Topic: Pamunkey

Present Home of Pamunkey Indians

The Pamunkey Indians of today live at what is known as “Indian-town” which is situated on and comprises the whole of a curiously-shaped neck of land, extending into Pamunkey River and adjoining King William County, Virginia, on the south. The “town,” as it is somewhat improperly called, forms a very small part of their original territory. It is almost entirely surrounded by water, being connected with the mainland by a narrow strip of land. The peculiar protection which is afforded in time of war by its natural position in all probability accounts for the presence of these Indians in this particular spot; and, indeed, I doubt not that to this advantageous situation is due their very existence. Indian town is about 21 miles east of Richmond, immediately on the line of the York River division of the Richmond and Danville railroad. It consists of about 800 acres, 250 of which are arable land, the remaining portion being woodland and low, marshy ground. This tract was secured to the Pamunkey Indians by act of the colonial assembly and they are restrained from alienating the same. From a census taken by the writer in 1893 there were found to be 90 Indians then actually present on the reservation. There are, however, about 20 others who spend a part of the year in service in the city or on some of the...

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How the Pamunkey Indians Live

The Pamunkey Indians make their living for the most part in true aboriginal style. Their chief occupations are hunting and fishing and although they do not neglect their truck patches they cherish a hearty dislike for manual labor and frequently hire negroes to come in and work their little farms. The deer the raccoon the otter the musk-rat and the mink are captured on the reservation. As many as sixteen deer have been killed in this small area in one season. The skins of all these animals are a good source of income and the flesh except of the mink and otter is used for food. Perch herring bass chub rock shad and sturgeon are caught in large numbers by means of seines. Sora (reedbirds) wild geese ducks and turkeys are abundant. In the autumn sora are found in the marshes in great numbers and the Indian method of capturing them is most interesting: They have what they strangely call a “sora horse” strongly resembling a peach basket in size and shape and made of strips of iron though they were formerly molded out of clay. The “horse” is mounted on a pole which is stuck in the marsh or placed upright in a foot-boat. A fire is then kindled in the “horse.” The light attracts the sora and they fly around it in large numbers while the Indians...

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Art of the Pamunkey Indians

In 1891 the writer was sent by the Smithsonian Institution to visit the Pamunkey Indians and make a collection of specimens of their arts. Few articles could be found which were distinctively Indian productions. Of their aboriginal arts none are now retained by them except that of making earthenware and “dug-out” canoes. Until recent years they engaged quite extensively in the making- of pottery which they sold to their white neighbors but since earthen ware has become so cheap they have abandoned its manufacture so that now only the oldest of the tribe retain the art and even these cannot be said to be skillful. The clay used is of a dirty white color and is found about 6 feet beneath the surface. It is taken from the Potomac formation of the geologic series which yields valuable pottery clays at different localities in Virginia and Maryland and particularly in New Jersey. Mr. Terrill Bradby one of the best informed members of the tribe furnished in substance the following account of the processes followed and the materials used in the manufacture of this pottery. In former times the opening of a clay mine was a great feast day with the Pamunkey. The whole tribe men women and children were present and each family took home a share of the clay. The first steps in preparing the clay are to dry...

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Characteristics of Pamunkey Indians

No member of the Pamunkey tribe is of full Indian blood. While the copper- colored skin and the straight, coarse hair of the aboriginal American show decidedly in some individuals, there are others whose Indian origin would not be detected by the ordinary observer. There has been considerable intermixture of white blood in the tribe, and not a little of that of the Negro, though the laws of the tribe now strictly prohibit marriage to persons of African descent. No one who visits the Pamunkey could fail to notice their race pride. Though they would probably acknowledge the whites as their equals, they consider the blacks far beneath their social level. Their feeling toward the Negro is well illustrated by their recent indignant refusal to accept a colored teacher, who was sent them by the superintendent of public instruction to conduct the free school which the State furnishes them. They are exceedingly anxious to keep their blood free from further intermixture with that of other races, and how to accomplish this purpose is a serious problem with them, as there are few members of the tribe who are not closely related to every other person on the reservation. To obviate this difficulty the chief and councilmen have been attempting to devise a plan by which they can induce immigration from the Cherokee Indians of North Carolina. The Indian blood...

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Black-Indian History

The first black slaves were introduced into the New World (1501-03) ostensibly to labor in the place of the Indians, who showed themselves ill-suited to enforced tasks and moreover were being exterminated in the Spanish colonies. The Indian-black inter-mixture has proceeded on a larger scale in South America, but not a little has also taken place in various parts of the northern continent. Wood (New England’s Prospect, 77, 1634) tells how some Indians of Massachusetts in 1633, coming across a black in the top of a tree were frightened, surmising that; ‘he was Abamacho, or the devil.” Nevertheless, inter-mixture of Indians and blacks has occurred in New England. About the middle of the 18th century the Indians of Martha’s Vineyard began to intermarry with blacks, the result being that “the mixed race increased in numbers and improved in temperance and industry.” A like inter-mixture with similar a results is reported about the same time from parts of Cape Cod. Among the Mashpee in 1802 very few pure Indians were left, there being a number of mulattoes 1Mass Hist. Soc. Coll., r, 206; iv, 206; ibid., 2d s., iii, 4; cf. Prince in Am. Anthrop., ix, no. 3, 1907. Robert Rantoul in 1833 2Hist. Coll. Essex Inst., xxiv, 81 states that “the Indians are said to be improved by the mixture.” In 1890, W. H. Clark 3Johns Hopk. Univ. Circ.,...

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True Relations – Adventure of the Country

Here the river became narrower at eight, nine or ten feet at a high water, and six or seven at a low. The stream exceeding swift and the bottom hard channel. The ground on the most part was a low plain with sandy soil, this occasioned me to think it might come from some lake or some broad ford, for it could be far to the head. But rather then endanger the barge, yet to have been able to resolve this doubt and to discharge of the imputation of malicious tongues, that I half suspected I was not in so long delaying, and some of the company as serious as my self, we resolved to hire a canoe now, and return with the barge secured and put our selves upon the adventure of the Country. It being a vast and wild wilderness, and but only at that town within three or four miles where we hired a canoe and two Indians to row us the next day a fowling. Having made such provision for the barge as was needed, I left her there to ride, with express charge not any to go ashore until my return. Though some wise men may condemn this bold attempt of too much indiscretion. Yet if they well consider the friend ship of the Indians in conducting me, the dissoluteness of the Country and...

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