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Karenne Wood, Daniel Red Elk Gear and Chief Kenneth Branham

Of the Monacan Indian Nation
“Writing Collaborative History: U.Va. and the Monacan Indian Nation
October, 23, 2003

Jeffrey Hantman: My research and writing over the past fifteen years or so now has been largely concerned with the writing of long term history of Virginia, a history in which the Monacan people as individuals and as a tribe are visible and sometimes even audible actors in the events that unfolded in this region before, during and after colonization by Europeans in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. This phrasing I have just used, writing a history of Virginia in which the Monacan people are a part is intentional because I did not initially have a reason to write a history of the Monacan people per se. Instead, I was interested in a different, very specific question about European colonization in Virginia, which was more focused on events in the Eastern part of the colony in 1607. That question was a simple one. Why, I asked in 1607 did the Powhatans allow the Jamestown colony to survive? Outnumbering the colonists by some fourteen or fifteen thousand to one hundred, it was a puzzle to me as to why the Indians of the Tidewater assisted the Jamestown colony especially considering the fact that at least two earlier attempts by Europeans to colonize this region had been failures due in no small part to Indian agency. My research led me to ponder the nature of the indigenous social and political world of 16th and 17th century Virginia and then to the realization that the historic Monacan people of the Piedmont and mountain region and their relations with the Powhatans and colonists, was a key part of understanding the Jamestown story. But, who were the Monacans? What was known about the Monacans as they existed at that time is limited. The English learned what they knew about the Monacans from their Powhatan hosts. The Powhatans, at that moment in time, and just at that moment in time were at odds with the Monacans. Captain John Smith of the Virginia Colony, part time ethnographer, full time colonist, heard only a few but disparaging comments about the Indian people to the West. Wrote them down in books to be published and widely distributed in Europe and then America and sadly given the power of the written word, these comments lingered into the 20th century to allow the virtual dismissal of the Monacans as peripheral to Virginia history.

One Monacan’s voice was heard in this time. It was that of Amarollek, a Monacan man taken captive by the English in 1608 on the banks of the Rappahannock River near modern day Fredericksburg. The English, holding Amarollek against his will, asked why he had attacked the English with arrows when the English had come to him with love. In the English translation, Amarollek replied, he heard the English were people that had come from under the world to take his world away. With this belief, Amarollek and many other Monacan people kept their distance from the English in the early seventeenth century. This response to colonization is different from that of many other native people. The Monacan response of silence, of disengagement, leaves them unfortunately out of our textbooks and out of the popular reconstructions of Virginia history. But, such treatment leaves us with a limited understanding of our collective history and most critically leaves out a significant people who then and now deserve our attention for the part they played and continue to play in the rich and diverse cultural history of the Commonwealth. That history has been denied intentionally. From Captain John Smith who told us with unsubstantiated authority that the people of the Piedmont were barbers and spoke a babble of tongues to the Eugenicist Walter Plecker of the 20th century who told the Monacan people and the citizens of the state that the Monacans were not Indians at all and worse, using the vicious pseudo-scientific language of the Eugenicist Era.

So, today I am writing a long term history of the Monacan people per se because theirs is a fascinating history. Along the way and in collaboration, I have learned about pre-colonial history and culture, the building by the Monacans of sacred burial mounds used continuously over centuries, containing thousands of individuals ritually interred and spaced widely over a large region of central and western Virginia and marking this region with these monuments to the ancestors. I have learned about a people that did play a significant role in the events of the Jamestown colony and who then survived in this region if largely beyond the colonial gaze and if largely reduced in number by disease, out migration and warfare.

The colonists called the Monacans by many names and we are today sometimes confused by that. Batutolo, Saponi, Niason and others are the Monacans and their descendants. Still even the name Monacan carries on. We see the name Monacan on treaties in the 17th century, on maps of the 18th century and Thomas Jefferson in 1787 in notes on the state of Virginia makes mention of the Monacans as a contemporary people of the state. By the early 1800’s, the community of Bear Mountain in Amherst is documented and today, that is the heart of the Monacan nation along with closely related ex-patriot communities formed in the Eugenics Era in Glen Burnie, Maryland, Johnson City Tennessee, and elsewhere. In short, there is continuity here and the Monacan nation of today is part of that continuing and still growing story.

Collaboration, this story, this history, I have just reviewed what I know about Monacan history and culture, has been developed into what I hope can be characterized as a collaborative spirit. The history of collaboration between anthropologists and Native American communities is a varied and sometimes troubled one over the past century, but I like to think that we have all learned from that history and are all moving forward together, perhaps setting some good example of how this can be done.

