THE DISMISSED FOUNDER
Truth & Reconciliation
Edited by Kiros Auld (Pamunkey/Tauxenent)
Above: An idealized image of Wahunsenacawh, the Second Powhatan,
a Founding Father and originator of Capitol Hill’s deliberative body from
which we derived the Powhatan Algonquian word and process, a caucus.
six-footer in his 60s, publicly known as Powhatan, in
spite of his fame, is an American enigma. This most dismissed
Amerindian statesman shares the anonymity awarded to today’s Native
American populations and their histories. Ironically, one of his many children
from over 100 ceremonial wives, a minor daughter, Pocahontas, is better
known than North
America’s most powerful 17th century
leader. To better understand the American Government’s adoration for her, they
prominently installed a gigantic painting of her baptism in the Capitol
Rotunda. Afflicted by the Stockholm syndrome and coerced into bigamy, she
achieved the status of virtual Christian sainthood in America’s
pro-accommodationist Eurocentric history. Even less known is one of her brothers,
Taux Powhatan whose mother was a Tauxenent of Fairfax County origin, and one of Washington, DC’s
three historically named tribal nations.
From North Carolina northward, Powhatan II's territory spanned large areas within the state of eastern Virginia. This expansion was less in southern Maryland and included at least the North and Southwest quadrants of District of Columbia, part of his ever expanding northern border on the Cohonkarutan or Potomac River. Yet, some writers today have belatedly sought to either diminish his influence over his domain or include petty kingdoms within his unique political category. His negotiating prowess among highly individualistic Native personas was misunderstood by the English who equated him with a European despot. Inter-ethnic marriage (via warfare?) and trade came with favored status. Pearls, mostly worn by the nobility, came from northern Iroquoian mussels while prized trade copper came from Iroquoians to the South. Siouans to the Piedmont west, were not similarly regarded by the Powhatans. Expansionist Iroquoian and Siouan competition was the norm that had spanned eons. The later demise of the Anacostia River’s Nacotchtank of DC after English contact is evidence of a more violent approach to acquiring trade goods. In this instance it was the highly prized Nochotank beaver pelts which became the envy of English (Jamestown), Algonquian (Patawomeck) and Iroquoian (Susquehannock) speakers.
Truth: Correcting and amending America’s history about its overlooked Amerindian founder.
Reconciliation: Reconcile America’s stepchild treatment towards its indigenous people
In National Native Heritage Month, our city in the District of Columbia needs a South African styled Truth & Reconciliation with its Indigenous descendants.
Wahunsenachaw’s territorial paramountcy
began in Tidewater Virginia
where his mother was born a Pamunkey and his father, Powhatan the First, had
reportedly come from the South to organize a Central American styled eight
nation Algonquian confederation. The Pamunkey, whose spiritually
associated name was the “Place of the Sweat” was a temple city. They were the leading nation in
the chiefdom that became a paramountcy under Wahunsenacawh. Although the
collective Indigenous name for the people that the English
called “Powhatans,” self-identified by descriptively named maternal
The vast Powhatan territorial influence
began at Tsenacomoco in a territory also called Attan Akamik, meaning “Our
Fertile Country.” Wahunsenacawh is popularly written about by his title,
“Powhatan” or “Dreamer.” He therefore, was Powhatan the Second (Powhatan II)
whose Paramountcy’s domain included five American historical capitals. First
was Tsenacocomoco, second was Jamestown and
Colonial Williamsburg (both during the British colonial era), next was the Seat
of the Confederacy headquartered at Richmond.
And finally in the far northern boundary, our Nation’s Capital of Washington,
DC, reputed as his favorite place to caucus with surrounding Amerindian
nations. Although an Algonquian werowance (leader) of a vast kingdom or
paramountcy, it was chronicled that, for whatever reason, “Powhatan never left
his area” of dominance
Are our children adequately informed about the Amerindian Hemisphere in which they live?
My answer is, NO.
My experiences in the American educational system from the elementary to the
postgraduate levels have formed my view of its collective ignorance about our
hemisphere’s Amerindian histories and locale. Married for 54 years, right out of
in 1966, into a Washington Metropolitan Area Powhatan Paramountcy family with
educators and historians, I taught in the Washington,
DC educational systems for 38
years. Throughout my teaching tenure my main concern had been to correct the
benign avoidance of Indigenous Amerindian influences in the forming of our
societies in the Americas.
