Va. Indian Delegation Heads to England

By MATTHEW BARAKAT
The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 12, 2006; 8:42 PM

WASHINGTON -- Nearly 400 years after Indian princess Pocahontas traveled to England as part of a public relations tour to promote the New World, a delegation of Virginia Indians departed for London on Wednesday to renew ties with the British.

The trip is part of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the English landing in Jamestown, Va., in 1607 _ the first permanent English settlement in America.

Tribal chiefs said they hope the visit by about 60 Indians from eight tribes will not only promote the Jamestown 2007 commemoration but also help educate the English about contemporary Indian life.

Stephen Adkins, chief of the Chickahominy tribe, said he views the anniversary as a celebration despite the hardship that followed for Indians after the English arrived.

"People often ask me, 'How can you participate in celebrating something that heralded the demise of 90 percent of your people by the end of the 17th century?'" Adkins said.

He responds that the Jamestown settlement never would have survived without the help of the Algonquian Indians, who greeted the settlers _ initially on friendly terms _ and therefore played a major role in the historical development of the United States.

"From these embryonic beginnings in Jamestown, we see a democracy that has no equal," Adkins said.

The delegation will participate in a commemorative service Sunday at St. George's Church, where Pocahontas was buried.

Pocahontas, daughter of Algonquian chief Powhatan, and Englishman John Rolfe married in 1614 after Pocahontas converted to Christianity and was renamed Rebecca. The marriage helped ease tense relations between the English and the Algonquians, and in 1616 Pocahontas traveled to England with her husband as part of a plan to promote and raise funds for the New World settlement. She died the next year at the age of 22.

On Wednesday, some members of the delegation were decked out in traditional tribal regalia, while others were dressed in T-shirts and shorts.

Joseph Howard, an Eastern Chickahominy 18-year-old who plays drums during ceremonies and rituals, was taken aback when some teenage girls saw the group's departure ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian and asked to have their picture taken with him afterward.

Asked if the trip to England will provide similar opportunities for such personal diplomacy, Howard responded, "I surely hope so."


© 2006 The Associated Press