- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 9, 2006

RICHMOND — The first important group of travelers from England arrived on Virginia’s shores 400 years ago with visions of wealth and success.

On Wednesday, a delegation of Virginia Indian chiefs will journey to England, this time to raise awareness of their tribes and make peace with their ancestors’ conquerors.

“This gate … was opened up when the British came,” Upper Mattaponi Chief Kenneth Adams says. “This reconciliation, this 400-year journey that we’ve been on, is sort of a closing of that circle.”

Mr. Adams and other representatives of Virginia’s eight recognized tribes will spend a week touring England and discussing their history and culture as part of the 18-month commemoration of Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in what became the United States.

For England’s “Jamestown 2007” organizers, the trip is a chance to revive social and economic links between Virginia and Kent County, where the trip is centered.

For Indians, it’s a first step toward healing scars of violence and betrayal formed long ago.

Roughly 60 chiefs and tribal members will make the trip, the first by an official Virginia Indian delegation to England in more than 250 years.

Jamestown 2007 organizers in England invited the group to build on their historic relationship, says Alex King, chairman of the Jamestown UK Foundation.

For instance, the Fairfax family, which founded the land that is now Fairfax County, hailed from the southeast England region where Kent County is located, he says. Virginia Indian princess Pocahontas is buried in that region, too.

“When we established those historic connections, we saw the opportunity to work together,” Mr. King says.

Edinburth House, an English firm that restores historic sites, is providing most of the $175,000 for the trip, with private funds rounding out the costs, he says.

Indian leaders will visit Parliament and spend two days lecturing on tribal history to students in 16 grade schools and at the University of Kent, Mr. Adams says.

“The main thing I think we’re interested in is that [they know] the Virginia Indians still exist,” says Wayne Adkins, assistant chief of the Chickahominy tribe. “The way the history is written, it sounded like the Indians in Virginia disappeared around the mid-1700s.”

Englishmen arriving in Virginia in 1607 were greeted by Indians of the Powhatan Nation, a confederation of coastal Virginia tribes headed by the powerful Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas’ father.

Representing one of the most complex Indian societies in North America at that time, Powhatan’s “nation” encompassed more than 6,000 square miles. At one time, there were as many as 20,000 Virginia Indians, says Helen Rountree, an anthropology expert helping authenticate Jamestown 2007.

About 17,613 Indians currently live in the state, according to the U.S. Census.

Six tribes have spent years fighting for federal recognition, which could entitle them to financial aid. Mrs. Rountree says she thinks the trip could help.

“When a government within a foreign country invites your tribes to come specifically to a ceremony that honors you … the result should be obvious,” she says. “They are being taken extremely seriously.”

The Indian leaders say one of the most important aspects of the trip is getting the opportunity to confront the complex emotions surrounding their history — pride in their ancestors’ role in keeping the Jamestown colony afloat, mixed with anger and sorrow at their eventual defeat at the hands of the English.

In England, they will conduct a private church service in Gravesend, site of Pocahontas’ grave. They also will participate in a two-day festival — named “the Big Day Out” — at the grave site of the Indian heroine who aided English explorers.

Pocahontas married an Englishman, John Rolfe, and died while sailing on a return trip to Virginia.

“When we come together where Pocahontas has been laid to rest,” Mr. Adams says, his voice choking with emotion, “I’m convinced that there will be tears of joy and some sorrow.”

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