Update about blog

Come on over to my other blog, Alchemy of Clay and Living in Black Mountain NC, where the scenery and my ceramic arts life are combined. I've moved some personal blog posts, (as well as those that are about my ancestors) back here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

But definitely RED blood!

I've spent most of this afternoon, when I should have been potting, since I am supposedly a potter, chasing the various Nansemond Indian relatives that I'm pretty sure I'm related to.

Not 100%.  But partly that's because the Bass family tree got skewed over towards the English nobility.  And partly I find that a certain official in Virginia was really pretty bad to the Indians.

This label on the photo is wrong, since Mr. Weaver was Pakistani, a bit of East Indian, not west!

THE SMITHSONIAN GIVES THIS INFO: This photo shows members of the Weaver and Bass families: William H. Weaver is sitting; Augustus Bass is standing behind him. The Weaver family were indentured East Indians (from modern-day India and Pakistan) who were free in Lancaster County by about 1710. By 1732 they were taxables in Norfolk County and taxable "Mulatto" landowners in nearby Hertford County, NC by 1741. By 1820 there were 164 "free colored" members of the family in Hertford County. In the 1830s some registered as Nansemond Indians in Norfolk County. (Smithsonian Institution, Nansemond Indians, ca. 1900.)

 The Nansemond Indians originally lived along the Nansemond River and were part of the empire ruled by Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas. When the English arrived, the tribe had about 300 warriors and a total perhaps of 1200 people.

They were initially wary and often hostile toward the English, but by the 1630's some had changed their minds. A family sermon book still in the Chief's possession records the 1638 marriage of John Bass, and a Nansemond convert to Christianity named Elizabeth. Everyone in today's Nansemond tribe is a descendant from that marriage. 

(The chiefs are usually named Bass.)

Christianized Nansemonds remained on the Nansemond River and became English-style farmers, though they kept hunting and fishing; the other Nansemonds warred with the English in 1644, fled southwest to the Nottoway River, and had a reservation assigned them there by the Virginia colony. By 1744 they'd left the reservation and gone to live with the Nottoway Indians on another reservation nearby; their old reservation was sold in 1792. In 1806 the last surviving Nansemond on the Nottoway Reservation died.

In the 1720's, the Christianized Nansemonds moved to an area just NE of the Dismal Swamp, where game was plentiful and English settlers fewer; some of them live there still. Their neighbors were not always tolerant of their ancestry. In the 18th Century Nansemond people had to get certificates from the Norfolk County Clerks stating that they were of mixed ancestry and loyal to the English of Virginia. In the 1830's, when Virginia enacted repressive laws against non-whites, the Nansemonds got their Delegate to have a law passed so that they could be specially certified as Indian descendants, exempt from the discriminatory laws.

An anthropologist from the Smithsonian made a census in 1901, the tribe had about 180 people; more than half lived in Norfolk and Portsmouth. In the 1920's the Nansemonds almost managed to reorganize their tribe but in the repressive time that existed then for non-whites, they failed. It was not until the post-Civil Rights Era, when other Indian groups without reservations got formal recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia, that the Nansemonds finally organized and got recognition as a tribe (in 1984). By that time, most of them had lived successfully for two or more generations in local cities as "whites with Indian ancestry"; the changeover to being "Indians with white ancestry" has not been hard.

Today the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association can be seen as a family as well as an ethnic organization, with members devoted to celebrating and continuing its unique heritage.

Note on Panaky children's photo
Unidentified Family, Bowers Hill, Virginia
Nansemond Tribe
Smithsonian Institution #870


The Virginia School system had a lesson plan that talks about racism toward Native Americans.

September 13, 1723

Indians at Nansemond Town Petitioned the Governor

"This is the perfect short document to discuss the interactions between European settlers and American Indians in colonial Virginia. A group of Virginia Indians appealed to the governor to help them as North Carolina settlers were coming over the border to survey the Indians' land with plans to build houses on it. Further, the colonists had been allowing their livestock to graze in the Indians' corn fields and were eating the Indian's crops themselves. 

The federal government has recognized more than 500 different Indian tribes from around the nation, but Virginia tribes have had a hard time securing the official acknowledgement, because an administrative decision to do so by the Bureau of Indian Affairs would require documentation that the current tribal members have a continuous line of descent from the historical tribe.

That documentation no longer exists for the Virginia tribes because of Walter Plecker, a white supremacist who was the registrar of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Statistics from 1912-1946.

Claiming that Indians had become a “mongrel race,” Plecker replaced “Indian” with “black” on all of the birth and death certificates that came through his office. His deeds ensured that no modern Indians would be able to prove their blood connections to their race.



I have more that I will share with your tomorrow.  Since I've an ounce of Nansemond blood, now they are my tribe.  I dare say I have a few ounces of other races mixed into my mongrel blood as any proud American probably does.

The Nansemond Pow Wow will be held this weekend, but I've already got commitments to do other things.  Maybe next year I can go.

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