I began with both my Columbus encountered Caribbean homeland and in my adopted
city of the District of Columbia, which was ironically named after the enigmatic
man who had never set foot here. Thank goodness for National Native American
Heritage Month, which was intended as remedial courses centered on the
Indigenous people of this land. However, the thrust of the month’s original
educational intention, is yet to be realized in 2020. Confusion about
Amerindian histories and cultures abound in their hemisphere which is often
confused as "European” or “African,“ depending on the dominant island or
continental group. North America is envisioned as if it is geographically
located in Europe, while some Caribbean
Islands identify as
culturally African. South and Central America
are identified by their Spanish language and are therefore called
“Hispanic." To underscore the notion of geographic confusion, a large sign
on a Jamestown, Virginia
wall states that "America
is a suburb of Europe."
Popular American history is
unabashedly Eurocentric. Except for the Egyptian styled obelisk, called
the iconic Washington
Monument, our city is
replete with "Egypto-Greek" influenced structures intended as
monuments to power in order to concretize an imported European ethnic
dominance. Our educational institutions have followed suit.
citizens, therefore, have scant information on the Amerindian core
upon which the foundation of the American culture was built. For example,
the Iroquoian “Great Laws of Peace,” a home-grown source
of the US Constitution, formed the foundation of America’s democratic notions that
was once euphemistically ascribed to the distant Greeks. Even
touted “American Individualism" is Native American based, first
emulated and adopted by arriving subjugated English
royalists. The increasing numbers of arriving English indentures were then
free to hunt deer that did not belong to the king, marry Native women
to acquire female-owned land, and go Native. Adapting to and surviving in
an alien Amerindian hemisphere had to be taught to the arriving Spanish
and later English, as exemplified by the latter's
Squanto’s tutelage in corn planting in New England, and
Pocahontas’ lessons on curing tobacco leaves, the Caribbean’s Taino
Amerindian’s sacred weed turned cash crop which financed the American
the Iroquoian Confederation’s influence on the US
Constitution through Benjamin Franklin and other
contributors from the 13 colonies, there was the Virginia colony's Powhatan Algonquian caucus which left
an indelible mark on the American form of governance. This Algonquian
political structure is still practiced today where it was fathered
by Wahunsennachaw and reborn on Capitol Hill. Not all of the tenants
of Great Laws of Peace were immediately adopted by the US Constitution. Notably
missing from the US
version was the Iroquoian law where "women played an important role in
politics under the Great Law.” In the US Constitution, women's rights came much
The Powhatans were the
"most complex societies, from a sociological perspective, then extant in
the eastern North America” (Rountree). They
were a well travelled cosmopolitan people of the Eastern Woodlands whose
political dominance was recognized by both their indigenous neighbors and the
arriving Europeans. They were admired, envied or feared by whomever they
interacted. There is no question about the dominance of Wahunsenachaw’s
Powhatan Paramountcy over an extremely large expanding territory that was
greater than the size of today’s Maryland and Washington, DC
combined. Wahunsennachaw's governance was not tyrannical nor was it
controlling, but reflected various levels of independence and interdependence
in a geography rife with ethnic competition between the three major linguistic
groups. His gift of persuasion and oratory is exemplified by his recorded speech to Captain John
"In the past three decades, anthropologists and historians have become more critical of early colonial sources and less willing to follow their own predecessors’ naming practices without having very good reason to do so” (Rountree).
The cover design of a definitive book edited by Dr. Helen Rountree,
anthropologist and historian, who is an expert on the Powhatan Paramountcy. The illustration of Powhatan holding court was recorded by Captain John Smith.
Werowance Wahunsenachaw’s Territorial Claim
For the past 401 years, except for the
Powhatan Paramountcy, no other Native American political group in the
Metropolitan DC Area has captured the attention of historians. The importance
of this Native political force is evidenced by the many publications, treatise,
movies, internet & media coverage, locales, personalities, and wars
associated with the Powhatans. No other Amerindian polities in our DC
Metropolitan area have been so studied.
Not so, for her father who was the person responsible for allowing the eventual
creation of the United
States of America on his territory.
Local fame also eludes his succeeding brother, Opechancanough whose
Anglo-Powhatan wars were for America’s first homeland security
efforts. It is not an exaggeration to say that without Wahunsenacawh, there
would be no country called “America."