Our collaboration began as a somewhat casual exchange of information. In the early 1990’s, I spoke at several Monacan council meetings and discussed my take on Monacan history. This was reasonably well received. I was writing about a heroic Monacan past and I was pleased, although not terribly surprised that it was well received. But, I learned to listen also, a recurring theme that I recommend to any who do collaborative research in Native communities. I listened and learned about a not so distant past marked by racial discrimination and hatred, by the loss of some community members, about the pain felt by the lack of access to public schools until the 1960’s, about the school buses refusing to pick up children from the Bear Mountain community. I learned about the role of the mission church and the mission school. This is a history marked by the pointed racism of the state’s Eugenicist and racist policies and attitudes of the twentieth century. But, one also made possible by the common presumption of the disappearance of “real Indian people” in much of the east and certainly west of Richmond. Together I think we have learned that the colonial past was father to the racist twentieth century. Not exclusively, but certainly if a deep and continuing Monacan past could be linked to the present, then the common troupe of disappearance would itself disappear. Beyond this basic foundation of our collaboration, there were several specific projects that I would like to highlight in a few minutes. In the early 1990’s, we worked together with funds from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, which really deserves a lot of credit for outreach efforts to the Virginia Indian tribes in the late 1980’s and the 1990’s and as part of that effort, we worked to develop a traveling exhibit on the Monacan past and present. This was the most modest of exhibits. Three panels that folded and opened up and could travel to schools in the region, the very schools which had until the 1960’s not allowed Monacan children in the front door, were now hosting Phyllis Hicks and the three panel exhibit and learning that the Monacan people were much a part of the region’s history and a part of the region’s future as well. This was a small but significant beginning.

Secondly, I and my students continued archaeological survey and excavation at village sites and mound sites surveying from Orange County in the North to Amherst in the South and many points along the James and the Rivanna in between. This was funded by the University of Virginia throughout, through summer field schools, research support for myself and my students, as well as the Department of Historic Resources and the National Park Service. On the face of it, this was work I undertook as part of my own research design, developed, trained as a scientific archaeologist, anthropologist, to understand the Monacans at a particular moment in time as well as their prior history, that is the colonial period as well as earlier history. My questions were anthropological and scientific. I asked about the regional organization of the historic Monacans, what their economy was like, what they ate, what their ties to others through exchange was and what their ritual practices were as I could discern them. So here I would say are my questions and that I asked them based on my own training as an anthropologist. But, we were in conversation. I was in conversation with the Monacan people and sharing the results of these and my point is these questions and the results of those questions became unintentionally part of our collaboration in the mid 1990’s following the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act as the Monacans became interested in having the remains of their ancestors returned, repatriated, and reburied respectfully. My research and the research of my students came to play a big role in this way. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act only applies to federally recognized groups. That is why, one of the reasons why, the tribe’s concern of federal recognition is so pressing. When the Monacan people requested the return of remains from burial mound sites in Orange County, in Rockingham County and points north of the present day center in Amherst, their claim was challenged by the Federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act some are called NAGPRA, was challenged by the review board and initial requests were in fact denied. After all, these mounds were in Orange and Rockingham to the North and the Monacans were centered in Amherst. Here though, although we had originally asked different questions or had different priorities, our collaboration bore fruit. Together we presented the Federal NAGPRA review board with all the archeological survey and excavation data that documented the ancestral territory of the Monacans and their mounds. UVA had also funded a comprehensive study of the remains that were in these mounds in order to speed the return and repatriation in the spirit of NAGPRA regulations. But this all took some time to resolve.

One of the collaborations that I am most proud of is that which allowed the archaeological data presented to the NAGPRA review board to mesh with the interests of the Monacan Tribe and the repatriation process. Though not federally recognized, the NAGPRA review board acknowledged the legitimacy of the territorial claim made by the Monacans and in the late 1990’s, the remains from Orange County were returned to the tribe and were buried in the historic cemetery in Bear Mountain. I was privileged to watch and listen. Since then, a continuing repatriation of human artifacts has taken place with relatively little challenge. This is extraordinary, given the continuing lack of federal recognition.

