC's First People!
Washington DC-born Native activist and Indian Health administrator, Kiros Auld, who is a Pamunkey/Tauxenent descendant with his third son, Nabahii (Diné/Pamunkey), one of our city's youngest indigenous descendants. Powhatan Paramountcy of Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia.
SOME REASONS TO HONOR NOVEMBER
“The confederation of the original 13 colonies into one republic was influenced by the Iroquois Confederacy, as were many of the democratic principles which were incorporated into the constitution itself” — 1988 US Senate commemorative resolution.
! The First English Recorded Visit
The start of a pandemic.
The Year Fifteen Eighty Five
Soon after these watercolor portraits were done, these Secotan women and children probably succumbed to the European virus.
“Within a few days after our departure from everie such towne, the people began to die very fast, and many in short space; some townes about twentie, in some fourtie, in some sixtie... The disesae also was strange, that they neither knew what it was, nor how to cure it." Thomas Harriot, "Brief and True Report," 1585, (Secotan).
The Amerindian story, prior to Spanish contact, was a magnificent one that includes many cultural achievements. Cultural influences also came as life-giving maize. There are some “Corn Maiden/Mother” stories that explain how maize was brought to the people.
Maize, from the Taino “mahis" or ”Indian corn/grain,” was invented by ancient southern Mexican horticulturalists by cross-pollinating teosinte, a large wild grass, 10,000 years ago. Adapted for different geographic zones, maize was spread north to Canada, east into the Caribbean and into South America. The "Indian grain" fed the English survivors of Jamestown as it later did the Pilgrims of Plymouth.
of the almost 100 year-old ongoing European originating viral episodes had reached the North Carolina coastline. After
1492 in the Caribbean, it now appears that a variety of European human and ship-borne diseases (including from imported shipboard rats) travelled up the Eastern coastline, arriving between 1616-1619 in Massachusetts. This later episode also killed many Wampanoag on New England's Nantucket whaling island. One Virginia and DC Tauxenent family is descended from a Wampanoag descended survivor who sailed down to Annapolis, Maryland after the crash of his family’s whaling business. After running its centuries old course, the European pandemic wiped out an estimated 90% Amerindians in the entire Western Hemisphere.
In 1585, news spread rapidly from the Secotan in North
Carolina Algonquian communities to the Iroquoian and
Siouan neighbors about the "invisible weapon" that the white
strangers possessed. Some local Indigenous dicisions were
to either avoid or kill the strangers on sight. This decimation
of entire populations and their proud warrior societies on the East Coast easily paved the way for an influx of mainly European and African infusion.
But, what of our current European-Amerindian survivalist
Early skirmishes between the unprepared, food deprived English at Jamestown were fought over corn. Pocahontas’s kidnapping for a ransom of corn and the introduction of English diseases, added to the early onset of the destabilization of the Powhatan Paramountcy which tipped the balance of power in the early colony. Caribbean located foodstuff from South America, such as the yuca (cassava/manioc) and batata (sweet “potato"), nourished Eastern Hemisphere tropical societies as did Inca papas which contributed to the survival of the Irish as the "potato.”
In North America our Constitution was based on the Iroquois “Great Law of Peace.”
Earlier American Eurocentric proposals mistakenly gave credit for our democracy to the distant Greeks. However, since we are currently reverberating from the effects of the Covid-19 virus, let’s shine a light on an earlier pandemic which affected North American Amerindian communities beginning in 1585.
Amerindians as survivalists
First in Creating the Nation!
A pro-American Indian illustrated visual version of Mount Rushmore and the "original Founding Native American Fathers" (Note that I added Powhatan II in the center, on whose territory America began.)
America was created on an English colony, credit is only given to those European men, who are called "Founders" or “Father” of our nation.
However, that colony was built on the Powhatan Paramountcy. So, it took the only recorded woman, the embattled Pamunkey queen, Cockacoesque, in a treaty of 1677 to end the Anglo-Powhatan War. Her act as a local leader of Attan Akamik contributed to a march towards America's founding. http://www.powhatanmuseum.com/Historic_Documents.html
In The BeginningTo acknowledge the contributions our indigenous people, the observance of National Native American Heritage Month
should begin in the Nation’s Capital where the legalization originated 20 years ago. The event took place in the White House which was within Powhatan II's domain. This signing
was just west from Capitol Hill, his "favorite place to caucus.”
“On August 3, 1990, President of the United States George H. W. Bush declared the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month.”
It is, therefore, appropriate for us to begin with Washington,
DC’s acknowledgement of its surviving indigenous
descendants who, along with many of their ancestors were
born in this city, as well as those descended from families of
the historic Powhatan Paramountcy.
|A proposed bronze sculpture of Powhatan II by the writer, intended to finally|
honor the man on whose territory Capitol Hill stands.
Although most people know of the Powhatan Paramountcy’s Pocahontas, less is known by the city’s residents that she was, like her father Wahunsenacawh or Powhatan II, a Pamunkey.
The Pamunkey was the leading nation in the Powhatan Paramountcy. The name means “Place of the Sweat,” a
spiritual center that had two locations. One in King William County, Virginia and a second in today’s Charles County, Maryland.
