Virginia Indians travel to England to honor Pocahontas

GRAVESEND, England – Americans Indians from Virginia traveled to the burial place of Pocahontas on Friday as part of celebrations marking next year’s 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the oldest English settlement in the New World.

A 50-member delegation attended a private ceremony to honor their fabled ancestor, who acted as an ambassador between British settlers and her Algonquin kinsmen in the early 17th century.

“We’re here to acknowledge the fact that the people of England have protected the remains of Pocahontas. They have honored her memory, and I think they’ve just done due diligence,” said Chief Stephen Adkins of the Chickahominy tribe.

The moment was tinged with sadness for Adkins, who noted that when the first English settlers landed in 1607, there were 35 to 40 Virginia woodland tribes. “There are now eight,” he said.

The visit was part of a series of events on both sides of the Atlantic to mark the anniversary of Jamestown’s settlement in 1607. The Virginia Indians reveled in the chance to do the journey in reverse – from the New World to the old one – and to show off the finer points of their culture.

Amid blustery summer winds, spectators lined up along the manicured hedges of an Elizabethan manor lawn to watch as nine men from the delegation, most swathed in fringed buckskin tunics, turkey feather bustles and deerhide pelts, circled around a drum, pounding in unison and singing the names of the tribes.

The rest of the delegation formed pairs, following the drumbeat as they marched and danced around a fountain in the garden, the ritual a colorful focal point of a welcome ceremony in the southeastern English town of Gravesend.

Lord Watson of Richmond, the co-chairman of the Jamestown 2007 British committee, stressed the longtime ties between the two groups as he spoke after the dance.

The tribesmen presented local representatives with gifts from their home state, including a traditional Pamonkey clay pot and a large bundle of dried tobacco leaves, the cash crop of Virginia that attracted English investors.

“It is tradition that when you go to visit an elder or a dignitary, you respect them by bringing tobacco, one of the four sacred herbs,” said Kevin Smith, a member of the Nansemond tribe. “It is only fitting that since we have been welcomed by this country, that we respect and honor them in the same way.”

Members of the delegation also enjoyed traditional English summertime food.

Rappahannock tribesman Jacob Fortune-Deuber, 15, sat in one of the manor’s libraries in a rigid 17th-century Windsor chair in his full feather-and-deerskin regalia, eating strawberries and cream from a silver bowl.

“This is a chance for all the tribes to get together – we haven’t been together in a long time,” Fortune-Deuber said.

Pocahontas is known for saving New World explorer Capt. John Smith from execution in 1607, and legend has it that the two became lovers. About five years later, she was kidnapped by the English to be used as a pawn in dealings with her father, Powhatan, chief of the Algonquin Nation.

Pocahontas converted to Christianity in 1613 and married tobacco planter John Rolfe. The couple sailed for England in 1616, but Pocahontas became ill and died of an undetermined illness the next year.

Though historians know little about her, fictionalized accounts of her life have appeared in art and media for centuries, most recently in a 1995 animated Disney musical and a live-action historical thriller, “The New World,” which was released in January.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Cars move across Edgewater Bridge toward Everett on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023, in Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edgewater Bridge redo linking Everett, Mukilteo delayed until mid-2024

The project, now with an estimated cost of $27 million, will detour West Mukilteo Boulevard foot and car traffic for a year.

Lynn Deeken, the Dean of Arts, Learning Resources & Pathways at EvCC, addresses a large gathering during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Cascade Learning Center on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at Everett Community College in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New EvCC learning resource center opens to students, public

Planners of the Everett Community College building hope it will encourage students to use on-campus tutoring resources.

Everett Police Chief Dan Templeman announces his retirement after 31 years of service at the Everett City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett police chief to retire at the end of October

Chief Dan Templeman announced his retirement at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. He has been chief for nine years.

Boeing employees watch the KC-46 Pegasus delivery event  from the air stairs at Boeing on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Boeing’s iconic Everett factory tour to resume in October

After a three-year hiatus, tours of the Boeing Company’s enormous jet assembly plant are back at Paine Field.

A memorial for a 15-year-old shot and killed last week is set up at a bus stop along Harrison Road on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Teen boy identified in fatal shooting at Everett bus stop

Bryan Tamayo-Franco, 15, was shot at a Hardeson Road bus stop earlier this month. Police arrested two suspects.

Car crashes into Everett apartment, displacing residents

No one was injured in the crash late Friday, according to Everett police.

Mike Bredstrand, who is trying to get back his job with Lake Stevens Public Works, stands in front of the department’s building on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Bredstrand believes his firing in July was an unwarranted act of revenge by the city. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lake Stevens worker was fired after getting court order against boss

The city has reportedly spent nearly $60,000 on attorney and arbitration fees related to Mike Bredstrand, who wants his job back.

Chap Grubb, founder and CEO of second-hand outdoor gear store Rerouted, stands inside his new storefront on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Gold Bar, Washington. Rerouted began as an entirely online shop that connected buyers and sellers of used gear.  (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Used outdoor gear shop Rerouted finds a niche in Gold Bar

Seeking to keep good outdoor gear out of landfills, an online reselling business has put down roots in Gold Bar.

Naval Station Everett. (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Everett man sentenced to 6 years for cyberstalking ex-wife

Christopher Crawford, 42, was found guilty of sending intimate photos of his ex-wife to adult websites and to colleagues in the Navy.

Most Read