A final story concerns the repatriation of human remains from a Monacan mountain called Hayes Creek, which had been excavated in the early 20th century. The University of Virginia was asked to study these remains in order that they may be repatriated. In consultation with the tribal council, I asked if a small sample of remains could be kept in order that biological and cultural questions that we may not even imagine today about health and disease and the stature of past people could be asked. But, the tribal council initially rejected that request respectfully and I respectfully accepted that. But, at the last minute, a member of the tribal council asked if I had seen the National Geographic special that was on television the night before which featured the reconstruction of the face of a Jamestown colonist. I had seen that and I knew how it was done. He asked me if such a thing could be done, such a process could happen with remains, burial remains from this site that was to be repatriated. I said, yeah, I knew how that could be done. Some private conversation ensued and the tribal council asked if I could proceed with that. I was about to launch into a long academic and scientific argument about the problems I can see with some facial reconstructions when I just stopped and listened and what I heard was the story of a people who had not seen any images of themselves prior to photographs taken in 1914 and how powerful it would be then to look into the faces of individual Monacans who had lived here in Virginia in the 1500’s. All my biases toward constructing regional models of economics and politics fell aside as I shut up and listened which frankly is my short advice to most of my graduate students who engaged in similar collaborations. I shut up and listened and I became convinced of the power of reconstructing the individual, a person, a human, with a face, with emotion. And with help from the Smithsonian and again the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University, a talented artist named Sharon Long, two faces, two individuals were reconstructed scientifically and artistically, a man and a woman who lived in the 1500’s in what is today Rockingham County. These two individuals, these two faces graced the entry to the Monacan Ancestral Museum on Bear Mountain in Amherst. Seeing these faces was not a research question I would have posed, but I am glad our collaboration, our cooperation made such a humanistic venture possible and the remains of these two individuals and more than one hundred others have not been respectfully and ritualistically reburied at Bear Mountain. I have talked about some of the things we, the University and the Monacan people have done together and some things we have done in parallel fashion learning from one another. I have certainly learned as much as I have taught. A richer history I hope can be written. An archaeology gives some voice to the people lost in text, but there is a limit to what archaeology alone can do. Monacan history now includes the sounds of the ancestors, the recovery of ancient language and rituals, and the vibrant sounds of the present in poetry, in the drum group and in the joyous cacophony that fills Bear Mountain at the time of the Monacan homecoming the first Saturday each October. I think we will hear more about that from my colleagues on the panel and I hope that we can continue to work together and that the University of Virginia will continue and grow to be a partner with the Monacans in any of the educational, historical, and cultural endeavors that we can contribute to. Thank you.