In the current era of inclusiveness, this is a call for historical truth and
reconciliation with America’s
most downtrodden population whose lives also matter.
least the three countries officially have a Land
Acknowledgement program. In the US, this practice of honoring
Indigenous territory is not yet governmentally instituted. Colonial
confiscated homeland is in the bullseye of history. Some private American
entities have risen to this noble call for acknowledging the specific
Indigenous Amerindian people on whose ancestral territory their structures were
Australia and New Zealand, as
well as more and more of private US institutions are coming to grips with the
Truth portion of this honorable proposal. Reconciliation requires more
intestinal fortitude. Reparations is only spoken about as redressing African
enslavement and not that of Amerindians who were the first in that
"peculiar institution.' The truth & reconciliation rationale is based
on addressing the pervasive wrongs of European colonization, annexation of
indigenous territories and lionizing land grabbing “Settlers."
is a Powhatan Land Acknowledgement done?
DC based Land Acknowledgement video with Rose Powhatan (Pamunkey/Tauxenent)
done for the Sankofa Foundation’s commemoration of
the 55th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
Go to YouTube if video doesn’t pay https://youtu.be/lbntMSQXGiE
he get his political savvy? For these answers, one must look at what was
reported by his people, his title and at least a physical cultural retention,
funerary mound-building for Wahunsenacawh on the Pamunkey Reservation. Was his
male lineage, as some believe, from as far south as the Maya whom we know were
highly sophisticated pyramid builders as well as avid traders and long distant
travelers? The 5,000-year Mound Builders of Ohio with temples on
top, is a Mesoamerican creation similar to the spread of corn, which traveled
along a similar northern route. Was his father's watercraft carried up
from the south by a hurricane in a similar way that early North American dugout
and skin canoes ended up on African and European (from Roman times) shores via
Atlantic storms? Let us entertain this notion here.
Native American politics has continued to be quite involved and sometimes
contentious. This rewriting trend of traditional boundaries, is also seen
within contemporary Washington, DC’s Native politics. Recently, three family
related Maryland state-recognized
self-identified Iroquoian tribes are making claims on DC and Virginia, sans DNA
evidence of descent from a 1680s extinct Algonquian DC tribe, the genetically
disappeared Nacotchtank of Anacostia. The current expansionists have ignored
the surviving descendants of the two other named historic DC tribes, the
Pamunkey/Pomonkey and the Tauxenant or Dogue who still live in the city and its
Metropolitan Area. The recently organized, politically aggressive Maryland tribes are located 27 miles away from our
city’s borders in Southern Maryland and already have a legal nation to nation
relationship with their own governor's capital in Annapolis. Some of their members are also
making unsupported political claims on the entire 10 squared mile Washington, DC.
The claimants have since extended their indigenous myth into neighboring Northern Virginia’s Powhatan-Tauxenent ancestral
territory. One of their outlandish proclamations also now includes a claim on
part of the state of Delaware.
Woodlands Algonquian leader, Wahunsenachaw, in 1607 claimed at least thirty-odd
nations/tribes in his domain. This assertion was backed up by the identified
nations when later contacted by the English, especially in John Smith’s
account. Added to this easy intertribal access was the geographic layout of the
landscape, dotted by many streams and well travelled rivers which were not
necessarily tribal borders but highways. US Route 1 was an overland highway
which started as an animal trail turned Amerindian travel route, turned wagon
trail. Earlier Spanish ships only mentioned the few “caciques” (leaders) whom
they fleetingly met. The later English camps only knew about those few close-by
nations and other distant ones mentioned by area Amerindians.
The Amerindians of the Powhatan Paramountcy were surrounded by petty chiefdoms.
The cohesive group called Powhatans held sway over an extensive 18,700 to 19,259 square
mile territory from North Carolina, Virginia,
Maryland, to Washington, DC, which included over 32-34 Algonquian nations.
Politically labeled as a kingdom by the English royalists, called a
“chiefdom" by detractors, the werowance and weroansqua (male and female
leaders) governed by a democratic deliberative styled caucus.
Pawahaatuun, A Maya sculpture in
Copan, Mexico of the Ancient One, a god within the Maya pantheon who held up
the four corners of the world.
Wahunsenacawh was the son of the
first Powhatan, an arriving “dreamer” who began North
America’s first Amerindian group of nations under the leadership
of one person. This governmental entity had the earmarks of an empire or a
kingdom, which is a group of nations ruled over by an individual.
This description fits Powhatan the First since he had come from the south where
there were city states and empires, His title, "Powhatan,” has a
Mayan concept in their Pawahaatuun, who was associated with
the calendar god who positioned himself at the four corners of the sky,
holding up the world.
Whatever is believed, the facts of our
Amerindian foundation is an indisputable historical reality not widely
promoted. This overlooked segment of our nation's history perpetuates the
unrealistic myth of a European based entitlement which is daily played out in
our National discourse.