Wikipedia explains that the area next to Washington DC in Maryland is called “Pomonkey [and] is named for the Pamunkey tribe of Native Americans that lived in the [Maryland] area."
Diamond-shaped Washington DC was originally formed on July 17, 1790 by the Constitution of the United States as the Federal City. Then, most of the city’s original boundary markers to the west and southwest were located on Tauxenent or Dogue, and possibly Pomonkey/Pamunkey territory. As seen, the third Algonquian town, a significant intertribal beaver pelt trading operation, was the Nacotchtank of Southeast DC located around the Anacostia River. They did not, as some now belatedly contend, occupy the entire 10-mile-square which comprised the Federal City of Washington, DC.
|Boundary markers of the Federal City|
The fact is that aside from those who are tribally affiliated, over 40% of Americans in the general population claim Amerindian descent. Thirteen percent of Blacks and 13% Hispanics officially make that claim while Whites make up the majority of the rest of claimants of Indignity. These numbers are even greater when one includes those people who don’t openly acknowledge Native ancestry. Why this secrecy?
From my involvement with Amerindian people of all walks of life, from the Eastern Woodlands powwow trail to classrooms and family members, I have found that many Amerindians have disappeared into the Black or White communities for economic survivalist reasons. Until today’s resurgence in Indigenous pride, to that early period, “Indians” were society's most outcast group. So much so, those in search of their Native roots have a sometimes forgotten tribal line of descent.
The name, “Cherokee” is often touted in both above groups, while “Blackfoot” among African Americans whose families may not have originated in Canada and Montana. “Blackfoot” is
often used as an inside joke in the Black community. While the Pamunkey of VA, MD and DC’s historic “Pocahontas” is used
as a wannabe slur in both White and Black circles.
Many Americans also use Native connectivity as proof of “real” American identity which gives one the feeling of belonging to
the soil as opposed to being a foreign “Settler” intruder.
The downside to indignity is that many in the Americas mythically believe in the disappearance of the Amerindians in contemporary societies. This phenomenon is rooted in a pervasive myth of indigenous invisibility that may be a result of collective guilt. The National shame of indirectly having a hand in the Amerindian Holocaust is real. Although our educational institutions play a major role in Native amnesia, there is no real reason for not knowing your hemisphere's history and its indigenous people.
Here are examples of “Indian" identity.
(1) An Amerindian teacher who taught in one of DC’s predominantly Black majority high schools, did an informal head count in her NE District of Columbia Public School’s home room where she had taught beginning in 1973. She found that, "One year, I asked students to raise their hands if they knew they had a family history of descendants from indigenous American ancestors. Most of the students raised their hands in affirmation of having Indian ancestors, I wasn’t surprised.” -‘Surviving Document Genocide’, http://www.powhatanmuseum.com/Magazine.html
(2) Many Amerindian descendants who are classified by their Spanish language as “Hispanic,” “Latino,” or “Latin-X,” and not genetically, actually are often times phenotypic Amerindian. However, in their Spanish-speaking countries of origin, indigenous may not be a point of pride. In Mexico, one has to speak their Native language to be considered indigenous. Genes, however, don't lie.
(3) Many of my people in the Caribbean, as well as those in North America are retrieving their indigenous Taíno or Kalinago (Island Carib) heritages. Especially since they were the first in the Americas to suffer the brunt of near post-Columbian annihilation.
Amerindian genes are on the rise in the US. This re-browning of America is slated to continue as “Hispanics” are joining their genetic cousins in the rest of the US continent. By the year 2045 “Whites will become the minority” in the US. (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/03/14/the-us-will-become-minority-white-in-2045-census-projects/amp/) This appears to be one of a reasons behind the Trump administration’s dogmatic but futile push to “build a [physical] wall” against a human gene flow via the US southern border.
Fear of the Indigenous is real for it often flies in the face of the racial slight, "Why don't you go back to where you are from?"
At the time of the arrival of the English in Attan Akamik in 1607, it is said that the powerful Powhatan Paramountcy was expanding north. The nearby Algonquian nations had agreed to ally themselves to Powhatan II possibly for protection against the Iroquoian and Siouan interlopers.
So, for just one month, and before 2045 when Amerindian genes will again be dominant, make America Native again.
1. Some Powhatan Tribes have melted in with the general populations. Not all historic tribes disappeared. One way to find your tribal origin is to go to the county from which your family originated. http://powhatanmuseum.com/Powhatan_Tribes.html.
2. *Jamestown aggression refers to the attack and bombardment of the eastern bank of the Anacostia River’s Algonquian Nacotchtank town. They were an independently established lucrative beaver pelt traders, envied by the Susquehannocks from the North and lusted after by the English at Jamestown to the south who along with Potowomeck warriors of today’s Stafford County in Virginia, attacked the Nacotchtank and destroyed their town.
No one went to war on their behalf. The survivors sought refuge “10 miles to [Northwest DC] on Analostan" or the local Tauxenent’s Roosevelt Island, they then moved north to Ohio in the late 1600s.