Monday, November 1, 2021



Messengers to the Spirits

 © by Michjael Auld

In a Taíno story, Agueybaba, Father Sky, turned a fly into a tiny honored messenger bird, the colibri or hummingbird. Who also is a healer and a symbol of rebirth.

In this hemisphere we tend to take the hummingbird for granted. In the northern climes most of 15 of the 365 types of these tropical birds fly north in a short time from Mexico and Central America to breeding grounds in the United States and Alaska. Some species stay as an endemic kind in their own island and their southern mainland homes. However, “the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which weighs little more than a penny, can make the 500 mile journey across the Gulf of Mexico in less than a day.”  Except for the Anna’s Hummingbird which remains on the Pacific Coast all year round, certain varieties go back and forth following the flowering, insect and seeding seasons. 

The story of these magnificent birds was only known in the Americas until 1492, when the Spanish, arriving in the Caribbean who thought of them as witchcraft or as magical birds which could hover or fly backwards. These attitudes towards hummingbirds have continued to represent messengers, warriors, and spiritual beings in some Amerindian cultures, even until this day. Who are these creatures whose glittering feathers, first encountered in the Taíno culture of the Caribbean Americas, and were thought of by them as the representation of shimmering gold?


Figure 1: Titled, “Guanin” this hummingbird sculpture representing the Island of Gold, from the Taíno story’s symbol for guanin/gold, exemplified by the shimmering feathers of the sacred colibri/hummingbird, as a healing messenger of the gods. Called the Doctorbird in the island, this bird is both Jamaica’s national bird and a symbol for the Yamaye Guani Taíno nation of Yamayeka/Jamaica. Sculpture by the Author.

Figure 2: (AJamaica’s national bird, the scissors-tail hummer. (B) Symbol of the Jamaican Yamaye Taino’s Hummingbird Tribal Nation. (See the introduction by the Kacike Niborni Kaimam of Yukayeke Guanija


Hummingbird (hum-ing-berd)

AColibrí /ko-lee-brí/ n. 1. The Taíno name for a small brightly colored bird of the Caribbean, North, Central, and South America that can beat its wings rapidly, making a zum-zum or humming sound. 2. Kolibrie is the Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Dutch words for hummingbird originating from the Taíno language. Family: Trochilidae 3. also Zum Zum, (from Cuban Taíno) apparently from the sound made by the bird’s wings while in flight. 

B. Called the hummingbird in English /húming-bird/ n (a). An English word which is derived from the humming sound made by the bird’s rapidly beating wings. (b) The tiny hovering bird called colibrí by the Taíno. (c). A small jewel colored bird found only in the Americas related to swifts and having narrow fast beating wings, a long slender bill, and extended tubular tongue for drinking nectar. (d). Also called a “hummer” by some American bird lovers.

How hummingbirds are viewed

Figure 3: Hummingbird Images: (1) Huitzilopochtli, the Mexica’s (Mé-she-ka) hummingbird-warrior and sun-god. (2) Jamaica’s national bird, the Stream-tailed or “doctorbird”. (3) Cuba’s bumblebee-sized hummingbird superimposed on an image of the biggest hummer, the swift-sized South American Patagonia gigas. (4) Jamaican Taíno sculpture of what appears to be a hummingbird man. (5) A Victorian woman wearing a hat with stuffed hummingbirds attached to it. (6) Gigantic image of a hummingbird from the famous Nazca of the Pampa region of Peru, South America. This etching is one of 300 large linear earthwork designs created between 200 BC and 600 AD. The images were made by scraping away the top layer of iron-oxide coated surface pebbles to reveal the lighter color underneath in order to create drawings that are only recognizable from the sky. (Nazca Lines and Culture, (7) Hummingbird Magic for attracting the opposite sex. Like Polvo de Chuparrosa or "powdered hummingbird" this is an image of a premixed cologne or perfume, one of the items along with votive candles and amulets, sold in Mexico and South America.
The hummingbird is believed to be reincarnated warriors, emissaries to deities, identified with a supreme god of the sun and war, worn as earrings by chiefs, sought after for their jeweled pelts by shamen and Victorians, used as love potions, and the major character of many indigenous American mythologies. These are only a few of the descriptive qualities of the world's smallest bird. This indigenous native of the Americas was called colibri and zum-zum by the Taíno and hummingbird by English speakers. The name colibri is still used in Spanish since they were the first non-natives in the Americas to see a bird which they too gave mythical qualities. Hummingbirds are comprised of 365 species and 16 of these live in the Caribbean. They are the second largest family of birds in the Western hemisphere and are found throughout the Americas from Tierra del Fuego in the south to the Arctic Circle in the north. nown as "feathered jewels" the hummingbird has a mystical reputation. The light reflective quality of its tiny feathers turns to dark hues in the shadow and become brilliant faceted colors in the sunlight. The Taíno associated the colibri with the glitter of their highly prized 14k gold called guanin. The reflective sheen of the hummingbird's feathers was like the bright copper-yellow guanin used to render the eyes of some sculptures. Metallic brilliance was associated with a spiritual gate between two worlds. The reflective sheen provided a crossable bridge into the cohoba world of the cemis (spiritual icons). To the Taínos the hummingbird was seen as an important crescent shaped symbol and was associated with similar forms such as the quarter moon and the rainbow. An image of this geometric shape was also achieved when the male of some specie fly in a perfect arc during its mating ritual.

