Wednesday, November 25, 2020



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.

Wahunsenacawh, a 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 WashingtonDC’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 tribal origin. 

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 Howard University 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. 


Most 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 Revolution.


However, before 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 later.


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 Smith.


"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.

Land Acknowledgement

At 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 built. 


Canada, 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."

How is a Powhatan Land Acknowledgement done?

A 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



Where did 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.

Today, Native American politics has continued to be quite involved and sometimes contentious. This rewriting trend of traditional boundaries, is also seen within contemporary WashingtonDC’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 WashingtonDC. 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.


The Eastern 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.

Sunday, November 15, 2020


 By Michael Auld

"Where are you from, Honey?” 

Overlooked Amerindian Artists Indigenous to  Washington, DC

Rose Powhatan's Pamunkey/Tauxenent Native Expressionist work titled "Where are you from , Honey?" A Modernist American Indian acrylic painting on stretched skin, 1980s.

The above painting begs the question of Amerindian invisibility with an often asked question that is posed to an indigenous Pamunkey/Tauxenent Native of Washington, DC. The artist, Rose Powhatan carries her Algonquian ancestral name as a statement of indigenous survival. She is an artist/educator retiree from the District of Columbia Public Schools. This Native American Modernist painting also represents an Indigenous Washingtonian's expression of the pervasive issue of local Amerindian anonyminity.

Columbus made the same mistake!


Non-Western art played a pivotal role in the making of modernist painting and sculpture. Indeed, without non-Western influences the art of this century is unimaginable.

-- "Affinities and Influences: Native American Art and American Modernism” at the Montclair Art Museum. 

The Modernist Art Movement derived their unique, world influencing works with the “incorporation of Native American artistic aesthetics in creating the new form of visual expression, [which created] America’s Modern art movement.”—Influences of Amerindian Art,

A Link To Powhatan Paramontcy Visual Aesthetics: 

From early adulthood, Rose was the target of the above titled inquiry throughout her young life. The question usually came from both Black and White elderly female passengers riding Washington's DC Transit (now the MetroBus). As if this imposition was not bad enough, early this year, her Diné (Navajo) daughter-in-law, was mistaken for a Hispanic in a Columbia, Maryland park while with her young children. During this period of heightened American racial divisiveness, she was approached by an African American woman who ironically said, "Why don't you go back home?"

Native Americans come in a variety of ethnic types, facial physiognomies and colors, and their ethnicity is often misidentified by the average person. Some suffer the Columbus inspired misidentification as Indians from the subcontinent. For example, Rose, while on a Fulbright teacher exchange to England in school year 1994-95, was mugged three times in London by one Brit and two Jamaicans. The police called it "Packi-bashing," i.e., attacking an East Asian.

The title of this article is an Indigenous Washingtonian artist’s visual statement refuting the city's pervasive myth of indigenous "ethnic extinction." This article is the second part of a month-long celebration by the Powhatan Museum of the lives of WashingtonDC's indigenous Native American survivors. This week, we focus on the art of Rose Powhatan a Pamunkey/Tauxenent descendant who has spent all her 74 years of life in her native city. She comes from a large indigenous family of over 30 local artists who have made their marks in a variety of creative forums. (See Notes below.)

Rose Powhatan was born into a large DC family of accomplished artists. Each family member had their own style of painting, a hallmark of individualistic familial competition. Rose’s main painting style differed greatly from both her mother, Georgia (who often used Impressionism) and her sister, Marsha (whose medical illustrations are rooted in Realism). Rose’s work is in the genre of Native American Modernism, a style of American art which includes many notable American Indians whose commercial successes developed a few centuries after European contact. 


"The term Indigenous Modernism refers to art that emulates Western modernisms, but to art that engages with experiences of modernity from an Indigenous perspective." -- Ian McClean, Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism

Their style of work was based in Indigenous Amerindian art aesthetic. A colorist, her painting,Where are you from, honey?,was created on a sacred circle as a social statement in the Expressionist style of Native American geometric, flat color palate that influenced the Modernist America Art Movement of the early 1940s. The central images are a masked buckskin clothed figure wearing a Powhatan Paramontcy pendant.