Karenne Wood: I am Karenne Wood with the Monacan Indian Nation. I am coming at this from a different perspective. I am not a social scientist. I guess I could best characterize myself as a tribal historian. That is where I started out and that is where I still consider myself to stand on any issue that is of any importance to my people. I have also been a researcher. I have been a poet. I am still a poet. I am not coming at this study from the same academic perspective if you will. I think when Jeff Hampman first approached our tribe, I was not personally there, but we have developed a pretty rigorous screening process for scientists to approach our people because so many times we have been approached in the past with, why don’t you let me work with you so that I can complete my dissertation and advance myself academically and then I am going to leave you to go on and do something else and having been inundated with these requests, we really are not too interested in that kind of work anymore. What we are interested in is developing long standing, respectful relationships from which we can mutually work together to learn things that benefit all of us and so I think that whatever approach you used when you came to us, it was a successful one or you would not have gotten this far, but we really like you now. It is OK, Jeff. What we have found in working with Jeff and with other social scientists who have the right approach is that we can learn a lot from science. We have suffered the loss of a lot of our culture throughout Virginia history and throughout our own history and we are very interested in reconstructing aspects of our culture that we don’t have access to that information anymore. I think archaeology and anthropology are of course the study of the past, but we are hoping that it is also a study of what that past has meaning to us in contemporary times now. Otherwise, why bother? It is just something that we can say, Oh, isn’t this curious? Look what they used to do a long time ago. But, if we cannot apply it to our own cultures now and draw any inferences, to me it is not very useful at all. And so we are coming at it from an understanding that we want to learn about ourselves and we want people to help us learn about ourselves. That is what Jeff has been able to do with us, to teach us aspects of our won culture that have been lost, things like how would you have built a Monacan home in the very early 1700’s? We did not know all of that information. Now we do. Now we are able to recreate a Monacan Home. We are doing it in Natural Bridge. Exactly how long were your people farmers? Because there is this whole hunter gatherer mentality about the barbaric Monacans and other people in Virginia and elsewhere we have learned through some of Jeff and his student’s analysis that our people were farming nine hundred years before John Smith ever showed up. That is really useful information for us. We have learned how healthy they were. How physically fit they were and the aspects of their ritual lives that helped to keep them in balance with the natural environment and with their own community and that gives us inspiration today. How we want to live our lives in the face of a culture that very often tempts us to go away from healthy perspectives and things of that nature. Jeff has also been instrumental in working with certain digs in our area like the Wyngina dig in which he invited our people to come and participate and so some of people learned about archaeology and also about our culture in the past and got very interested. One interesting case in point is the young woman to whom we just gave a scholarship to attend a university in Tennessee and she is going to study anthropology she says, because when she was eight years old, she went to Wyngina and started learning about archaeology and became very fascinated with it. So we have these different aspects of our collaboration that are coming out indirectly and benefiting all of us as well. I think when we talk about reconstructing Monacan culture or any culture, it is important that we know why. We need to know why we are going to do that. For us, it is a matter of cultural identity. It is also important that we understand what our history is. Indian people have a saying that if you don’t know who you are, you don’t know where you are going. I mean it is pretty obvious. But, to us understanding those elements of our past are really important and in Virginia, I mean there is a whole history of deliberate attempts to eradicate Indian culture. They have all been documented. They are in academic libraries. We can start with vast epidemics that began to sweep our area long before John Smith ever showed up as a gift of the Spaniards and other explorers who were plying the Chesapeake Bay in the mid 1500’s and way before we learned that there were any real Europeans in our area. But, these epidemics were huge. We had no immunity to them. It is estimated that maybe 75-80% of our people died at that time. Whole cultural aspects were wiped out right then because there were not enough people left even to bury the dead in some villages. Aspects of ritual were eliminated because when plagues like that descend upon you, you begin to lose faith in your spiritual beliefs. Things changed dramatically and the remnant people had to band together and make new social societies just to survive so that was before the settlers ever got here. Then we had this long history of real estate problems where we just kept losing and losing and getting pushed into the mountains and as Jeff said, we weren’t really interested in dialog. We wanted to get away from this influx. We kept moving further away. We did not initiate a lot of conversation and consequently we did not get written up so that may be to our detriment. I think maybe we had a better idea, but it did not work. In the long run, no matter what you did, you were going to end up the same way. It was pretty much inevitable. Then we had an interesting history in Virginia where people seemed to get along pretty well during the mid 1700’s. There were histories of mixed race communities. There were cemeteries where everyone died and was buried together. There were situations where people went to court for each other of mixed races and there seemed to be somewhat of a community aspect going on. That changed with the civil war and the whole Jim Crowe situation and in which people began to feel very afraid and very much in need of documenting the other and so we begin to see in court records references to describing people, this fellow was a bright mulatto with a scar over his left eye, very specific types of documentation so that you could identify people who were possibly a threat to you and that was what was going on. That developed into what I would like to characterize as full blown racism pretty quickly and we then began to see separate communities, you know, people not being able to use the same facilities, there was no access to medical care, there was no access to education, there was no religious instruction for Monacan people up until the very late 1800’s when ministers began to come and in 1908 the Episcopal church established a mission at Bear Mountain for our people. During that time, well slightly later, the early 1900’s we began the science called Eugenics raising its head and a lot of people are familiar with that. I am not going to delve into a long history of it because I could easily take up the rest of the time, but the basic presupposition was that some people are better equipped to succeed in life than others and those people would naturally be White and we need to make sure that these mixed race folks don’t get into our blood line and pollute us essentially because they might mess us up intellectually and sort of contribute to a decline in the progress of civilization. I have to also say at this juncture, there was Walter Plecker, there was John Powell and these were the two very most influential people in the Eugenics movement in Virginia and they succeeded in establishing a number of chapters of what they called the Anglo Saxon Club of America, one of which was housed here at UVA. It was supposedly to promote the goals of civilization. It was basically a White supremacist club and that was what it was for was to you know, advance the goals of White supremacists.

