Presented by the PowhatanMuseum.com
AREA’S NATIVE AMERICAN MAP
Figure 1: Markers around the original ten square mile demarcation of Washington, DC, beginning on April 15, 1791 at Jones Point lighthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.
Arriving in Washington, DC in 1962, I have often wondered what became of the Indigenous People of the Metropolitan Area. So, I did my research.
LOCAL NATIVE DC PATRIOTISM:
The Inside Scoop on the People Who Stayed
An indigenous Washington, DC Land Acknowledgement by a Native Wasingtonian.
Figure 2: (L) Rose Powhatan (Pamunkey/Tauxenent) with the likeness of her ancestor, Tauxenent leader, "Keziah Powhatan: the Firewoman Warrior" traditionally based totem in her Northwest DC Tauxenent home, giving a Land Acknowledgement blessing, August, 2020. Keziah burned down the Fairfax County courthouse in 1752. Her Tauxenent/Dogue tribe's land was given to Lord Fairfax by his cousin the King of England.
(R) Rose on her Fulbright Foundation’s Teacher Exchange (1994-1995) in front of the original Pocahontas statue, St. Georges Church, Gravesend, London. Pocahontas was buried under the alter of the church. While at the St. Georges School, she assisted teacher Di Coleman as a consultant and costume designer in a traveling play on Pocahontas’ life.
(1) Click on this first link to see a DC Land Acknowledgement video segment: :https://www.dropbox.com/s/bol8mzptzgs3bzv/Sankofa%20Land%20Accomplishments%20-2.MOV?dl=0
(2) Or see the Sankofa blessing on the opening of the beginning of Into Action on YouTube: https://youtu.be/T9zlVJvL1l4
Other than above photo, have you ever seen a
real DC Indian?
identify as Navajo, neither can an Apache be a Miccosukee. Yet three related newly state
recognized Maryland tribes located 22 miles
away from Washington, DC are now trying to make such a name-changing move with
Anacostia’s extinct Nochotank. They, against Native American tradition, want to
be illegally installed as DC’s Indians. Anyone other than the Pamunkey or
Tauxenent is as fake an indigenous Washingtonian as the Redskins football team.
Native Americans from our area were dogmatic about tribal identity. These
Algonquians even had identifying hair styles, unique feather adornment, a specifically designed bows and arrows, clothes
and body tattoos. To steal the extinct Nochotank’s identity, as is a
current move by outsiders, is ancestral sacrilege.
Figure 3: A Theodore de Bry (1528 – 1598) etching from John White’s watercolor of
Secotan Algonquians of the Chesapeake Bay. John White cataloged the wearer with a tribal marking and other designs associated with Chesapeake Indians. In the Americas this totemic figure or entity design acknowledged tribal identity. All three DC
Indian tribes had this practice.
Lives Matter and Land Acknowledgement narratives are in keeping with the inclusive
movements of our times, as an honoring of our indigenous people, many of whom have become invisible. They suffer nationally from a spate of
disappeared women; higher percentages of suicide,
alcoholism, poverty and above numbers of devastating illnesses. Yet, Native
Americans, including Rose Powhatan, her children, grandchildren, and other local Powhatan
descended families who call DC home, have continued to survive
in their ancestral Washington, DC homeland. This honoring of an Indigenous
people in the spirit of a United Nations edict on indigeneity is necessary. It is an acknowledgement which makes a DC
statement that all who are of Native descent can feel
welcomed in a city which houses the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, and other
indigenous Federal and private sector workers as well as those transplants to our Nation's Capital. Native Lives will indeed
A LOCAL NATIVE HISTORY
Washington, DC was carved out of Indigenous Amerindian territory originally named Attan Akamik, which turned into the Virginia Territory, then the states of Virginia, Maryland and other states as far north as New York.
Earlier in the 1600s, Wahubsenachaw (publicly known as Powhatan)
also provided life-saving corn during the
harsh 1600s winters. Scientists have recently found
that during this era the Americas became
much colder, caused by planetary cooling.
This was the result of the Amerindian Holocaust instigated
by the droves of European arrivals in
this hemisphere. The pandemic and killings caused an estimated 90% demise of indigenous
inhabitants in the Americas.
The Powhatan people also made clothes for the Revolutionary
War effort; Pamunkeys were persecuted for hiding
out escaping enslaved African Americans on their Tidewater reservation (the first North American
reservation); while cousins were marched off in chains
by the Confederates and charged for helping the Union Army during the Civil War. Powhatan descended stone
workers from the Tauxenent and Pamunkey, indigenous to the
Washington Area’s families, mined rocks from local
quarries which were built from their ancient ancestral stone
mines. One example is Rock Creek’s 3,000 year old
bluestone mine on Quarry Road, NW, on which the National Zoo was later built. This DC mine was active until 1885. The Amerindian antecedents had also knapped
arrowheads, axes, hammers, and pecked out cooking
utensils from the many sites along Rock Creek.