Rose’s Native expressionist painting was done as both therapy and as a social statement. Some visual artists often use art to confront life’s physic wounding or as a political way of informing the audience about cultural retentions. In this case, misidentification based on ignorance of Amerindian racial physical appearance was the source of the problem.


This painting is also rooted in the issues of a myth of extinction. It addresses public disbelief in survival of Indignity. Therapeutically, it confronts the pervasive issues experienced by many indigenous Amerindians.

The painting’s title stems from a curious perennial question from seemingly sweet Black and White old ladies riding the city bus, whose reaction to her answer, “I’m Native American,” often turned to disappointing shock. Thinking that Rose was a foreigner, these interrogators have usually just looked away in disgust or disbelief. 


Rose is often left to muse, “It is one thing to be a stranger in a strange land. It is another to be made a stranger in your own land.”


Her Native American styled composition is in the shape of a sacred stretched skin circle, and addresses the painful question asked of her while riding the old DC Transit bus line and its successor, the MertoBus 



The District of Columbia houses many art collections that are mostly aesthetically European in style and content. Most of the city’s museums are mainly Eurocentric, save for the Smithsonian’s Museum of African Art, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Museum of the American Indian. Only one of the city’s many major museums has just one artwork, a painting done by the local indigenous artist, Georgia Mills Jessup (Pamunkey). The National Women’s Museum has her “Rainy Night Downtown,” is in its permanent collection. Georgia's painting (see Notes below) is an indigenous statement of an Amerindian descendant's impression of a nighttime scene in her ancestral city.


One would think that these hallowed cultural institutions would have more than just one artwork by only one artist whose hometown was built on her ancestral Powhatan Paramountcy. These overlooked indigenous Washingtonian's ancestors have been in the Eastern Woodland area for over 12,000 years.  

So, what does Washingtonian Amerindian art look like? 


Indigenous art native to WashingtonDC never disappeared, it just took different forms. The city's indigenous descendants always expressed themselves in the traditional and changing art forms which came to Attan Akamik, their Algonquian "Our Fertile Country." However, it was not until Rose and her mother came along that Native local American Indian aesthetics influences from their own culture were intentionally pursued. Rose's mother's works below exhibit these indigenous aesthetic, as does her mother's composition, "Shaman.” 

"Shaman." A mixed media montage by Georgia Mills Jessup. From the collection of Marsha Jessup.

Thirty-odd artists and counting... 


Two main families, originating from the Mills/Miles (Pamunkey) and Boston (Tauxenent) continued to be creative, and successful in their various arts disciplines. At one count in the 1960s, there were at least 29 recorded family members who practiced various art-forms. Today, that number has increased.


Rose was born into a prolific artistic DC Area family. She began her art career at her mother's knees, an accomplished world-class painter, Georgia Mills Jessup, by painting murals with her. An art major at DC's first career high school, McKinley Tech, she majored in painting under DC Color School's Sam Gilliam. As an undergraduate painting/art history major/minor and post graduate art educator, she studied at DC's major universities under historic art professionals. (See her educational and career accomplishments in the NOTES below). 


Musical disciplines within this large family of local Native descended arts practitioners have included the operatic career of *Madam Lilian Evanti, to Robert Mills WWII troop entertainment band, to Juaquin Jessup’s lead guitar role with the iconic Mandrill funk band. A book would be needed to cover the accomplishments of this talented Indigenous DC Area family. 


Just for starters, the family’s arts disciplines include painting, sculpture, medical illustration, music, poetry, writing, art education, arts law, art therapy, and television production.

Rose Powhatan’s Indigenous Washingtonian



The "Storyteller" is an autobiographic colorist composition that depicts one of the artist's talents.

"Chickahominy Dancers", Cousins Linora and Troy Adkins at their nation's
annual powwow, Charles City, VA.

"Turtle Island" is the Native American name for the North American continent.Rose incorporated images from Powhatan's Mantle, believed to be a map of the symbol for Attan Akamik ("Our Fertile Country") 

"So We Too" is a Native American colored serigraph print that made a statement about the universility of the displacement of indigenous people in their own homelands. It was Rose's Native American contribution to an Africobra travelling exhibition durinfg the South African Apartied era.