What developed during that same period is what I like to call the museum mentality and we are still dealing with this today. It is the idea that Indian people have become invisible, that they live in museums behind glass cases, that you should watch for them wearing leather clothes and feathers in their hair and paint on their faces, that most of them still live in tepees and hunt buffalo so that mainstream people cannot identify us. Granted, we look different because we have mixed in with other populations as well and we don’t look Indian in the way that people often expect us to, but there is this whole presupposition that Native people are stuck in the past, that we have not adapted. I am here to tell you that we are probably the most adaptable people on the face of the planet. I have never seen people that can adapt to different kinds of changes that are thrown at you and still come out ahead and on top of things as much as we have today. But, we are still fighting that. Kids in our schools when we go to speak still expect us to show up in leather clothes. They like it and it is very interesting. But, it is not really who we are anymore, you know. It is who we can be if we choose to put on our regalia which is what we call it and go to a pow-wow or some other place to celebrate our culture. But, all of this came about I like to think because of what I call cultural arrogance, the idea that the dominant culture knew what was best for all of us. Of course, we would want to be civilized. Of course, we would want to be Christian and it was their duty to impose that on us by whatever means necessary to make sure that we go the idea that we were supposed to be assimilated into the rest of Virginia’s populations or else get out. What that created for us was the destruction of our social system, the destruction of our religious beliefs, the lack of access to education so that our people were then characterized as mentally stilted or retarded when in fact they had not had the same opportunities that other people in Virginia did. Then there seemed to be probably in the 1925 to I would say 1940, an era where everybody felt like Indians were vanishing and that we had to hurry up and document them and their cultures because they were going to disappear and how sad it would be if all of these interesting cultures no longer existed at all. So, you saw scads of linguists and social scientists going out to Indian communities and starting to write things down. Luckily, they did for us or we would not have our language if they had not done that. We would not have a lot of the things that they were able to document about us at that time. But, out of that developed the discipline I guess if you will of ethno-history and the idea that we could be scientifically validated as people. So, whereas before we had disappeared in the records, we had vanished. Thomas Jefferson himself said we were probably doomed to extinction. We were now being given that scientific validity without which we would probably not be here today speaking in this place in this room because academic people like Jeff have been able to show that in fact we did survive, but there are reasons why our culture should be studied, that there is empirical evidence to support our existence. So, we worked with Jeff and a number of other scientists and we have come up with some really interesting projects like what we call the faces project that got written up in Archaeology Magazine. It made a big splash. It was very interesting to our people to be able to see what our ancestors looked like and one of the most validating parts of that for us what that those people, when the faces came back and we could actually see what they looked like, they looked like us. We have been trained to think that we are not valid because of the perceptions that have been sent to us from the dominant society that we have this need to identify ourselves in a particular way or to prove who we are and all of that comes from the Bureau of Acknowledgement and Research and the Commonwealth of Virginia and the idea that you have to prove that your community has lasted through time in a particular way, but what we saw in those faces was ourselves and that had a lot of meaning for our elders and other people in our community.

Other things that have come out of our work with scientific collaboration ventures, we have been able to do four reburials now where we have recovered the ancestral remains of our own people and have reburied them on tribal land where we hope they will never again be disturbed. We have revitalized our ceremonies so that we are able to conduct those reburials in the way that seems most proper to us. We have developed a really good working relationship with agencies like the Department of Historic Resources in Virginia and we have really good relationships with the people that we need to work with and we feel very good about that. It enables all of us to get a lot of work done that we otherwise would not be able to accomplish.

In terms of the reconstruction that we are doing now, we are basically building off of what we have learned from Jeff and his students and taking it in entirely new directions in terms of reconstructing our languages, looking at our dances, what did we used to do, what would we still like to do. We are getting ready to implement some of that type of information. We have developed this interesting partnership with Natural Bridge, which is privately owned and we have a collaborative project there where essentially they are making money for us to develop this village so that we can learn about ourselves. It works out very well. We have also ventured into the academic arena and this has been really interesting for us because as a people who was denied access to public education up until 1963, we are now coming into university settings and giving talks and sitting down with staff members and faculty members at major universities and saying this is what we would like to see you doing. This is what will help us. We now how an institute for research at William and Mary where academic people are working primarily with the Powhatan groups in Virginia to help them with projects that they are interested in. We also have what is right now a minority concentration in American Indian Studies at Virginia Tech and that program has been helpful in allowing us to speak as the experts on our own culture about what should an American Indian Studies program in Virginia. There aren’t a whole lot of those kinds of programs in the East and so we are developing those initiatives and we are developing those resources so that we can teach people about our history because we feel like what folks are learning in Virginia schools is really abominable information if anything at all and we still have kids running around with little paper head bands and feathers in their hair at Thanksgiving, but we never did that. I have yet to see an Indian with a paper headdress. Have you? (Laughter from crowd) No. I have a lot of sarcastic remarks that I could make, but I won’t. But, what we are finding is that we are being received in the academic institutions. It is a great time for us to be making these kinds of strides because we are able to communications. We are able to have these kinds of dialogs and what we are offering UVA is a challenge. We would like to see a Native Studies program developed here. We would like to see Native American faculty members on staff here at UVA. We would like to see research being done, scholarly academic work that really advances the field, you know state of the art stuff and UVA has the capacity to do that. So, we feel like we have a lot to bring to the table and we know that you all do and we are interested in opening that dialogue and glad that you all have asked us this far with you and certainly looking forward to what we can do in the future.

