- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 5, 2002

CHARLES CITY, Va. Amid clouds of sage and sweetgrass smoke and the throbbing of drums, Virginia's six state-recognized Indian tribes yesterday came together for their first joint powwow in at least four centuries.
More than 3,000 people attended the opening of the two-day event at the Chickahominy Tribal Center in Charles City County, far exceeding the expectations of event organizers.
"I'm overwhelmed," said Mary Wade, a member of the Monacan tribe of western Virginia and president of the Virginia Intertribal Alliance for Life. "I never dreamed there would be this many."
The event was held in part to raise funds to support the Virginia tribes' unified efforts to gain federal recognition of their sovereignty. Such recognition could bring in millions of dollars in government grants for educational and economic-development programs.
Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, introduced a bill of sovereignty last year, but it stalled in committee. The tribes hope to revive it this year, as well as have a similar bill introduced in the Senate.
Many of the non-Indians at yesterday's powwow support the tribes' efforts to gain sovereign status.
At the center of the event was a dancing circle that drew 125 participants from all over the United States. Members of the six state-recognized Virginia tribes Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Monacan, Nansemond, Rappahannock and Upper Mattaponi were joined by dancers from other Indian nations around the country, including the Oglala Lakota, Apache, Saponi and Cherokee.
Danny Garneaux, an Oglala Lakota originally from Nebraska, and Emma Kelsey, a Cherokee-Saponi, live in Norfolk and "powwow every chance we get," said Mr. Garneaux. "We heard that the six nations here in Virginia were having a unity powwow and basically celebrate being native, and we decided we had to be here."
Julia and Wesley Dickerson live in Charles City County not far from the powwow site and said it was the first time they had attended a tribal event.
"I've always wanted to come but never had the chance," said Julia Dickerson.
What made them decide to attend Saturday, said Wesley Dickerson, was reading about the tribes' "quest for recognition," he said. "I think it's very important and long overdue."
Many at the event noted the irony that Virginia's Indians were among the first to encounter European colonization but still lack federal recognition.
Miss Wade, speaking during the opening ceremony, told the crowd that "400 years is long enough," referring to the founding in 1607 of the Jamestown colony, the first permanent English colony in North America.
The powwow was held about 20 miles from the site of Jamestown.

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