Tiny Pieces of History Discovered in Yorktown
For the leaders of Virginia's eight surviving Indian tribes, the discoveries provide a validation of the role their ancestors played. It also gives them further ammunition in their quest for federal recognition.
It has been difficult for the state's tribes to achieve acceptance as bona fide tribes, and the benefits that accompany it, because so many historical records were destroyed early in the 20th century by segregationists eager to legislate racial purity. In effect, they also erased Indians from much of the state's written history.
Three Native American leaders invited to attend the copper's formal unveiling Monday alluded to their past struggles and their current ambition.
"When I was a boy, the things we're talking about today were not discussed," said Frank Richardson, the Rappahannock representative on the Virginia Council on Indians, reflecting on the way things were 50 years ago. "Back then it was, 'What Indians? There are no more Indians in the state. We don't have to worry about them.'
"This is an opportunity to help us in the Virginia Indian community connect the dots and validate that there was a cooperative relationship between the Indians and the settlers. And we are still here."
The discoveries also served as a reminder of what has been lost.
The trash heap helped pinpoint the location of the Indian village of Kiskiak for the first time. The Kiskiaks were one of 32 tribes that formed the Powhatan Nation, which made it possible for the early settlers to survive.
The tribe's name turned up prominently on maps drawn by settlers and Native Americans. Today it still appears on historical markers in the woods around Yorktown and on local apartment complexes. There is even a golf course named after the tribe.
But the markers are as much as a mile away from the actual site. And the Kiskiak Indians became refugees, pushed out by the advancing English pioneers.
"I don't know of any Kiskiak descendants still living," said Wayne Adkins, second assistant chief with the Chickahominy tribe. "Nobody identifies themselves as such."
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