Friday, November 30, 2018

PAMUNKEY BY BLOOD

Honoring Georgia Mills Jessup (Pamunkey).

©2018 Michael Auld

Georgia Mills Jessup in front of her three grandsons who were wearing a Pamunkey Seal (Left), a "Still Here" (Center) and a sacred Turtle (Right) T-shirts.


WHAT BECAME OF WASHINGTON'S INDIANS?

To close out National Native American Month it is fitting that the Powhatan Museum honors an accomplished DC Native, artist, and arts administrator, Georgia Mills Jessup (Pamunkey). She was a mother to equally accomplished visual and musical artists who excelled in their own fields.

Although the Pamunkey were the leading tribe in the vast Powhatan Confederacy, a 34 large confederation of Algonquian speakers, it was most likely the Dogue/Tauxenent town of Nameroughquena, that ruled over parts of the southern portions of D.C. and it's Virginia Metropolitan Area at the time of the arrival of Captain John Smith (1607). The other major tribe who shared DC were the now extinct (from the area), the Nacotchtank who lived on the banks of the Anacostia River and were soon annihilated by the arriving English and their Potowomec allies. The Nacotchtank had controlled the local beaver trade coveted by the English. Their survivors dispersed west, north, and south of Washington, D.C. Today's, there are no Nacotchtank
in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON'S ETHNIC ARTISTS

Washington, D.C. has a variety of ethnic artists from Europe, North and Latin America, Africa and Asia. Yet, it has never included a major Native American artist from the "endemic" Amerindian Powhatan Confederacy in a major one-person exhibition. Only the National Museum of Women in the Arts has one of Georgia's paintings in its permanent collection. Could it be racism or a lack of interest or ignorance of surviving Amerindians who were born, live and work in their ancestral area, Washington, D.C.? I believe ignorance, mythology and the Invisibility of the Indian are contributing factors. Current Washingtonians have no clues about the local Amerindian history and family survivors. This blog may clear up the question on who is a Native American—http://yamaye-mike.blogspot.com/2015/09/who-is-native-american-or-it-is-hard.html?m=1


GEORGIA'S FAMILY

Georgia was #13 of 21 siblings whose family members' artistic disciplines included painting (murals and canvass), photography, medical illustration, graphic design, ceramics, installations, arts administration, art law, writing, music, television, and theater. For example, Georgia's nephew, "David Eugene Mills was an American journalist, writer, and producer of television programs. He was a writer for ‘NYPD Blue', an executive producer and writer of the HBO miniseries ‘The Corner', for which he won two Emmy Awards, and the creator, executive producer, and writer of the NBC miniseries ‘Kingpin' [for which he drew from family experiences]. "—Wikipedia
Yet David's D.C. Native American (Pamunkey) ethnicity was misidentified by his co-workers.

Georgia was a grandmother to an engineer, law graduates (one of whom is a lawyer for the arts) while the other is deeply involved in Native American health issues.

Although Georgia shared artistic skills with many of her siblings and relatives ("21...And Counting: Artists in the Family" -in the 1960s), we honor her for her own creative accomplishments in the city where she had stood out as the most talented local Native American Fine Artists that D.C. produced. Most importantly, she was born in the city, often earlier visited by her paternal Pamunkey relative, Wahunsenacawh, also known as Powhatan II.

As some of her cousins did, she married into a local Native American family who was from the Dogues/Tauxenents, indigenous to Northern Virginia and N.W. Washington, DC.


L: Georgia with her Boston (Tauxenent) in-laws in front of a traditional log cabin, Fairfax County, VA. Tauxenent men were historically tall.

They were described as "Powhatan II's last frontier" of a 32-34 Algonquian nations confederation. http://www.powhatanmuseum.com/Powhatan_Map.html

The Tauxenents themselves produced accomplished local musical and visual artists that included an award-winning White House photographer, Georgia's late relative, Bernie Boston (Tauxenent). Below is Bernie's iconic "Flower Power", a Vietnam War protest era photo nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Bernie Boston's iconic photo shows a Vietnam War protester placing a flower in the gun barrel of a National Guard soldier.