"Aruacs (Taínos) regarded the Humming-bird as the incarnation of their dead warriors, and the name God-bird also applied to it, and the Supernatural awe attached to it suggests that the Amerindian belief has been taken up by the Blacks in a modified form, and that 'doctor-bird' is a 'medicine man’s bird'."

The Jamaican national bird is the specie (Trochilus polytmus) which is the unique Streamtailed hummingbird called a doctorbird. Hummers in Jamaica are called doctorbirds since their beaks are used like a doctor's lance, when collecting nectar and insects from flowers, and may be a loaned Taíno concept. The male of this specie has two long, black tail feathers which make the bird measure 10 inches in length. As noted above in the 1847 description, the Jamaican folk mythology surrounding the doctorbird seemed to have Taíno origins. One Jamaican folk song warns, "Doctor bud a cunny bud, a hard bud fi dead". Or, “a hummingbird is a cunning bird which is difficult to kill.”


Figure 4: Images of  Huitzilopochtli the Mexica “Hummingbird of the South,” or the “Blue Hummingbird on the Left.”

A similar belief by the Aztecs (or Mexica pronounced, Me-shee-ká) was that Huitzilopochtli (Wit-see-low-poach-tlee), the warrior sun god, was associated with the hummingbird. They believed those four years after dying in battle, or as a sacrifice, the spirit of the warriors left the brilliant retinue of the sun god to forever live in the bodies of hummingbirds. Hummingbirds were placed on the graves of warriors.

The ferocious spirit of the hummingbird can cause it to attack an intruding hawk and even humans. The added solitary habit of this territorial bird is, as seen, is identified with Huitzilopochtli. The first part of this Mexica god's name Huetzilin means hummingbird and he is sometimes depicted as this bird. The second half of his name opochtli, means "from the deep south" or the spirit world. In his Nahuat (spiritual) disguise he appears as an eagle. He is the sun, a relentless warrior-god and each morning he rises in the east to subdue those siblings who had plotted his death while still in his mother's womb, his sister is the moon and his brothers are the stars. He was born fully grown and vanquishes them each day. Among the Maya there is also a god who is in the form of a hummingbird.

The Mayan creation story goes, that “When they thought they had completed the job of construction of the universe (again reinforcing the fallibility of Mayan gods), they realized they had failed to do something very significant. They had forgotten to provide a messenger to transport their thoughts and desires from one place to another. For this new creation, the Mayan gods decided to create their messenger with something special. They took a jade stone and began to carve in it an arrow. This arrow was designed to represent a journey. After a few days, the stone arrow was ready. When they blew on the stone to get rid of the dust caused by their carving, they blew so hard that it flew into the sky. As the arrow flew, it turned into a beautiful multicolored hummingbird which they called Al xts'unu'um.”--

To conserve the high energy used for darting and flying it is the only bird that can become torpid. This habit of going into a deep sleep of suspended animation when resting at night and its reinvigoration by the morning sun's rays is associated with attributes of "reincarnation". The use of its beak to penetrate flowers is associated with powers of healing and love. Amulets were made from body parts of the hummingbird and worn in medicine bags (that are still used as love potions in some areas of Central America). The Arawaks of Venezuela, who are related to the Taínos, believed that their ancestors obtained their first tobacco seeds from Trinidad through the ploy of a hummingbird. There are hummingbird tales from the Taíno, Apache, Aztec, Maya, Mohave, Chayma, Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Cherokee, Cochti and many more peoples of the Americas.

Figure 5: North American hummingbird design.

In the 15th century Castilians (Spanish) in the Caribbean saw the hummingbird for the first time. They were fascinated with its diminutive size and brilliant, iridescent colors. The birds were compared with precious stones and gems which have given rise to such names as 'topaz', 'sapphire' and 'ruby'. They wrote that the hummingbird never landed and even nested in the sky. Queen Isabella of Spain, Columbus' benefactor, was told by the Spanish upon their return from the Caribbean that the hummingbird was a cross between a bird and an insect. Specimens were taken to Europe as part of the curious objects from the "New World". Both scientists and the public were captivated by this unusual bird. Stuffed hummingbirds were in great demand through the Victorian era. In 1888 400,000 hummingbird skins were sold as clothes decoration and for jewelry in London alone. Unfortunately, this was one of the ways that the variety within the hummingbird specie was scientifically counted. During this era having encased specimens to adorn one's home was the rage. The exportation of millions of hummingbird skins from the Americas has dramatically slowed but contemporary habitat destruction has endangered the species. Live specimens are difficult to keep and some that were more hardy in captivity have been exported to areas outside of the Americas.

Upon the arrival to the Americas of English speaking Europeans this unique bird was named for the humming sound made by its rapidly moving wings. The wings of each type of bird make a different humming sound. They are most numerous in Columbia and Ecuador where 130 species exist. Hummingbirds are related to swifts and belong to the order Apodiformes and the family Trochilidae. The largest is the Giant Patagona gigas of western South America and is as big as a large sparrow while the smallest, which could pass for a bumble bee, is the Bee hummingbird (called Guani by the Taíno) from Cuba in the Caribbean. Because of their speed some are found impaled on thorns. Their size causes them to fall prey to frogs, praying mantis, and spider's webs (which some hummers use as material for building nests).

The Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is the most widely known of the species. It winters in the Caribbean and Central America and in the Spring migrates to eastern North America (from Labrador to eastern Mexico and westward to central South Dakota) where it breeds. During the Fall the Ruby-throated return south in swarms. From spring to fall the Rufous hummingbird flies 2,000 miles between Central America and Alaska.

Of the 16 specie in the Caribbean some are only found on one particular island. For example, the worlds smallest bird, the male bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), is only found in certain parts of Cuba. The Bee hummingbird measures just over two inches from bill to tail (the giant hummer is over 8 inches long). The male which weighs around two grams is slightly smaller than the female. The female is shimmering green, matte taupe with flecks of golden yellow. The male is a showier taupe, with black, aqua, and beads of rose colored head and neck feathers.

The humming bird is the only animal to have truly mastered flight and it has no match in aerobatics. For example, the wings of the ruby-throated hummer normally beat 90 times per second and 200 times per second during courtship. Few other birds can fly backwards and upside down and hover like the hummingbird. It is able to achieve its unusual flying ability because it is capable of rotating the main parts of its wing in all directions. By positioning its body almost vertically and tracing a figure-eight with the tips of its wings, it produces lift and hovers. In order to maintain its flying performance the bird must consume its weight in food each day.

It feeds on nectar which provides high energy sugars and will eatch some insects and spiders. The ability to collect the quantity of needed nectar comes from the variety of flowers they visit. For example, the ruby-throated hummingbird is attracted to at least 31 different flowers. They can be lured to feeders which contain red-colored sugar water. Some plants depend on the hummingbird for pollination. Pollen is transferred to the bird via the stamen which comes in contact with the bird's head during feeding. Many North Americans are avid hummingbird watchers who hang out feeders for the yearly migrants. A few hummingbirds have been known to hang around in northern climes during the winter. A news story in January, 2000 reported a case in Virginia where a Rufus hummer (rarely seen in the Eastern United States) continued to visit a local feeder which then attracted many hummingbird watchers to the site. There are many books and sites on the Internet with stories and information on hummingbirds.

Figure 6: Jamaican hummingbird sculpture, with details, honoring Sir Alexander Bustamante the island's first prime minister who had Taino ancestry. Materials: welded bicycle parts; inlaid etched and colored Plexiglass; One Dollar bill. By the author,

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Surviving Document Genocide

 FROM THE BOOKTHE PEOPLE WHO STAYED: Southeastern Indian Writing After the Removal)

© 1999 by Rose Powhatan

[Document genocide -dok’y mont’ jen’ sid’-, n. 1. the deliberate extermination of a race of people through changing information about them in an official paper 
* See below: Racial Integrity Act of 1924.]

The author at the Pocahontas statue in 1995, Gravesend,
Kent, England

The author on a research grant viewing the original "Powhatan's Mantle" at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University, England.

Above: Front and back covers views of the book. A 404 page book published by the University of Oclahoma Press, October 12, 2012

Rose Powhatan (Pamunkey/ Tauxenent/Dogue) is a member of the Pamunkey Tribe of Virginia via her mother’s family and Assistant to the Chief of theTauxenents (Dogues) via her father’s family. A teacher for more than thirty years both in the Washington, D.C. Area and the United Kingdom. She is an elder in theInter-tribal Women's Circle of Virginia; the American Indian Society of Washington, DC; a prominent artist, tribal historian, curriculum writer and storyteller; who has had many exhibits of her work throughout the United States and England. She holds B.F.A.(cum lade) and M.A. degrees from Howard University. She has done extensive graduate work in history, humanities, education and administration at universities in the USA and the UK. Powhatan has served on numerous boards, including the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, American Association of Museums, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and is a member of the American Indianan Society of Washington, D.C. She has published articles in journals and newspapers, such as The Sun (Baltimore), Kent Today (Gravesend, Danford, England), The London Times, and The Washington Post. Her film credits include: Cultural Consultant on the movie and role as a clan mother in "The New World"; Acting in the role of Crispus Attucks' Natick Indian mother in the HBO mini series, "John Adams"; She has appeared in a number of film documentaries including one by the Jamestown Settlement Park on the Powhatan Confederacy. She is currently featured along with one of her totems in an exhibit on the "Tauxenent Indians" of Fairfax County at the Riverbend Park, Great Falls, Virginia.

Here I am, at 3:30 A.M., the day before the deadline for submitting this story, and the very morning of the first family reunion of my father’s family that’s not a funeral. (Although I was enrolled as a member of the Pamunkey Indian Nation of King William County, Virginia, by my late cousin Chief William “Swift Eagle” Miles, through my mother, my father’s family is one of two families historically documented as “Indian” indigenous to Fairfax County.) I still can’t decide what to write about in relation to what it’s like to be officially recognized as an Indian outside the indigenous community thanks to a cartoon movie about my ancestors.