In terms of our progress, we feel like we have made just incredible strides, especially in the last fifteen years. Kenneth can tell you some more about our political efforts towards federal recognition. We feel like it is time that we took our rightful place and it is time that that place was acknowledged. It is time that Virginia said hey, we really did not do you right and worked with us to create something that is really lasting for our future generations and for the future generations of Virginians because we all do have to work together. I think that the indigenous perspective has a lot to offer in terms of global understanding. We have seen what Western science can do when it is applied in its worse possible way to our environment, to our social systems. We have people coming up to us all the time saying, “I really want to have some of your spirituality.” OK? You can laugh about that, but what it means is that they are lost. They don’t know who they are and we have an understanding not that we want them all to become Indians, they can’t, but there is a way to understand your place in the world and our understanding of that is useful.

So, that is what we have to offer. We would like to offer it still and are still hoping to be friends and to work things out in a collaborative way. Thanks.

Daniel Red Elk Gear: I was involved in archaeology as a young kid. I dug in a lot of different places with Lefty Gregory, some Maryland archaeology groups, different people, and a lot of the stuff was here in Virginia. Yes, I dug up my relatives and I am not happy about it. I was doing it when I was a teenager. I got into a lot of things. It is not my cup of tea. It does not mean that it should not be somebody else’s. One day you wake up and you are like, Wow, I am yanking my ancestors out of the ground. This is not what it is about for me. But, I did learn and from a little kid growing up, my grandmother told me, oh, yes, you are Indian, but you just have a little bit of blood. Don’t prick your finger. You won’t be Indian anymore. So, because of the way that she was brought up, it was you don’t talk about being that way. Indian was not something that you could talk about in the public. Everybody looked down upon it. So, all my life growing up, you always felt different inside. You would walk around school and people saying things to me, what is that kid? Is he half Black? What is he? No one really knew what I was and in that day and age you know Indian was not even a question to ask. It was always something else. What is that kid? But, when you play Cowboys and Indians, I hated being the Indian. We always lost. You turn on the TV. We always lose. Why would you want to be on the losing team? So, but when we ran through the woods like the kids in the neighborhood, you know we would go off into the woods, there was something that was different. I always wanted to run faster. I always wanted to be better. I always wanted to throw the rock the furthest because that is who I was about. I was Indian. We were supposed to be that way. You live your life not knowing really what you are supposed to be because no one else will let you be that person. And then you wake up one day and then you say, forget it. I am going to do what I have to do. Hopefully that you people can say that. We talk about the existence of who we are. Here I am. I exist. I don’t need a textbook to tell us that there are Indians in the state of Virginia.

So, I got out of the archaeology field and went on to pursue other things. By going through archaeology, you learn all these wonderful things, like here is something someone has never seen. It is like a treasure chest you know, you are digging up stuff and it is like, wow, what an experience. No one has seen this for thousands of years and you are expecting to hit Blackbeard’s treasure chest at any second and then I watch the TV shows and they talk about this. All the National Geographic shows and I only had one problem. Why was it that everybody that dug up was always somebody special? Chief such and such, medicine person, this that and the other thing, they never dug up the village idiot. They just never did. Even today, the archaeology that is going on, they found the guy that got covered with the ice. He had the tattoos and the copper ax and everybody thought he was somebody of importance. Well, as they have gone through the years now, saying man, this guy got murdered. It looks like he was a murder victim. Well, he wasn’t spiritual such and such and chief such and such if somebody did him in. He was probably the village idiot. But, initially when the reports came out, they want to talk about somebody important. They want to talk about somebody. We are always chiefs or we are always medicine people. We are always this or we are always that. We are just human beings. When you ask the elders why Indian people were put on this Earth, they will tell you that you are janitors. We are nothing more than janitors. This Earth is what we take care of. That is our job. It is my responsibility not to make this a better place for my kids, but for seven generations down the line a better place.

So, we get out into the world once we grow up and we try to make our way and we are dealing with the racism and things that we are talking about. It has happened all my life. I have kids in school down in Amherst County who are still dealing with racism on a daily basis. We are the only race of people that when you look at us, we have to carry a card that tells you who we are. If you see somebody that is Black or Black mix, you don’t say, What are they? You are not really Black. You know, you have light skin, but you are not really Black. You never see the different shades of White people and go, oh, you are really, really White or you got that olive skin, you are not really White. But, they look at us and they say, you are not really Indian. So, you know then they have this thing, see they are doing this thing now where they are doing genetic research. They are doing DNA testing and they can tell you to the exact what percentage of Indian is in you. There is a specific incident not too long ago where they did a brother and a sister from the same mother and the same father. One came out 25% and one came out 10%. So, either somebody is lying to somebody, or genetics will put into you what it feels like putting in you. It is what the Creator decides that you are. That is what you are.