HER STORY

Georgia's published article
"We're Still Here: Pamunkey John Miles/Mills: his life and family in Fairfax County" proudly tells of her Pamunkey descent. [ http://powhatanmuseum.com/Powhatan_People.html ]

She also has honored her historic city of birth in her paintings. A location whose history predates European contact when in the late 1500s it was a favorite location visited by her Pamunkey relative, Powhatan II. Powhatan II found this northern part of his extensive territory, the place now called Capitol Hill, to be his favorite place to caucus. The "caucus" was a deliberative Powhatan Algonquian tradition, also used for inter-nation deliberation.

Georgia was true to honoring her Algonquian city's Native roots with her paintings of the Capitol dominating the city-scape, a tongue-in-cheek to the true demographics of DC during the 1960s, hidden below ground of a white marble Capitol Building.

"Urban Renewal" is a commentary about DC after the 1968 riot. Washington began displace some of the city's less fortunate citizens who appear as a huddled brown mass under the Capitol.
Another painting of this genre hangs in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, titled "Rainy Night Downtown."

This painting is of a popular DC nightspot location and now the place where the Women's Museum is located.
Georgia and her painting "Rainy Night Downtown" at National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.

 "Rainy Night Downtown".



A DC exhibition of contemporary Powhatan artists who wanted to make their continued presence felt was held at Fondo del Sol Museum in Washington DC's DuPont Circle was titled:
Georgia's indigenous inspired painting, "Shaman" was the exhibition's featured painting.

Shamanism Was America's First Religion...
and continued long after European contact.

Proof that the ancient Amerindian religious practices had continued in Virginia is evidenced by Georgia's secretly working spiritual objects in this painting. (Information from the artist.)

"Shaman" honors America's indigenous religious practice. It is a Pamunkey inspired painting that included sacred items from a medicine pouch worn by Chief Paul Miles, another of her Pamunkey Reservation relatives. Objects incorporated from the sacred pouch was a gift from her late cousin, Chief Bill (Swift Eagle) Miles.

RATIONALE:

For Georgia, growing up in segregated Washington, DC did not faze her. Art doesn't lie... either you were a good artist or a mediocre one.

Georgia grew up in a segregated Washington DC and Northern Virginia of the 1930s through the 1940s to 2000s.

A SIGNIFICANT INFLUENCE
Nineteen twenty-four greatly impacted on Virginia's Native American populations and beyond. It marked another page to "Paper or Document Genocide." This was another chapter in US Governmental attempts to destroy the Native American populations. Just, without spilling blood, write them out of the census. After the 1924 Racial Integrity Act in Richmond VA, it was difficult to survive as a "Hidden Indian" in rural Fairfax County and the Nation's Capital, especially if you were bright and talented. The Act, spearheaded by eugenics proponent Dr. Walter Ashby Plecker, made it punishable by imprisonment, anyone who placed "Indian" as the race of an individual's birth certificate. Plecker believed that America had just two races, one white and the other black. His goal was to eradicate the Indian, a tactic the Nazis came to America before WWII to learn about how to apply this movement to Germany's Jews.

So, some Native families knew their tribal names, but many went underground.

Above: One of Georgia's many ceramic pieces using a more contemporary approach to traditional Pamunkey pottery by incorporating painting. (Her BFA was in painting while her MFA was in ceramics.)

DC did not recognize its local Native Americans, only those dignitaries who, as parts of delegations, occasionally visited from "out West". As for the local populations, most mistakenly believed that "the Indians were all killed out." The only prominent Native presence in the city and surrounding suburbs are the derogatory Redskin football mascot and the team's name.

Some local Native families kept their family secrets for fear of ridicule or skeptical believers in the racist "One Drop Theory." That is, "one drop of Sub-Saharan ‘blood' makes one Black. Today, this racist theory is still believed and enforced by self-appointed "race police". The fact in DC, as was true of other cities, if you were not white you had to live in the Negro part of town. Full blood Cherokees and Delaware Natives ran into the same segregated housing issues. Brown-skinned Natives were misidentified as "colored,"

It is important to mention this applied un-scientific theory that was created by America racists since it impacted on the life and career of Georgia Mills Jessup. During the last 30 years of her life, Georgia reconnected with and worked closely on Native issues with her cousins on the Pamunkey Reservation. She, Chief Bill Miles and his wife, Ann (a genealogist) stayed at each other's homes while doing family research and tribal business.

In spite of adversities created by external identity challenges, she was extremely successful in reestablishing her indigenous ties to her beloved city in "Attan Amaik" (Powhatan Algonquian territorial name which translates into "Our Fertile Country").




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