Pocahontas Unmasked”, Rose Powhatan A hand colored computer generated graphic. Click on the YouTube link to see Rose's Museum of the Shenandoah Valley 2018 gallery talk on Pocahontas in the traveling exhibition titled "Hear my voice: Native American Art of the Past and Present.” (YouTube 

"Michabo and the Great Deer'" story shield montage composed of a deer skull mounted on fire engraved buckskin. This illustrated Algonquian story tells how Men and Women were spread around the world by Michabo the Great Hare,
the Bringer of the Light.

"A Warrior's Memories of Days Past"; A funerary installation at the Maryland University of Baltimore's Art Gallery which included: (Top: L-R) A Powhatan totem, wall hung enlarged computer generated Secotan Village (DeBrey etching), and Powhatan longhouse made from bamboo and reeds inside of which was a burial liter. Named for the deadly misuse of sacred tobacco, promoted by the Philip Morris Cigarette Company.


From the traditional to the contemporary

Algonquian totem poles were captured in John White's 1585 watercolors of the Secotan people of North Carolina. Rose is the first Native American artist to have revived her Algonquian totem pole tradition in order to make contemporary statements.

"Firewoman Warrior" is a totem to Rose's Tauxenent ancestor, werowanska (leader) Keziah Powhatan who, along with her warriors, twice burned down the Fairfax County Courthouse in 1752, twenty-four years before the American Independence. Her beef was with the English Colonial Government whose King Charles II (an English slavery benefactor) had "given" her people's ancestral land to his wild cousin, Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron. Never married, Lord Fairfax is also distantly related to Rose. The DAR placed a plaque at Tyson's Corner, VA to mark the moving of the courthouse, because of "Indian hostilities."

Rose Powhatan's Keziah Powhatan totem "Firewoman Warrior," and her
"Dreamcatcher" installation, Fondo del Sol Museum's "Still Here: Celebrating 49,500 years before Columbus" Native American exhibition.

(L) John White's 1585 Dance Circle watercolor of Secotan, North Carolina. (R) One of six of Rose & Michael's traditional styled totem, researched and executed for the Powhatan Village at the Jamestown Festival Park, Virginia.


Telling traditional stories is a major hallmark of keeping Amerindian culture. How the world works and the origin of all things are major Native American storytelling themes. As a "Wisdom Keeper," Rose has retained these aspects of her Algonquian culture in illustration, painting, totemic sculpture
and the spoken word. Rose has kept ancient Algonquian tradition alive at various venues in Attan Akamik.

(A) Among her other talents Rose, an avid storyteller, has kept the Algonquian culture of the  Eastern Woodlands alive.

Using her story totems to inform the public at Riverbend Park's anual Native American 
The smaller fire engraved totem relates a pictographic tale of the Algonquian
culture hero,
Michabo the Great Hare and the Great Flood story

(L-R) "Michabo and the Great Flood" story: Michabo the Great Hare finds that the
world is flooded. When the water recedes, Michabo sends out Raven to try to find
dryland. Raven is unsuccessful. So, he sends out Muskrat. She is successful.
So he marries Muskrat... And this is where men and women came from.

Above: Pamunkey inspired pictographic story from above totem pole's frontal shaft.


Some accomplished members of this DC artistic family


(1) * Lillian Evanti (August 12, 1890 – December 6, 1967), 

was an American opera singer. Her stage name was a combination of both

her DC family and married names, Evans-Tibbs. 

(2) Georgia Mills Jessup (Pamunkey), a prolific artist, DCPS

educator/administrator, was the 13th child of 21 children from a DC family of

over 30-odd practitioners in the arts. Below, she stands next to

"Rainy Night Downtown." a painting in the permanent

collection of DC's National Museum of Women in the Arts. 


(3) Alexei Boston Auld (Pamunkey/Tauxenent) is a lawyer for the arts

and an author has published many books.

(Above) Alexei Boston Auld and four of his many books, two of which are insider's
Native themes.