My job sort of with the tribe is to help with the kids. I have five kids of my own. When I moved back here, the first child that I had, we named him Watjeesay, which in our language means dancer and the reason I did that was because our language was pretty much dead. Anthropologists saved it. They did recordings on bees wax cylinders of our songs. They recorded our languages. They recorded some of our ceremonies and I knew that there were elders in our tribe who had grown up being afraid to be Indian and would never want to learn their language. They would never want to hear about it. It was something that was over and done with and should not be talked about anymore. So, I named my kid Watjeesay so every time one of those people in my tribe say my son’s name, they have spoken a word of their own language. When they die, they will not leave this Earth without having spoken in their own language. That was important to me. But, at the same time, you take these documents and you have to figure out what is reality and what was kind of just left to guesswork. There is a story of a little girl who was watching her mother cook a ham and she gets two pots out and she cuts the ham in half and puts one piece in one pot and the other piece in the other pot and she puts it on the stove and she starts cooking it. The little girl says, “Mom, why do you cut that and put it in two pans?” The mother replied that she did not know and that she would have to talk to her grandmother because that is just the way that they have always done it. So, she gets on the phone and she calls her grandmother and she says, “Grandma, when we cook a ham, why is it that we cook the ham and cut it in half and put it in two different pans?” The grandmother says, “My God, is she still doing that? The only reason that I did it was that I did not have a big enough pan to cook the first one.” So, when you read the anthropologist’s versions of what we did, this man during this ceremony, he took three steps to the left. Was that important or did he have a bee in his legs or was something tearing him up? So, we have to review all this and see what is reality and what makes sense so it is not whatever these people wrote is the gospel truth. The reality is that science has a long way to go before it becomes an exact science. The specific reburial that we did at Hayes Creek is a prime example. Archaeology dug up the individuals. It was two hundred plus individuals. Do you know how many we got back to repatriate? Anybody want to guess? Half. Archaeology lost one hundred and fifty people. How exact is that? They want to save parts of us to examine for future years. Find those one hundred and fifty people and you will have plenty to examine. The sick part about it is that it is probably in somebody’s curio cabinet somewhere where someone is gathering people around and saying, “Yeah, I got this Indian skull in here.”

It goes deep politically all the way up into the Bush administration where they talk about the clubs that they went to and were part of while they were in college. They had gone down and dug up the skull of Geronimo and is hidden in their caves of the basement of this house, this particular house where they all met. I mean why is it that we are such victims of these brutal attacks and assaults?

I have kids that I have to make this a better place for? This is a tough job. We do what we can. We become individuals. I am more contemporary. I dance at pow-wows. That is my thing. I go. I dance. I sing. I tell my kids to be proud of who they are and never to let anyone tell them who they are not. I have a daughter that is eighteen and is in college down at Virginia Tech. When she graduates, she will be the first one in my family to ever graduate from college. I made it through high school. I work at NASA. I made something of myself. But, without the colleges, without the people who are die hard trying to keep us alive and telling the government, hey, these people are alive. They exist. They have always been here. The federal government recognized us a long time ago when they put these Eugenics’ laws in place. That was a Supreme Court decision. So, if they can federally recognize us to exterminate us, why can’t they federally recognize us to let us live?

The problem is casinos. They are afraid to recognize us because if we get federal recognition, we will be allowed to put a casino in the state of Virginia. We have signed over paperwork saying that we do not want a casino. We don’t want those things to happen, but they are afraid that in the future we might change our minds. How can you in this government and anybody in this world turn down a race of people for fear that they are going to open a casino? They told people in the Tidewater area that they could not be recognized because they signed treaties with the King and Queen of England in the 1600’s. You don’t exist. Well, as you can see, we are here. We are thriving. We have kept our culture. We have managed to reclaim our language. We have reclaimed our ceremonies. We are part of the contemporary world. We are part of your past. You read the Pocohontas story. Everybody saw the Pocohontas story. If it was not for us, you would not have watched that movie. So, you know we were here. As you can see, I am standing here. So what is the problem? Realize that we are human beings. We bleed the same as anybody else. We live the same as anybody else. I have the same bills as many of you have in here. I have the same debt collectors calling me too. I wish I did not exist sometimes. But, we are here in Virginia. Thomas Jefferson knew it because he dug up some of our people. He has reports of digging up mounds of our people. So, when you leave here today, know that we are still alive, know that we have struggled and know that we have overcome all the odds and that we are here to make this place a better place, not for you, but for seven of your generations too. Thank you.

