Note: The following information is taken with permission from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources Web pages entitled, "First People: The Early Indians of Virginia" at http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/arch_NET/timeline/time_line.htm. The information from the Web pages is taken from the book First People: The Early Indians of Virginia, produced by the Department of Historic Resources, and published by the University Press of Virginia.
In the early 1900s, groups of Virginia Indians reorganized into tribes. The move by Indian descendants to form tribes was seen as a threat by some people who wanted to keep the white race "pure." Led by Dr. Walter A. Plecker, a group called the Anglo-Saxon Club of America prevailed upon the General Assembly to pass the Racial Integrity Law in 1924. According to this law, in matters of births, marriages, and deaths, the Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics recognized only two races -- white and black. Recent newspaper accounts and books by historians hold that Dr. Plecker, as registrar of the Bureau of Vital Statistics from 1912 to 1946, waged a one-man war against Virginia's Indians. United States Census figures in 1930 showed 779 Native Americans living in Virginia; by 1940, the figure dropped to 198. In effect, people of Indian descent did not exist.
After 1924, the Indians of Virginia legally could not attend white schools or marry whites. They had to wed in churches outside the state to be recorded as Indian. They lost the means to document through state and county records Virginia Indian populations, movements of families, or family ties. Lloyd John, a Monacan, tells how the effects of the Racial Integrity Law of 1924 remain today: "I looked up my family records and found that my grandparents were labeled first white, then Indian, then Indian mix. Very strange progression! I wondered why the change. Even brothers and sisters were labeled differently. Seems like someone wanted to do away with the Indians." Today, some Indians bitterly remember this period when their cultural identity was nearly smothered.
Since the Indians were not accepted into white or black churches and schools, they opened their own. However, Indian schools in Virginia did not go beyond seventh grade until the late 1950s. To finish high school, young reservation Indian students were sent to schools outside of Virginia. At the college level, no efforts were made to include Indian students in the racially mixed Hampton Institute. Still, the Virginia Indians were motivated to succeed. By the 1950s, the reservations were producing radio announcers and accountants. The requirement for school integration during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s removed the need for Virginia Indian students to leave the state to further their education.
The Civil Rights movement promoted opportunities for education and employment for the Indians as well as other minorities. After the movement was actively in force, doors opened for the more rapid advancement of Indian people into all professional levels of society. In the last 100 years, the Virginia Indian people have entered fully into the social and economic life of the Commonwealth.
Many activities among Virginia's Indians continue to build a strong sense of identity among the tribes. Tribal centers have emerged as symbols of unity, similar to the role played earlier by Indian schools and churches. Tribal dance groups are commonly seen at the increasingly popular tribal Pow Wows, which enable Virginia Indian tribes to meet with the public and demonstrate crafts, dances, and share oral histories.
The United Indians of Virginia (UIV) was formed in 1988 when member tribes consolidated efforts to address educational issues affecting Native Americans in the Commonwealth. The Tribes' newfound power as a unified voice became the primary reason for establishing the UIV. "Unity," it was said, "will give our people the strength to solve many of the diverse problems common to all Virginia Tribes."
The UIV mission is devoted to improving the general welfare and cultural survival of its Member Tribes by providing a forum for communication among the Tribes making possible a coordinated, unified approach to problem solving. A primary effort of the UIV is to maintain a scholarship fund for young adults. Other goals include coordinating cultural events and economic and social development efforts.
In 1982, the General Assembly created a subcommittee consisting of eleven members to undertake a comprehensive study of the historic dealings and relationship between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Virginia Indian Tribes. The joint subcommittee report resulted in the formation of the "Commission on Indians". The Commission was later changed to the Virginia Council on Indians. The Virginia Council on Indians is an advisory board to the Governor and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Council's duties include studies and research regarding the Indian Tribes in the Commonwealth, and making recommendations to the Commonwealth on issues regarding Virginia Indians. The Virginia Council on Indians submits to the Governor and the General Assembly an annual executive summary of its interim activity no later than the first day of each regular session of the General Assembly. Findings and recommendations of the Council are submitted to the Governor and the General Assembly 60 days prior to the convening of the session of the General Assembly held in each even numbered year. The Council is affiliated with the Secretary of Natural Resources and is currently comprised of 16 members, appointed by the Governor.
At the same time that Virginia Indians' self-images are changing, the popular view of them is shifting, too. More people recognize that the world has inherited from the Indians a legacy of many valuable foods and words. Corn, one of the world's most precious foods, is one of their gifts. They also cultivated squash, beans, and tobacco. The names of many Virginia counties, cities, towns, and roads are Indian names. Common words, including moccasin, raccoon, hickory, moose, chipmunk, and skunk are Virginia Indian words.
Today there are eight tribes in Virginia and two small reservations. There are 5,000 people on the tribal registers, and the census figures show another 45,000 people of Indian ancestry living across Virginia. Two tribes, the Pamunkey and the Mattaponi, have small reservations in King William County. Their state reservations date from the 1600s. Six other incorporated groups are officially recognized as Indian tribes by the Commonwealth of Virginia. They are the: Chickahominy Indian Tribe in Charles City County; Chickahominy Indian Tribe -- Eastern Division in New Kent County; Monacan Indian Tribe in Amherst County; Nansemond Indian Tribal Association in the City of Chesapeake; Rappahannock Indian Tribe in Essex, Caroline, and King & Queen Counties; and the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe in King William County. These six tribes are also seeking federal recognition.