(4) Go to Powhatan Museum's Honor Roll to see more on
David Mills (Pamunkey) and Bernie Boston (Tauxenent)


David Mills (Pamunkey), DC Journalist, Screen Writer/Producer of HBO Miniseries “Kingpin,”
The Corner.” and “NYPD Blue.”.                                                           


Bernie Boston (Tauxenent), News photographer, with his Pulitzer nominated 
Vietnam era photo, "Flower Power."


(5) Record album, Back row: Second from right, Juaquin Jessup (Pamunkey), lead guitar for iconic funk band, Mandrill, an American funk band from Brooklyn, New York, formed in 1968 by brothers Carlos, Lou, and Ric Wilson. 

(6) Rose Powhatan's Education and Art Career:
McKinley High School, Washington, D. C., Art Major Program;
Howard University, Washington, D.C., BFA (Painting/Art History) Cum Laude, MA (Art Education/Art History); Georgetown University, Washington, D.C, Graduate Studies in Humanities; Catholic University, Washington, D.C., Graduate Studies in History; University of the District of Columbia, Graduate Studies in History/Education/Administration; Trinity College, Washington, D.C., Graduate Studies in Education and Advanced Literature; University of London, Graduate Studies in Education

Exhibiting Artist, Lecturer and Workshop Facilitator/Coordinator of multicultural programs for the following: (this is a select listing)

  • District of Columbia Public Schools
  • Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Wolf Trap Foundation International Children's Festival
  • Virginia Museum of Natural History
  • Chickahominy Tribe, VA
  • Upper Mattaponi Tribe, VA
  • Piscataway Tribe, MD
  • Nottoway Tribe, VA
  • George Marshall School of Law (College of William and Mary)
  • Jamaica Nationals Association, Washington, D.C.
  • Caribbean American Intercultural Organization, Washington, D.C.
  • American Indian Society of Washington, D.C.
  • Monacan Tribe, VA
  • 14th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, at the College of William and Mary
  • Accohannock Tribe, MD

Monday, November 9, 2020

Who was the real Pocahontas? 

"Pocahontas Unmasked,” is the title of the above image by Rose Powhatan a Pamunkey/Tauxenent/Wampanoag descendant.

(Click on YouTube link to see Rose’s Gallery Talk:


She is an American icon, yet mostly known through Europeanized eyes. Ask the average person what tribal nation did she belong to and how is it connected to our Nation’s Capital and the founding of America? And one will get, “I don’t know."

Pocahontas was a Pamunkey Amerindian whose relatives are indigenous to both Washington, DC and to the seat of the Powhatan Paramountcy in King William County, Virginia. These Algonquian speakers of America’s first language, was the most extensive multinational Indigenous power in American history under the leadership of one man, Wahunsennachaw, the second Powhatan or “Dreamer.”  Their word “caucus” still lives in the halls of government on Capitol Hill.  

What two of her descended Pamunkey Algonquian relatives have written or said about her?

Matoaka (“Bright light Stream Between the Hills”) or Pocahontas  is the most recognized Native America from the early contact 1607 period in North America. Thanks to Hollywood and fictional storybooks and academic theses about her. In her lifetime, the industry around her began soon after 1607 when she encountered the Englishmen who had arrived in Attan Akamik (“Our Fertile Country”) under the sponsorship of the short-lived Virginia Company of London, an early British venture capitalist entity. King James I soon put an end to the company’s charter when he assumed leadership in the exploits of the “New Found Land of Virginia,” named for the supposed "virgin Queen," Elizabeth I. 

Queen Anne, wife of the reigning English monarch, admonished the commoner widower, John Rolfe, for having the audacity to marry a royal person from the “Kingdom of Virginia.” The official story is even more troubling since Pocahontas was then a young married woman at the time of the Christianized union with John Rolfe. Conveniently, the English church did not recognize non-Christian marriages of indigenous people.


Washington, DC’s princess is baptized. An idealized Eurocentric painting in the Capitol Rotunda. The composition demeans Native Americans as sitting savages who needed Christianization to become “civilized."

An English etching of a Europeanized full-blooded Native American princess.

An idealized cartoon image of an American Indian icon.