Document genocide regulates your relationship to others with whom you interact on a daily basis. It’s not easy to be upbeat about your tribal identity when most people around you constantly remind you that you are not supposed to exist. Even well-intentioned librarians are smug in their knowing responses to my requests for information about Indians indigenous to my tribe’s ancestral home region. They tell me that my ancestors became extinct through contact with European and African germs. When I identify myself as an enrolled Pamunkey Indian, they act sanctimonious and try to correct me. They tell me I must be a Cherokee or a Blackfoot. I’m told that I’m extinct, since all Indians indigenous to the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and northern Virginia region became extinct “hundreds of years ago.” “Government Indians” who have come to Washington to work at the
Bureau of Indian Affairs and other federal agencies play the same game with me. Why, they even form social clubs and perpetuate information about the people in the “official” organization mission statements. Supposedly, the main reason for starting such organizations is because, in their view, “there were no Indians in the region” despite the fact that many members of one such organization have repeatedly been shown hospitality by Virginia tribes, invited to enjoy the amenities of the reservations (the Pamunkey and Mattaponi reservations, the two oldest in the United States.)

New Indian arrivals in my home area constantly inform me that “back on the rez” they have been told that there are no Indians east of the Mississippi River. In response, I frequently reply to their ignorance by informing that, on the contrary, there are still many here, and some are descendants of warriors who fought long and hard battles against the invasion of our homeland. I encourage these Western Indians to return home and thank God that, because of us Eastern Indians, their ancestors were given extra time to enjoy their culture before the onslaught of a European ethnocentrism that believed in destroying all vestiges of indigenous culture whenever and wherever they found it. Southeastern indigenous people paid a very high price for the misfortune of being the first to live in close proximity to the first permanent English settlement in America. While the English did indeed come here for better opportunities than existed for them back in the old country, you might say that they actually bore a close resemblance to a later group often found in the region, those known as “Carpetbaggers.”

Growing up under document genocide requires constant vigilance if you intend to be a survivor. Residing in the Washington, D.C., and suburban Fairfax County, Virginia, area makes you painfully aware of the insidiousness of document genocide. Whenever you fill out forms requiring you to identify a racial or ethnic designation, you are challenged by the intake personnel. Since I’m a “carded” Indian, I show them my official tribal identification. Other Indians who lack the same papers generally have their identities changed, after having endured a condescending lecture on how they should be proud to be a member of the
race to which the clerk’s “eyeball test” has thus relegated them. I have also had the personal experience of having had my race changed without my knowledge. I’ve found out about it later on when I’ve gone back to get copies of a particular official document. The Washington, D.C., Vital Statistics Office once informed me that I would have to retain the services of an attorney if I wanted to correct the misinformation appearing on my records.

Oh, I’m a pro when it comes to administering, as well as taking the “eyeball test.” I have been teaching school in Washington since February of 1973. Every year, homeroom teachers are asked to fill out an official ethnic designation “head count” form to identify the races of the students in their classrooms. Teachers are instructed to survey the class, and then, by casually glancing at the students, write down on the form how they “fit” in the various racial classifications. 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. When I was appointed by the secretary of the interior to the nine-member Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Nation Committee, I engaged in in-depth research on African displacement in the American South. The committee’s findings revealed that since the overwhelming majority of Africans brought to America were male, and since so many male Indians had been killed in conflict with invading colonists or made into slaves and absorbed into African slave groups, it generally holds that most African Americans claiming Indian ancestry will cite a particular Indian woman in their lineage to show their claim to Indian heritage. European Americans like to refer to this country as the “New World.” More appropriately, it should be called the “Widowed World”. Countless Indians are “hiding out” or “passing” in African and European American communities, due in great part to the eternal shame of the legacy of slavery. To add to this travesty is the recent trend of calling legally enrolled Indian people “black Indians” instead of their more correct tribal names. Misguided authors in search of a quick buck or instant public attention perpetuate this racist misnomer.

“Where are you from honey?” Is the question I have been asked my entire life. It is a question that is never asked of me by indigenous people. Nonindigenous Americans have made me conscious that I don’t “fit in” no matter where I go. Most people assume I am a Latina or I’ve recently arrived from the subcontinent of India. Hispanic people speak to me in Spanish and grow angry or impatient with me when I respond to them in English. Continental Indians are accepting of me when I am by myself, but frown when they see me with my Taíno Jamaican husband. I’m not surprised at both groups’ reactions to me. It’s a commonly held joke in the Indian community that Latino people are really Indian cousins from the South, coming up North to help us repopulate the United States of America with Indian people. As for mistaken Hindu Indian identity, one can always remember that Christopher Columbus made the same mistake when he landed in the Caribbean and encountered the Taíno (one of several Arawak-speaking tribes) and Carib people. We have all been called Indians ever since that fateful encounter.

In the school year of 1994-1995, when I was on a Fulbright Teacher Exchange Fellowship to the United Kingdom, a colleague from Spain told me that I was called an “India” whereas someone from India was called an “Indu”. It would seem as though the Spanish are still confused about who we are. I found that the Brits and Africans in the UK also had the same problem in recognizing my true identity. After each of the three times I had been mugged in London, the police reported the incidents as “Paki-bashings,” a term used to designate crimes perpetuated against Southeast Asians.

