- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

American Indians from eight Virginia tribes, dressed in traditional costumes of beads and feathers, gathered on the Mall yesterday to perform a ceremonial dance to celebrate a journey awaited for centuries.

A 68-member delegation of chiefs and other members of the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Monacan Indian Nation, Nansemond, Pamunkey, Rappahannock and Upper Mattaponi tribes departed last night from Washington Dulles International Airport for the first official visit of Virginia Indians to England in more than 230 years.

“This really is an historic occasion,” Stephen Adkins, chief of the Chickahominy tribe, said outside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. “We are completing a circle between Virginia Indians and the British people that was breached many years ago. … We are celebrating that we have survived 400 years and that we can tell [them] our own story.”

The journey, part of the 400th anniversary commemoration of the Jamestown Settlement, is sponsored by the Jamestown 2007 British Commission.

The chiefs will be greeted as heads of state in England, which signed peace treaties with American Indians in the 17th century.

The tribes will perform dances for the British dignitaries, starting with a “Blessing of the Ground” that will include a sprinkling of sacred tobacco.

The delegation will spend much of the week in the town of Gravesend, where in 1606 English crews boarded the three ships that sailed for Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America. Gravesend is also the site where Pocahontas, one of the first American Indians to travel to England, died and was buried.

Ken Adams, chief of the Upper Mattaponi tribe, visited St. George’s Church in Gravesend, Pocahontas’ grave site, during a planning trip last year.

“That was really such a special moment and kind of triggered a healing process for me,” he said. “For 400 years, the British have honored Pocahontas and taken care of her body.”

Pocahontas is legendary for saving Capt. John Smith from execution by throwing her body on top of his. Local tribes helped the Jamestown settlers by giving them food to keep them from starving. Pocahontas later married John Rolfe, converted to Christianity and had a son named Thomas.

While in England, the tribal members will tour Parliament, meet a representative of Queen Elizabeth, participate in a two-day cultural festival and speak at a symposium at Keynes College at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

About one-third will be staying with English host families instead of in hotels in an effort share their culture.

One member will keep a Web log (www.nativelaw.blogspot.com) of the trip’s events.

George Whitewolf, assistant chief of the Monacan Nation, said he hopes to bring a better understanding of American Indians to Europeans.

“They know a lot about us, but they think we lived a long time ago,” he said. “We dress a lot like normal people and work normal jobs.”

The departure ceremony was attended by Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, and Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, who introduced legislation in the Senate and House that would grant the Virginia tribes federal recognition.

“Hopefully, this trip will change some things and open up some eyes here,” said Kenneth Branham, chief of the Monocan Nation in Amherst County near Lynchburg.

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