Even in the above movie in which the two indigenous Washingtonians, Rose Powhatan and Kiros Auld acted as a Clan Mother and a Zone-1 Warrior, the script incorrectly portrayed a mythical love relationship between a 13-year-old Pamunkey girl and a 34+ English adventurer. Previous to this movie, when contacted as an advisor, Ms. Powhatan had rejected Disney’s similar portrayal of the relationship between Powhatan II’s daughter and the Englishman. But to no avail. 

Here is Kiros Auld’s take. This excerpt below is from his undergraduate Howard University history paper on Pocahontas, his ancestral relative. A history major, he is a descendant of  the Amerindians indigenous to DC, MD, and VA by way of Pamunkey and Tauxenent or Dogue ancestry. 

Patron Saint of Colonial Miscegenation?"

Kiros Auld, a Pamunkey, Tauxenent and Taino descendant, graduated from the School of Law, Howard University in 2008. The law school was founded in 1869 by John Mercer Langston whose mother was also Pamunkey.

This is a copy from a 2002 Howard University undergraduate thesis on the Eugenics Movement, Racial Integrity and these influences on the people from the historic Powhatan Confederacy, by Kiros Anthony Boston Auld. 

It is the first definitive examination written by a Powhatan Native American descendant.

Pocahontas, the daughter of Powhatan [the Second], is undeniably among the pantheon of Native American men and women who enabled the colonization of the Americas by European powers. She joins the ranks of Doña Marina and Squanto; the former served as a guide and translator for Cortés, the latter taught the Pilgrims to raise corn and served as their emissary. The lives and deaths of such individuals were noteworthy, as the role they played was pivotal in determining the course of colonization in the Americas. One may argue that the colonization of the area that came to be known as Virginia would not have been as successful for the British without Pocahontas. Unlike the Spanish, who came with armies of conquistadors and priests, the English resorted to diplomatic relations until they could secure reinforcements from their densely populated motherland. In the most extreme sense, stalling tactics included the kidnapping and ransoming of Pocahontas on April 13, 1613. [1.] 

Since its inception, Virginia was a struggling colony. In 1607, the English established Jamestown on a poorly chosen site that was low, marshy, and malarial. In addition to a poor location, the colonists were ill equipped for rudimentary survival. Most of them were too busy looking for gold and other precious metals to plant crops and dig wells. In the early years, July and August were known as the starving time. In the summer of 1608, the Indian corn crop came in late, and the English were low on provisions. Having consumed the last of their wine, the English resorted to drinking the brackish water of the James River, which lead to numerous cases of typhoid, dysentery, and salt poisoning. The situation was so desperate that some colonists ran away to the Indian towns.[2.] At such junctures, it was the Indians who fed the colonists, thus reasserting the dominance of the former in the region. [3.]

Pocahontas made her first appearance (in a documented source) through the logs of Captain John Smith. During his later years, Captain Smith wrote that on December 10, 1607, she saved his life from an execution ordered by Powhatan. [4.] One should note that this event was not included in his earlier account, wherein Smith promised to serve as one of Powhatan's vassals. [5.] This (albeit debatable) first appearance of Pocahontas features her unknowingly serving the interest of British colonists, thus beginning her career as a colonial tool. The veracity of this account has little bearing on its effect, for it produces the impression that the individual in question, Pocahontas, would be willing to sacrifice herself for one who heralded the downfall of her people. The next development involving Pocahontas changed the balance of power in Virginia to the favor of the British.
The kidnapping of Pocahontas occurred on April 13, 1613, at the hands of Captain Samuel Argall and with the assistance of a Patawomeck couple. According to the written testimony of Ralph Hamor, this couple was responsible for keeping Pocahontas occupied, while luring her to the captain's ship. After successfully coaxing her aboard, Argall paid the couple with an iron kettle, and disembarked for English territory. Argall sent Powhatan a message from Patawomeck, reporting her kidnapping and stating the terms of ransom. [6.] From this moment forward, the British used Pocahontas as a political prisoner. Powhatan paid part of the ransom and pledged the rest with the return of Pocahontas. The account of Ralph Hamor, one of the colonists present, portrayed an increasingly pensive Powhatan. Hamor reports that the ability of Powhatan to run his office was hindered as a direct result and that there were three months of silence between Powhatan and the British. [7.]