My most memorable and positive experience during my Fulbright year was due mainly to my ancestral cousin, Pocahontas. Oh, I know what you’re thinking — “Here we go, back to the Disney cartoon story:” No, it’s not at all related to make-believe. After the last time I had been assaulted in London, I decided to go to Gravesend, Kent, where Pocahontas is buried in the St. George’s Church of England sanctuary. I wanted to lay some flowers at the foot of the statue erected to her memory (the statue is a twin to the one erected at the original site of Jamestown, Virginia), and pray, since she was the closest link to home that I had in England. I had initially planned to go to Gravesend on March 21, 1995, which would have coincided with the anniversary of her death date in 1617. There was a mix-up at the railroad station, and I wasn’t able to complete my journey. As a result, I was a day late arriving in Gravesend. However, March 22nd was a more personally significant day for me since it is the day, in 1622, that Opechancanough (brother of Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas, and his successor—because of his place in the matrilineal line of descent—as head of the Powhatan Confederacy, following Powhatan’s death in 1618) launched his war against English imperialists in Virginia.

When I arrived at St. George’s, the church just happened to be open for a special service, although it was usually closed on that day of the week. I went inside and identified myself to the pastor, the Reverend David Willey. He seemed genuinely glad to meet me. He told me about a special teacher at the church named Di Coleman, who was currently writing a play in honor of the 400th anniversary of Pocahontas’s birth. He said that she would welcome my help with the production and that the children of the church’s school would benefit from my working with them. I called the school and received permission from Head Teacher Jean Bannister to give a lecture at the school and to work with the Resolution Theater Group, directed and sponsored by Di Coleman. I assisted Ms. Coleman as cultural consultant, set designer, and costume designer, and it was truly a godsend experience.

The experience, however, stands out in stark contrast with that of my initial dealings with the Disney Corporation when they began their work on Pocahontas. Soon after I had agreed to work with them as an advisor, when I insisted the true story of Pocahontas should be told and not the fantasy it became, I was dismissed. Disney eventually hired one of my cousins to work on the movie. She later pretended not to know that Disney would deviate from actual historical fact in order to fabricate the love story between Pocahontas and John Smith. The movie was universally panned by well-informed members of the indigenous community when it was released. My cousin benefited from her collaboration with Disney by being able to charge higher fees for appearances as an entertainer.

My affiliation with the staff and students at St. George’s and Di Coleman remains one of the highlights of my life. There I was, thousands of miles from home, being accorded respect and recognition that I had never experienced in my homeland. At the end of the historic performance of the Pocahontas commemorative production (which was also performed at other locations in England before it went on to the International Folk Festival in Scotland), I marveled at how far I had come to receive such respect for who I was, instead of the ridicule that is commonplace in the United States. I thanked Head Teacher Jean Bannister and the people of Gravesend for extending hospitality to me in the same spirit of humanity that they held for my ancestral cousin Pocahontas. I felt as though I was partially repaying their kindness to her through the work I was engaged in with their children. I was fortunate that document genocide against me and my people did not extend to the town of Gravesend. The Virginia Indian presence is a viable part of the ongoing, living history of the town. Our history is shared by them as a legitimate source of cultural tourism and a source of pride in themselves.

Where do I go from here? As an educator and curriculum writer, I lecture and write about the history and cultural retentions of my people. I’m an active member of the “powwow circuit:" and I set up exhibits and displays, which celebrate the cultural possessions of my people. I serve on numerous historic, educational, and cultural boards, where I can have a direct impact on information and participatory events that are made available to both regional and national audiences. I’m both a Washington Teachers’ Union building representative and a member of the Local School Restructuring Team, given the mandate to improve
education for young people at the grassroots level. As a practicing professional artist, my culturally based artwork is exhibited through numerous venues and is, at present, touring the country in a show commemorating seven decades of American art. I’m the founder/director of the Powhatan Museum and the Center for Indigenous Culture in Washington, which is affiliated with the City Museum of Washington. I’m the mother of three sons, all of whom are dedicated to do all they can to help eradicate document genocide that is directed towards indigenous Americans in courtrooms, schoolrooms, living rooms, and film-screening rooms in this country. My never-ending battle continues, but I am determined that my people and I will survive document genocide.

The Racial Integrity Act of 1924

[In addition to “unintended” extermination of Indigenous Americans by foreign pathogens, the intentional eradication of Amerindians by the various European powers had begun with the first “illegal aliens” (the Spanish in the Caribbean) who began arriving in the Americas in 1492. Switch the numbers around and the 1924 Act to Preserve Racial Integrity was a 20th century attempt by the Virginia Government to complete the job that they had begun after both the American Revolution and the Civil War. This 1924 Act had wide impact beyond the borders of the state of Virginia. The most recent attempts to restrict increase Amerindian DNA in the United States is hidden in the issue of “Illegal Aliens” living in Virginia and those crossing the southern border of the United States of America. Fortunately, “that horse has already left the barn”. By moving to the next slot of racial dominance in the United States, Amerindian DNA via the racial classification of so-called “Hispanic” is well on its way to once again dominate North America as it has already rightfully done in South and Central America. It took the Spanish seven centuries to wrestle their country back from the Moorish Arabs of North Africa, who had introduced other forms of technological
“advancement” and cultural variations to Christian Spain. Maybe it will take the Amerindian a shorter time to regain dominance in their hemisphere.]

1. Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia, That the State Registrar of Vital Statistics may as soon as practicable after the taking effect of this act, prepare a form whereon the racial composition of any individual, as Caucasian, negro, Mongolian, American Indian, Asiatic Indian, Malay, or any mixture thereof, or any other non-Caucasic strains, and if there be any mixture, then the racial composition of the parents and other ancestors, in so far as ascertainable, so as to show in what generation such mixture occurred, may be certified by such individual, which form shall be known as a registration certificate. The State Registrar may supply to each local registrar a sufficient number of such forms for the purpose of this act; each local registrar may personally or by deputy, as soon as possible after receiving said forms, have made thereon in duplicate a certificate of the racial composition as aforesaid, of each person resident in his district, who so desires, born before June fourteenth, nineteen hundred and twelve, which certificate shall be made over the signature of said person, or in the case of children under fourteen years of age, over the signature of a parent, guardian, or other person standing in loco parentis. One of said certificates for each person thus registering in every district shall be forwarded to the State Registrar for his files; the other shall be kept on file by the local registrar.

Every local registrar may, as soon as practicable, have such registration certificate made by or for each person in his district who so desires, born before June fourteen, nineteen hundred and twelve, for whom he has not on file a registration certificate, or a birth certificate.

2. It shall be a felony for any person wilfully or knowingly to make a registration certificate false as to color or race. The wilful making of a false registration or birth certificate shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary for one year.

3. For each registration certificate properly made and returned to the State Registrar, the local registrar returning the same
shall be entitled to a fee of twenty-five cents, to be paid by the registrant. Application for registration and for transcript may be made direct to the State Registrar, who may retain the fee for expenses of his office.

4. No marriage license shall be granted until the clerk or deputy clerk has reasonable assurance that the statements as to color of both man and woman are correct.

If there is reasonable cause to disbelieve that applicants are of pure white race, when that fact is stated, the clerk or deputy clerk shall withhold the granting of the license until satisfactory proof is produced that both applicants are "white persons" as provided for in this act.

The clerk or deputy clerk shall use the same care to assure himself that both applicants are colored, when that fact is claimed.

5. It shall hereafter be unlawful for any white person in this State to marry any save a white person, or a person with no other admixture of blood than white and American Indian. For the purpose of this act, the term "white person" shall apply only to the person who has no trace whatsoever of any blood other than Caucasian; but persons who have one-sixteenth or less of the blood of the American Indian and have no other non-Caucasic blood shall be deemed to be white persons. All laws heretofore passed and now in effect regarding the intermarriage of white and colored persons shall apply to marriages prohibited by this act.

6. For carrying out the purposes of this act and to provide the necessary clerical assistance, postage and other expenses of the State Registrar of Vital Statistics, twenty per cent of the fees received by local registrars under this act shall be paid to the State Bureau of Vital Statistics, which may be expended by the said bureau for the purposes of this act.

7. All acts or parts of acts inconsistent with this act are, to the extent of such inconsistency, hereby repealed.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Goddess of the Hurricane

By Michael Auld 

 The Caribbean and the US East Coast have been hit with a number of hurricanes this year. Is it just one entity responsible or is it the multiple named Tempests of Shakespeare’s imagination? I’ll go with the oldest interpretation of just one; the Taíno angry goddess Guabancex and her two accomplices.

Figure 1: Guabancex the Hurakan is the ancient Taíno’s Angry Woman Goddess, Rider of the Winds. Here the hurakan/hurricane is portrayed as three entities of a warning, destruction by wind and water. Her yearly job is to clean the Earth of accumulated debris and bring renewal. – Image of a 4’ x 3’ 8” mixed media wall sculpture by the author, made from fractured ceramic, cherry wood, wisteria vines and metallic copper paint.

We are in the middle of Global Warming which has brought an angry goddess into our hemisphere more than just once this year. As if we have not learned our lesson of destroying the planet, she comes as a reminder of our errant ways. To the Taíno, this is normally the cleansing season of the very displeased Guabancex the Hurakan. Born in the Sahel Desert of North Africa, she, is our hurricane deity who has come to our area for millennia. Twin brothers accompany the Angry Woman Goddess, the Rider of the Winds. The Taíno believed that GuatauBa! the thunderous lightening Herald announces her pending arrival. While his brother, Coatrisque, the dangerous Deluge from the mountains, cleans up after Guabancex blows rotting things down. We humans just happen to get in their way.


  •  Huraca’n (uh-ra-kah-an), Taíno. 
  • Huracan (uh-ra-kahn), Spanish. 
  • Hurricane (hurry-cane) English. 

  • Hura = wind + Ca'n = center, i.e., the Center of the Wind. Sometimes confused with the Maya god Kulucan, the Spirit of the Storms. The Spanish were headquartered in the Taíno and Kalinago (Carib) Caribbean for over 20 years before acquiring words like jerk from the Mayan language of Central America, now used for Jamaican Taíno spiced barbecoa grilling. But our hurakan is not Mayan. 

A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with winds of 72-74 miles per hour or 33.1 meters per second but rarely exceeding 145 mph or 65 meters per second, usually accompanied by thunder, lightning and rain. So far, Wilma, the strongest, reached 185 mph in 2003. 

Figure 2: Two ceramic sherds from pots made by Taíno women which captured the image of the hurakan. -- Cave of the Jagua: The Mythological world of the Taíno,” by Antonio M. Stevens-Arroyo.

