This past Saturday, January 27th, all four cohorts of the GAFs visited the Pamunkey Indian reservation in central Virginia. We toured their museum, which displayed both ancient and recent pieces of “black ware” pottery, their beautiful beaded chieftain vests, and their impressive collection of arrowheads and spear points. After walking through the displays of their history, we wandered around the reservation with a guide, who showed us their fish hatchery, their old one-room schoolhouse, and their pottery-making location. As we wandered, we quizzed our guide about tribal life, learning that the children went to public school, that their holidays were similar to those outside of the reservation, and that 75 people lived on the reservation. Coming in with many preconceived notions about Pamunkey Indian lifestyle, we were surprised by the level of assimilation and normalcy that existed. They have a ruling tribal council that acts as the law of their land (one of whose members we were able to meet), which determines rules like land plot assignments. The Pamunkey tribe has just been federally recognized, acting almost like a separate nation that has a treaty with the U.S. government, and they may put their land in trust with the federal government so only federal police can enforce laws. Afterward our tour around the reservation, we took a detour to visit the alleged Powhatan gravesite and debriefed on our experiences of the day, discussing our views of the tribe and how they had deviated a bit from their ancient tribal ways, though temporary revivals have occurred and the stories and legends remain alive. For example, the tribal council member told us many stories about her mother and had personal connections with items in the museum. Finally, we finished off the day with a late lunch and a series of on-bus bonding exercises involving mind games and riddles, like the “Wombat Game” and the “Ball Game”.
~Brammy Rajakumar (’19)