The British responded to Powhatan's indecisiveness with even greater demands, insisting that Pocahontas would be returned only after Powhatan surrendered all English arms, tools, swords, deserters, and a ship full of corn as compensation. Governor Dale, emboldened by Powhatan's indecision, committed yet another audacious act during March of the following year. With a hundred and fifty men and Pocahontas in-tow, Governor Dale sailed up-river into the seat of authority of the Powhatan Confederacy. Powhatan was unable to attend to the proceedings with Dale, so his brother Opechancanough took charge. Dale made a series of demands and sailed-down the river unmolested by the overwhelming number of warriors awaiting the command of their superiors. The key factor in surviving the ensuing struggles was again, the use of Pocahontas as a hostage. it was through negotiation with Opechancanough that the resolution of the hostage situation was delayed. [8.]

One could easily charge Powhatan with deliberately putting Pocahontas in harm's way by allowing her to act as an intermediary. However, such an argument ignores the likelihood that this was a fulfillment of her duty as the chief's daughter, and Powhatan may not have anticipated such treachery from a promising partner in trade. John Smith appreciated the importance of learning enough of the local language to carry on trade and diplomacy. Smith followed standard practice in leaving English boys, sent to Virginia as servants, with various local communities to learn their languages and customs. Apparently, Pocahontas served in a similar capacity as a child. She often accompanied her father's emissaries when they sent the English food and was given exposure to their language.[9.] However, Powhatan did not use her when he was on poor terms with the English. He removed his daughter from contact with the English from childhood into puberty. Pocahontas' kidnapping was not the direct result of her exposure to the English by Powhatan. John Smith testified to this fact, as he states that she was found and kidnapped by an English trading ship in 1613. [10.] During the period leading to her abduction, Pocahontas did not serve the capacity of intermediary, and was not intentionally being placed in any precarious situations. Continuing to argue that Powhatan remains at fault for the kidnapping of his daughter would only serve to blame the victims of a crime perpetrated by the English, with the assistance of a few Patawomeck opportunists.

Immediately following this impasse, John Rolfe made a proposition to Governor Dale, and requested permission for the hand of Pocahontas in marriage. At this time, Pocahontas was in her teens (around sixteen or seventeen by some accounts) and Rolfe was a widower with a child, so the marriage was more political than one based on love or physical attraction. The insight provided by Hamor about his comrade's marriage confirms the aforementioned notion, as it is referred to as a "pretended marriage." [11.] Yet, such behavior contradicts Hamor's previous assertion that John Rolfe was "a gentleman of approved behavior and honest carriage." [12.] John Rolfe's own words seem more ironic than those of Hamor, as the former invokes the divine while entering a holy union for material purposes. Both men agree that the union was for the explicit purpose of ensuring "the good of the Plantation." [13.] These sentiments and statements may seem contradictory to contemporary notions of marriage; however, they were in keeping with the institution of marriage within English society. At this time in England, women were often required to prove to men that they could bear children by becoming pregnant before the wedding. In a population that consisted of more women than men, the competition for well-to-do husbands was considerable. Marriage based on love and physical attraction between both partners is a relatively recent phenomenon.

According to Smith, Rolfe was not the first English colonist with the idea of marrying Pocahontas to secure better relations with Powhatan. Smith cites her as having provided the English with provisions at their fort in Jamestown, against her father's wishes. Some scholars believe that this "rebellious nature" was nothing more than a fabrication of Smith's but let us entertain it here, as it is secondary to the matter at hand. [14.] This is among the few times that she was vulnerable to the whims of the English, and at her own accord, no less. During this time, it was said that some colonist could "have made himself a king, by marrying Pocahontas".[15.] After dispelling any notion of being that "lucky colonist", Smith disregarded the possibility of attaining such high status through marrying Pocahontas. He also believed that her father held neither Smith nor any of the English in such high regard. This assumption was demonstrated to be true with her actual marriage to John Rolfe. The holy union also went unrecognized by the Virginia Indians during Opechancanough's revolt in 1622, as Rolfe was among the casualties.

