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    Date: Thu, 25 Nov 1999 03:23:25 -0800
    From: "Victor Rocha" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Subject: Tribes honor 350-year-old treaty

Tribes honor 350-year-old treaty

By Stephen Dinan

t took 15 "braves" armed with shotguns and a handful of hunting beagles to
bag one small buck -- but that kill and the delivery of the carcass to the
governor's office means the Pamunkey Indians kept up their end of a treaty
obligation with Virginia that dates back to 1646.
      The Mattaponi tribe also delivered their yearly tribute in lieu of
taxes to Gov. James S. Gilmore III, plunking down 20 beaver pelts on the
South Portico of the state capitol.
      The event is mostly ceremonial, but the treaty, which ended the running
battles between the settlers and natives in early colonial days, is on the
books and must be observed. It also has some substance -- it guarantees the
tribes' sovereignty and establishes a government-to-government relationship
with the state.
      That's why the tribes try so hard to bag at least one deer for tribute.
      Pamunkey Chief William P. "Swift Water" Miles recalled the time when
his father was chief and they had to stretch a bit to make it.
      "One year we didn't get a deer. [My father] went out to a turkey farm,
brought a live deer here and killed it here so we could say we killed it on
the reservation," he said.
      On the Monday before Thanksgiving every year, men from the tribe, and a
few invited white men, scour the 1,200-acre reservation for a deer.
      They almost didn't make it this year, either. Mr. Miles said he does
not know where the turkey farm is, so he began to worry when Monday came and
went with no kill.
      So 15 men, at least half of them tribe members, took Tuesday off from
work and gathered at the Pamunkey River at 7 a.m. to finish the hunt.
      By 10 a.m. the dogs had scoured the woods near the river, to no avail.
      That's when Mr. Miles began to really worry.
      But others found humor in it --especially at the expense of the
non-tribe members who had been invited onto the reservation to hunt.
      "Great white hunter let tribe down," joked one tribe member at the
expense of the whites allowed to hunt with the tribe.
      Then the men surrounded a 3-acre wooded area behind the tribe museum,
and set the dogs loose again. About 30 minutes later, three shotgun blasts
rang out.
      After a brief search of the woods, they found the young buck shot by a
tribe member. The deer had bolted after being hit and just lay against a
tree to die.
      The chief breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't the biggest deer, but it
fulfilled the obligation.
      The original 1646 treaty, replaced in 1677 by a similar one that still
governs, called for each tribe to turn over 20 beaver pelts.
      In the 1700s, beaver became scarce, and the treaty was amended in
principle to allow for the three F's: fins, feathers and fur, or fish,
turkeys, beavers or deer.
      In recent years, even though beaver is more plentiful again, the tribes
usually each bring a buck, as well as some handmade crafts, to meet their
      But this year the Mattaponi brought 20 beaver pelts, trapped in the
creek that flows through the reservation, as a message.
      The Mattaponi are fighting to block a proposed King William County
reservoir. The Indians say the reservoir would violate a 3-mile boundary
around their reservation along the Mattaponi River. They say the boundaries
date to the 1600s, when their ancestors agreed to a treaty with
representatives of the king of England.
      Mark Custalow, a member of the tribe, said the decision to go with
beaver, as the original treaty called for, shows the Mattaponi meet their
      Mr. Miles said there's no real competition between the tribes to bring
in the bigger buck -- "We're just happy to get one," he said.
      Mr. Gilmore said the ceremony has a special meaning for the state.
      "Today we celebrate who we are as Virginians and as Virginia Indians,
and we renew that which binds us together as neighbors and as friends," Mr.
Gilmore said as he received the tributes yesterday.
      The Mattaponi and Pamunkey reservations, in King William County about a
2-1/2-hour drive from Washington, D.C., are the nation's oldest. The General
Assembly founded the reservations in 1658.
      The reservations are a popular destination during the Thanksgiving
season, but Mr. Miles said he turns down many requests to speak before
groups this time of year, because it seems inappropriate for him to help
celebrate a settler's holiday.
      He said visitors to the reservation are often surprised, and maybe a
little disappointed, when they see how the Indians live.
      "You can see it in their eyes --they're looking for the teepees, and
they see regular homes instead," he said. "We live in regular houses like
they do, have jobs, go to church, celebrate Christmas."
      It's conceivable the governor could reject the tribute as not enough,
but that's never happened.
      "I've never thought about that," said Mr. Miles.
      This year's buck might have made the governor think twice. The
adolescent was so young that its two tiny antlers, each about 2 inches long,
stuck out of its head like devil's horns.
      Sue Miles, the chief's wife, said on the way to Richmond yesterday they
passed a road-kill deer bigger than the buck they shot as tribute. She tried
to get her husband to stop and pick that one up but he wouldn't, she said.

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           Tsonkwadiyonrat (We are ONE Spirit)

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