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Powhatan Featherwork

We now come to what is perhaps the most interesting topic in the material life of the southern tribes, the woven feather technique. An art so ancient and so elaborate can hardly be expected to have persisted from colonial times down to the present day where the process of deculturation among the conquered tribes has gone so far. But surprising as it is, the Virginia Indians have not entirely forgotten, nor even lost, the art of weaving feathers into the foundation of textile fabrics. The antiquity of the woven-feather technique is attested by virtually all the authors of the old colonial descriptions of Indian life, while its beauty and high esthetic quality have made it the supreme textile achievement in a number of ethnic centers on the Pacific coast, in California, Mexico, and Ecuador, as well as in Polynesia. In the Gulf area the feather technique was also widely distributed. Fortunately we have a number of references to it and some details of description are recorded. After presenting the Pamunkey facts, I shall revert to the distribution of this art in the Southeast and upward along the Atlantic coast to southern New England, giving reasons for the inference that this admirable art was one of the complexes emanating from some center of dispersion in the south and drifting north along the coast. The feather art is reported in early times from most of the lower Mississippi and Gulf tribes and as far north as the Delawares of Pennsylvania and the Narragansett of Rhode Island. The facts pertaining to the Virginia survival of this much discussed art and technique are...

Powhatan Fishing Customs

The Powhatan tribes still adhere to some fishing practices worth mentioning. Until not long ago fish fences were employed. These were chiefly for sturgeon, but now this splendid fish is so scarce that whereas thirty years ago from three to six a day during July and August would be taken, now the record is three a season by six boats fishing the same period. Captain John Smith mentions 52 and 68 being taken ”at a draught.”1 The Virginia explorers noted the great abundance of sturgeon, and we may imagine that the fish contributed largely to the abundance of food of the early Indians. The method employed in the construction of the fish-pond or “bush-net” is described by several of the men at Pamunkey and Mattaponi. At the entrance of the smaller creeks, or guts, branching off from the main streams there was built a barrier of poles several feet apart driven upright into the ever-present mud at low tide when the water is out of the place. The “bush-nets” or “hedges” are well remembered by John Langston as having been worked by his father some seventy-five years ago. They were known and described among the neighboring Delawares and Nanticoke in early colonial times. The “hedges” were made low enough in some instances so that the fish could pass over their tops at high tide. Then, as the water went out on the ebb, they would be barred from returning to the river (fig. 65). In the enclosures where the water might be from six to eight feet deep the hunters could shoot the impounded fish with arrows or spear...

Pamunkey Hunting Grounds

Perhaps the most striking feature of all in the natural history of the modern Pamunkey comes before us in the survival of the controlled hunting and trapping rights: the custom by which each hunter in the band controls an assigned and definitely bounded area within which he enjoys the exclusive privilege of setting his traps for fur-bearing animals.

John D. Langston

Lt. Col., J. A. G. Dept.; of Wayne County; son of George D. and Mrs. Sallie Langston. Husband of Mrs. Mary W. Langston. Entered service Dec. 4, 1917, at Goldsboro, N.C. Sent to Raleigh, N.C. Appointed member of Dist. Board for Eastern District of N.C. July 27, 1917. Elected chairman of board. Was commissioned as major, Officers Reserve Corps, Dec. 4, 1917, and ordered to report to the Governor of N.C. as special aide in the administration of the draft. Took active charge of the State Draft and served in that capacity until Sept. 5, 1918. Was transferred to the Provost Marshal General’s Department, Washington, D. C., Sept. 5, 1918. Appointed chief of the Classification and Deserter Division Jan. 2, 1919. Was transferred to the Judge Advocate General Department, Washington, D. C., March 15, 1919. Appointed chief of the Clemency Division in July, 1919. Promoted to Lt. Col. Aug. 8, 1919, and honorably discharged upon application, Sept. 26,...

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