The marriage of John Rolfe to Pocahontas and her baptism signaled the beginning of her acculturation, making her a "right-thinking savage." Besides Pocahontas' baptism and concomitant acceptance of Christianity, she became further Anglicized when she was christened "Lady Rebecca". As is ever the case, acculturation is not tantamount to assimilation. Pocahontas was not accepted by the colonists in the same manner an Englishwoman would have been. One indication of this was the fact that her Indian name was often used in favor of the one given at her christening. The memoirs of her English contemporaries are proof of this fact. Interestingly, Pocahontas was either already set to marry or married to a warrior named Kocoum at the time of her capture. If the latter were true, she would be the first documented female Virginia Indian bigamist. However, such a thing would be immaterial to Christians of that (or any) time, as pagan marriages were annulled upon baptism. This cultural imperialism was implicit in Christian doctrine, and the English.

Reverend Alexander Whitaker's judgment of the marriage and conversion of Pocahontas is characteristically culturally imperialistic. There is no mention made of the class differences that exist in the marriage, nor of the racial difference. Whitaker assumes the persona of a "man of God," albeit an English one, lauding Pocahontas' renouncing of "her country Idolatry" and confessing the faith of Jesus Christ. [16.] Here, the missionary impulse takes precedence over all others. His judgment may be representative of the Anglican Church, which would later exhibit the same intolerance towards interracial marriages between Europeans and Africans
in the Virginia Colony. One could interpret this marriage as the beginning of the whitening process of the indigenous people of Virginia, which continues unabated today. Technically, Pocahontas was not the first Virginia Indian to engage in miscegenation with whites. There had been a number of non-recognized liaisons between the English and Virginia Indians since 1607. [17.] However, paralleling Pocahontas with Doña Marina assumes a role of particular significance here, in that both are also well-known for being among the first mothers of American Indian-European hybrids, at least in their respective regions. Other contemporary accounts echo the sentiment of Whitaker.

Hamor was less accommodating to the marriage than some of his peers. His description of the union, even though it was one sanctioned by God, is "one of rude education, manners barbarous and cursed generation, meerely for the good and honour of the Plantation." [18] Such bitter testimony speaks of the precedence which race took over class in colonial Virginian society, serving as a model for later generations. The fact that Rolfe is a commoner married to a princess seems less of an issue in the colonies than in the mother country. That a British commoner is able to marry an "Indian princess" devalues the importance of the latter, in favor of the former. This marriage is an example of a colonial class and racial dynamic, possibly enabled by the frontier mentality. It may be construed as one of the precursors to feelings of white superiority among the poor white masses-- which those among the elite of a nonwhite society are on the same level as the average white male.

On June 18, 1614, a letter addressed to a cousin and fellow clergyman by Whittaker reported that the colony was stable. Besides having been able to expand despite opposition from Native Americans, the Virginia Company began to develop a cash crop in the form of tobacco. According to Hamor, the marriage between Pocahontas and John Rolfe served an especially useful function, as Rebecca taught her husband the Powhatan method of curing tobacco. It was this factor that allowed Virginia tobacco to compete successfully in the European market. Tobacco emerged as a cash crop, strengthening the economy of the colony, thus strengthening the colony itself and luring more Englishmen to try their luck in Virginia. [19.]

Up to this point, the Virginia colony had not suffered any significant attack from the Powhatan Confederacy. The use of Pocahontas as a political tool ensured that this trend would continue until Powhatan's death. Until then, it was in the interests of the colonists to increase their physical presence in the region. The most appealing option was to secure indentured servants from England, many of whom would not live to complete their terms of service and collect their share of property. Until 1630, anyone had a good chance of becoming affluent. The headright system granted masters fifty acres for every servant and the colony was still expanding. This was not the only method of motivating potential colonists, as the Virginia Company had secured the perfect spokesperson in Pocahontas. In June, 1616, the Rolfes arrived in London, where Pocahontas became an icon. She was the embodiment of the "right-thinking savage"; one who had renounced heathenism, embraced Christianity, worked for the good of the colony, and supported the Virginia Company. Pocahontas was put on display by the Virginia Company of London and introduced into high society. [20.] In addition to attending social occasions such as dinners and plays, Pocahontas took part in a lottery sponsored by the Virginia Company of London. Every winning ticket allowed for the allotment of one hundred acres for each £12 (pounds), 10[s.] (shillings), 5[d.] ("pence" or pennies) per share purchased. [21.] This level of participation is greater than most historians acknowledge. Pocahontas' active participation in the selling of her homeland amounts to a treasonous act against her people-- one that transformed her icon, into a willing actor in the colonization of Virginia.