Figure 3: A contemporary satellite photograph of a hurricane over the Bahamas.

Figure 4: The image in the above illustration depicts the Taíno version of the huraca’n superimposed over hurricane Katrina as she left the Caribbean and approached New Orleans, Louisiana. --

Figure 5: Earlier wall exhibition of Guabancex. By the author at Fondo del Sol, Museo Multicultural, Washington, DC.

The ancient indigenous people of the Caribbean, the Taíno, had a perfect understanding of the weather phenomenon that annually plagued their Paradise-like territory. The huraca’n was definitely an angry woman goddess, "Rider of the Winds". Female ceramists depicted her on pottery as a head whose “S” shaped arms protruded from her shoulders or temples, much like the view of a flailing person seen from overhead. Uncannily, the Taíno’s version of the huraca’n had the same configuration as satellite photographs of hurricanes taken 500 years later in the 20th century. The main difference in interpretation between the original Taíno image and that of contemporary meteorologists was that the Taíno saw the “eye” of the hurricane as the face of a woman. Which begs the question, “How did the Taíno women know this hurricane detail?” 

 Her name was not really Wilma, Katrina, Ivan, Camille, Diane, Rupert, or Ann. As seen above, before the birth of Christ, she had been Guabancex (gwa-ban-seh) the angry woman spirit of the huraca’n. An early Spanish chronicler in the 15th century Caribbean wrote: “They say that when Guabancex becomes angry, she makes the winds and waters move and casts houses to the ground and uproots the trees." This statement attests to the concept that she was not necessarily seen as an evil entity, but a woman who can become angry. Interestoingly, it was the women who made ceramic pots who used her image,  Thus, “The Angry Woman Goddess” was used and not the Evil One, a devil-like concept not recorded in the Taíno religion or belief system.

So, the huraca’n is the composition of the angry wind goddess Guabancex, and her two enablers the gods Guatauba (gwa-ta-ooh-BA), and Coatrisque (ko-ah-tris-keh). Combined, they were the Wind, Thunder and Flood spirits of the huraca'n. GuatauBa! (my spelling), as the god of thunder, was the herald who announced Guabancex's pending arrival. Coatrisque followed the wind and thunder and brought the devastating power of the flood from the mountains. The Taíno understood that three entities of the hurricane (wind, flood and tide surge) caused the most damage. The Spanish continue to use the word “huracan” and it is from this source that the English coined the word “hurricane”. 

The early chroniclers also reported that the Taíno curtailed long sea voyages during the hurricane season of June to October. Boriken (Puerto Rico) Taíno spoke about the mountain battles between the Supreme Being, Yucahú and the violent spirit of the huraca’n. “Oh, yes,” a Puerto Rican informant told me , “Guabancex and Yucahu fight up in the mountains.” Today, many descendants of Boriken, Kiskeya (Dominican Republic and Haiti) and Cubanacan (Cuba) Taíno live in New York City. Before hurricane Katrina, some meteorologists predicted that “The Big One” will be a huge hurricane that may do incalculable damage to New York City in the future. The subway tunnels may act as gushing conduits for the storm surge. 

 Hurricanes have influenced many writers who were not from the Caribbean. The most enduring is a storm named story created in 1611. William Shakespeare wrote The Tempest, a play with various his contemporary interpretations of location but whose main monstrous character was likely a mythical Caribbean “Caribal” or cannibal called Caliban.

Figure 6: One of the oldest images of Shakespeare’s Caliban. Etched and published by John Hamilton Mortimer in 1775. Note its Africoid appearance.

The Although the English had eyes on the Americas, it was the Spanish who fed Europe Caribbean myths. Figure 6: One of the oldest images of Shakespeare’s Caliban. The Tempest has been described as “likely to show the value of mercy and forgiveness.” However, it’s portrayal of Caliban smacks of a belief of the superior intellect of the English who saw a naiveté and barbarity in the Indigenous people of the Caribbean. This character, not unlike Guabancex’s unpredictability, embodies a tempest. Today, the hurricane is still seen as one of nature’s negative forces. However, it may be similar to the underbrush clearing of forest fires, and so she also has the intended historical traits of a cleansing agent. Besides, "these hurricanes could also be termed as the tropical cyclones. Apparently, these cyclones prove to be an important part of rains. They increase the availability of rainfall by 25% for the countries like Japan, India, and Southeast Asia."

* Some sources: 

1. Dictionary of the Taíno Language 

2. Webster's New Encyclopedic Dictionary 

3. Cave of the Jagua: The Mythology and World of the Taínos, Antonio Stevens-Arroyo 

4. Image created from Taíno pottery sherds identified by archaeologists as Guabancex, the goddess of the hurricane. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

 from Michael Auld at the

Who are the Indigenous Washingtonians?

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

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

Most documentarians of DC’s Indigenous people overlook links to the Powhatan Paramountcy, however, there are five writers who are Pamunkey and/or Tauxenent. They include Georgia Mills Jessup, We're Still Here"; her daughter Rose Powhatan, “Surviving Document Genocide"; and Rose’s sons, Alexei Auld, "Tonto Canto Pocahontas: A Review"; Kiros Auld, "Pocahontas:Patron Saint of Colonial Miscegenation?"; and their cousin's, "Pocahontas' First Marriage: The Powhatan Side of the Story" by Dr. Phoebe Mills Farris. They all have roots in DC and have written about their city's tribal nations while the Indigenous DC history is mostly written by non-Natives.