When other nearby indigenous
people cowered, beginning in 1610 the Powhatan people fought in all of the wars since
the homeland security Anglo-Powhatan Wars. During WWII, one DC mother of her city's Pamunkey children, repeatedly sneaked off
her Federal job to go to a downtown movie theater. She
serially watched her Pamunkey son riding on his US Army truck into Berlin as part
of the US
force to liberate that German city. Her son-in-law who was from a large local Tauxenent family survived the Pacific War Theater when his destroyer was shot out from under him. After the war, he defied the segregated bus system, when he told his young Pamunkey wife, "We are Indian, and we do not sit at the back of the bus."
Other sites which these
Algonquian descendants helped to construct was the Washington, DC's iconic Exorcist movie
steps in Georgetown. Bridges, canals, and other important
buildings were constructed from the Seneca sandstone
endemic to their Potomac River
area. These rocks were used for backing the Washington Monument's marble facade,
the Smithsonian Castle (between 1847-1857), as well as the Capitol
floors and Rotunda door frames.
The Powhatan descendants
are not to be just dismissed entities, but are living people who have continued to contribute,
born, educated, work, die and buried in DC and its
surrounding Metropolitan Area.
The original “Washington County” (or DC) was mainly carved out of Montgomery County
(Susquehannock tribal territory) to the city’s Northwest and Northeast, and Prince Georges
County to the Southeast and Southwest DC. These western and southern counties were Algonquian. The city’s boundary was located in Virginia’s Arlington
County, and still includes the
Tauxenent’s Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River.
seceded back to Virginia so that voters could
participate in the election of George Washington for whom the District of Columbia was also named.
Some Maryland Pamunkey (whose capital in the 32-34 tribal Powhatan Paramountcy, and its leading tribe,
originated in Prince William County, Virginia) while some of their villages
were located near other Algonquian tribes which lived in Prince Georges County
(they as well had other villages in Charles and St. Mary’s Counties of Maryland).
The only remaining presence of the Pamunky in Maryland
is the township of Pomonkey in Charles County.
They, along with the Tauxenent/Dogue were trade partners with the Piscataway,
“a loosely knit smattering of tribes” (whose center was in Moyaone or
Accockeek, with 1,000 souls) in Maryland
where they existed “between the fourteen and seventeen century.” During the 17th
century upheavals brought on by encroaching European colonists, “from 1642 to 1685
leading to the destruction of Susquehannocks in 1676 [in Maryland]
and the removal of the Piscataway in 1699 to Virginia where they melted in with local tribes. By 1711, the Piscataway
no longer [existed] as a separate tribal community.” – chnm.gmu.edu. .
So, what happened to Maryland’s Indians? In the case of the
state’s indigenous history it shows that in the 1700s the state was left with a mélange
of tribal remnants who intermarried with European and African arrivals, three newly state recognized tribes being called by sociologists “Tri-racial Isolates.” There were three major tribes within DC’s
Boundary Markers; they were the Tauxenent of Arlington County and Washington County,
the Nochotank and Pamunkey in Washington and Prince Georges
Counties. During the post European Colonial encroachment, Amerindian
history of Maryland and Virginia became horrific. Deaths by murder, wars and European pathogens caused most surviving tribes to remove themselves from ancestral lands. Native refugee
patterns show that, in Maryland alone many of its indigenous populations who
survived European diseases and attacks were routed and forced to leave the
state, some crossing the Potomac River to join the powerful Powhatan
Paramountcy who themselves were at constant war with the Jamestown invaders.
Other indigenous Marylanders fled the fledgling European state to melt into
eastern Virginian and northern tribal nations as far as New York
and Ohio. Similar
to the later 1838 Cherokee’s Trail of
Tears, in the case of Marylanders some stopped along the way north to melt
in with Algonquian Delaware, Iroquoian Pennsylvania and New York tribes. To see
the turmoil of Amerindian relocation within the original counties of Maryland
which bordered Washington, DC and beyond Maryland’s Historic Tribes is a
state’s governmental document which describes all of that state’s historic
tribes by county locations before and after European contact. https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/native/html/01native.html
Then, what happened to Virginia’s Indians? After the First Anglo-Powhatan War in 1610, many kept their
territories via the British introduced reservation system in 1658, even after the 1677
treaty of Middle Plantation with Cococoeske the Queen of Pamunkey and those
Indians under her. The treaty was between her and Charles II, the King of England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Virginia. (http://powhatanmuseum.com/Historic_Documents.html) . The
Pamunkey have the oldest reservation in America
since theirs and the Mattaponi’s were established in 1658.
Others lost theirs in the 18th century. For example, the the Rappahannock and Chickahominy in 1718; the Nansemond sold
theirs in 1792 after the American Revolution. Native Americans did not believe tyhat humans could own the Creator's land. So, the Manhattan "sale' of that island to the Dutch for beads, fits the Native concept thatat land belonged to the Great Spirit. They must have thought that they got over on the stupid Dutch belief in owning segments of Mother Earth. After losing their reservations
to encroaching colonists, “some landless Indigenous members in Virginia and Maryland intermarried with other ethnic
groups and became assimilated. Others maintained ethnic and cultural
identification despite intermarriage. In their maternal kinship systems, children
of Indian mothers were considered born into her clan regardless of their
the Pamunkey and Mataponi held on to their reservations. Seven of Virginia’s 11 state
recognized tribes are federally recognized.