Chief Kenneth Branham: I am really happy to be here today. One of my dreams in growing up wasn’t so much to go to college, because college was not something that was even in our wildest dream. It was something that maybe other people done, but was not anything that I, or any of my sisters, or any of my people would be able to accomplish, especially the ones that lived in Amherst County and surrounding areas of Lynchburg. It was just something unimaginable for us. My father was killed when I was a senior in high school on one of the farms trying to save a piece of machinery that probably was not worth one hundred dollars. It ran over him, crushed his chest and he died on the way to the hospital. I was eighteen. I became a man that day. Long before I really wanted to. My mother with a fifth grade education had went to the church school that they set up for the Indian people, the Monacan people, the same school that I went to up until the third grade. I have three younger sisters and of course I became a man. I had to. It wasn’t a question. I loved sports. I had gotten a scholarship to go to a little school in Williamsport, Pennsylvania on a wrestling scholarship. The wrestling coach at Amherst High School, John Seals, once my father passed away, he became sort of a substitute father for me. He worked around and he got this scholarship for me. I went one year, but when I came back, there was a big difference. My sisters had grown. They were in their teens, beginning to date. My mom, you know, fifth grade education, still working in the apple orchards. When it came time for me to go back, I had already made up my mind that I was not. She needed some help. One day, it was about a week before college was going to take in, she said, “Kenneth, how come you are not getting ready to go back to school?” I said, “I am not.” She just looked at me and she said, “You’re not?” I said, “No, you need help.” She just turned around and I could tell she was crying a little bit, but that was something I had to do. I was meant to stay home and help her. My dad had one dream in life and that was that all four of us would graduate from high school. Not a big dream is it? But, it was his dream. By me giving a little bit of myself, all four of us graduated from high school. My dad was there the day my last sister walked across that stage as sure as I am standing here in front of you today. You know I am very proud of that fact. We were a very close family before my father passed away, but we became even stronger and closer afterwards. So, you know he was still looking after us even in his death. I might have been able to go to college and I might have been a teacher. I always wanted to be a sports instructor or maybe a coach. But, you know what? I am happy. I seem to have always been happy doing what I needed to do. So, I think God stepped forward and made me see the things that I needed to where I did not go back to school. Now I would not sit here and tell that to any youngster not to get an education, but our life I think is already set out for us, it is just up to us to find out what we are to do with our life. I have always been involved with the Monacan people. As chief, one of the remarks was trying to pull the people together. That is a hard job sometimes. With federal recognition, it has been said that we are the only people in this country that have to prove who we are. Our ancestry goes way back before the Europeans. We can prove all the way back to the 1607 Jamestown and you know people like Jeffrey has proved we had been here hundreds, even thousands of years before.

So, I again ask what is the problem? I think Danny touched on it with the casino thing, but in our bill that is before the Senate and the House, we have a bill that is actually supported by both of our senators, seven of our Congressmen are in favor of it. We have written into this bill every state and federal law that would prohibit us from starting a casino. We don’t want the right to start a casino if you can’t do it. You know we agreed to that. But, we will never sign a piece of paper that fifty years down the road that if it is legal in Virginia, we will not do it. You know, the governor’s grandson fifty years from now could start a casino, but mine could not? Does that sound right to you all? To me, that sounds like second class citizenship all over again and that is what federal recognition is all about. You know there is so much out there for federally recognized Indians. Educational scholarships, health care, housing, low interest loans, you know there is a whole lot of things that is already set up and if we are federally recognized, I don’t think it is going to cost the Federal government one red cent more because they already have a limit on what they are going to give the Indian people anyway and whether it is two and a half million or two and a half million and one, it is not going to go up and you know we are talking about seven hundred members in the six tribes that are applying for federal recognition. Not a whole lot of people, but the benefits for those six hundred people could bring in a lot of money into the state of Virginia. You educate somebody past the high school education, the taxes that those people will pay, the money that they will make in their lifetime, the businesses that they will start, and it won’t affect me or probably Danny or Karenne in any big way, but we do have children. We have grandchildren and that is why we are pushing this. These politicians, they work for us so you know, check on your employee and tell him hey, you know you are not doing exactly what I would like for you to do since you recognized me, and if enough of you do it, he will come on line. We know that we cannot change what has already happened. We know that, but a lot of times if you don’t know what your past held for you, you can’t move forward. We can make tomorrow a much better place and that is why I hope that you will help us with this federal recognition and you know just put a bug in your congressman’s ear. Thank you for letting me be here.

 
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