One may argue that the English would have still succeeded in colonizing Virginia without using Pocahontas, but that argument is immaterial, as reality points in the other direction. The kidnapping of Pocahontas did take place and Powhatan's ability to govern his people was hampered as a direct result. Such a turn of events could have even triggered an uprising on an equal or greater level as that of Opechanough's revolt of 1622.

Records show that Pocahontas died March 21, 1617 as "Rebecca Wroth, wyffe of Thomas Wroth, gent", and was buried in Gravesend, England. [22.] If the reckoning of John Smith was accurate, she was around the age of twenty-two or twenty three at this time. [23.] Pocahontas' burial in Gravesend, England also serves to make her ownership by the British that much more complete. Although the great London fire of 1666 destroyed all traces leading to the exact location of Pocahontas' grave in the St. George's Church cemetery, her fame attracts the revenue of travelers from around the globe. 

In life, Rebecca Rolfe embodied the ideal that was the "right-thinking savage" and in death, became what many people deem to be a "good Indian". St. George's Church and the town of Gravesend profit from the tourism and fame brought to them by Pocahontas' grave. In some capacity, she continues to serve the purposes of the British, their descendants in Virginia, and those who came later. The better-known descendants of the union between Pocahontas and John Rolfe are among Virginia's First Families. This is a privileged group within Virginia whose role features prominently in politics, particularly in the state's determination of who is a member of the white race.


1. Hamor, Ralph. A True Discourse of the Present State of Virginia (1617), (Richmond: Virginia State Library), Pg 3.

2. Wingfield, Edward. Discourse in The Jamestown Voyages Under the First Charter(1608), 2d ser., vol. 136, Pg 213-234 ed. Barbour, Phillip. (Cambridge: The Hakluyt Society, 1969), Pg 215.

3. Ibid., Pg 216.

4. Smith, John. The Generall Histo[y of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, 1624, in The Comi)lete Works of Captain John Smith (1580-1631), vol. 2, ed. Barbour, Phillip (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), Pg 151.

5. Ibid., Pg 57.

6. Hamor, Ralph. A True Discourse of the Present State of Virginia (11617), Pg 4-5.

7. Ibid., Pg 6.

8. Ibid., Pg 7-11 & 52-53.

9. Smith, John. The Generall History of Virginia, New Enaland, and the Summer Isles (1624), Pg 8.

10. Ibid, Pg 71.

11. Hamor, Ralph. A True Discourse of the Present State of Virginia (11617) Pg 11.

12. Ibid, Pg 10.

13. Ibid, Pg 11 & Rolfe, John. "Petition of John Rolfe for Permission to Marry Pocahontas”

14. Rountree, Helen C. Pocahontas's Peogle. (Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press), Pg 39.

15. Smith, John. The Generall History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624), Pg128.

16. Whitaker, Alexander. "To my verie deere and loving Cosen M. G. Minister of the B. F. in London," in Ralph Hamor, A True Discourse of the Present State of Virginia (1617), (Richmond: Virginia State Library), Pg 59-61.

17. Rountree, Helen C. Pocahontas's People Pg 60.

18. Hamor, Ralph. A True Discourse of the Present State of Virginia (1617) Pg 24.

19. Ibid, Pg 24.

20. Rountree, Helen C. Pocahontas's People Pg 63.

21. Virginia Company of London, "A Declaration for the certaine time of dravving the great Trading Lottery.”

22. Facsimile of the Entry of the Death of Pocahontas, in the Parish Register of St. George's Church

23. Smith, John. The Generall History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624), Pg 128.