Unfortunately, DC's Indigenous story is often interpreted by newly arrived Euro-American historians. They mostly don't have a clue about who our living Indigenous Amerindians are as well as the international impact of the city's Indigenous Washingtonians. Some seem unable to connect the dots. One case in point is the portrayal of Pocahontas as a 17th century Virginia Indian first married to widower John Rolfe. His newly introduced Christian religion forced her into a bigamous marriage. To the contrary, Pocahontas was already married to Kocoum, a young war captain with whom she is believed to have had a son. Indigenous men usually moved to their wife's village, but Pocahontas temporarily moved to her husband's village for safety. Unfotunately, she was lured into abduction with the help of a Patawomeck sub-chief and his wife in Stafford CountyVA.  

"Urban Renewal" (1970) by Washingtonian artist, Georgia Mills Jessup (Pamunkey). She is shown in the darkened center of the painting as an Indigenous Washingtonian surrounded by disenfranchised African Americans.


Some contemporary Eurocentric skeptics underestimated Amerindian genius, and had little faith in the cultural impact of Powhatan’s immense Indigenous territory with its unique form of freedoms within a political group. Although political unions like his had been present in the Americas for thousands of years, some writers believed that Native Americans never ventured out of their immediate tribal areas. On the contrary, Amerindians traveled extensively and left their homes on long distance trading expeditions. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1585 watercolor of a Secotan woman and child from the Chesapeake Bay. --    watercolor by John White


During the 17th century over 32 local tribes, mainly from Maryland’s Indigenous people, were forced out of their area by the aggressive land hungry English. (In coimparison, the Powhatan Paramountcy alone had over 30-odd nations within its territory.) In addition to "land grant upper class English", they sought first time land ownership and riches away from their densely populated European homelands. They conveniently believed that their God had given their race domain over the land, animals and the Americas’ Indigenous human beings. The term was “Manifest Destiny.”

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

Many Indigenous people in the 17th century intermarried with arriving foreigners. Members of the Powhatan Paramountcy, never abandoned their ancestral territories. Their retention of Indigenous culture was attributed to their honoring the tradition of descent from matrilineal groups. This was especially true of those whose mothers who were Native.
“One of the largest tribes in the Powhatan Paramountcy, the Pamunkey tribe was centered in [Tidewater] Virginia, with villages in next door Prince Georges, Charles and St. Mary's counties of Maryland.” The presence of the unincorporated community of Pomonkey of Charles County, MD and the assignment by the National Park Service as one of Washington, DC's Indigenous tribes, attest to the extent of Powhatan's northern location of his Paramountcy. Virginia’s Tauxenent families also remained in Washington, DC proper. Many of these survivors lived in DC or daily crossed the Potomac River for educational opportunities as well as for Federal and local governmental jobs.

By 1711, most Maryland tribes south and north of Washington, DC's border either became extinct as identifiable tribal entities within that state’s boundaries, or migrated north or west of Washington, DC. This pattern was not true of those who were a part of the 19,250 square mile Powhatan Paramountcy’s territory whose Accohannock firmly remained in Southern Maryland. Some Powhatan families such as the Tauxenent/Dogue and Pamunkey either remained in Virginia within the Federal City’s original boundary, lived in the city, or moved back and forth across the Potomac River for schooling and job opportunities into the redefined 1847 District of Columbia border. The Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannock on the northern border of the city retreated north to Pennsylvania and New York.
In Virginia two of its Indigenous nations, the Pamunkey and Mattaponi, maintained their reservations on ancestral land. Seven of the eleven state recognized tribes became federally recognized, the Pamunkey being the first. Maryland’s state tribal recognition only began in 2012 with three tribes, one of which (the Accohannock) was a part of the original Powhatan Paramountcy.

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

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

Powhatan and Pocahontas’ Descendants


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

Images of Pocahontas and Her People

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

Rose Powhatan (Pamunkey/Tauxenent) and her cousin, Chief William Harry Miles of the Pamunkey nation at the dedication of six totems by Michael Auld and Rose Powhatan at the inaugural METRO opening event.-- Photo by Dr. Phoebe Mills Farris

One of two statues of Pocahontas with DC Native, Rose Powhatan (Pamunkey/Tauxenent), in Gravesend, Kent, England (1995). A replica of the statue is at Jamestown, Virginia. The town of Gravesend's main claim to fame is that Pocahontas is buried there. -- Photo by the author


The "Baptism of Pocahontas" is a large painting (12' x 18') of her located in the Capitol's Rotunda, Washington. DC. Its size and placement in the Nation's Capital reflected the historic role which the indigenous Paramountcy played in the country's psyche. The actual event took place in a more rustic Jamestown. The original baptismal font is in Braton Parish Church in Williamsburg, VA.-- Photo by the author.

"Pocahontas Unmasked" is a print by Rose Powhatan showing her interpretation of the unmasked Indigenous woman. She used the image of an Indigenous American woman, based on a John White watercolor of the Indigenous people of the Chesapeake. -- Photo by the author

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

Still Here!

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