Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Visit to the Upper Mattaponi tribal land

Last Monday my Senior Seminar class at VCU and I piled into a few cars and drove out to the tribal lands of the Upper Mattaponi Tribe of Virginia. I drove up with Kareen Wood, director of the Virginia Indian Heritage Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. During the 45 minute drive (x2 for the carload that got lost but eventually found their way) Kareen spoke with me about the issues of ownership, and how the conflict between the native Americans and the Colonists created a deep clash that continues today. The Upper Mattaponi own their land outright, unlike a reservation where the land is "managed" by the resident tribe but owned by the US government. We met with Chief Ken Adams in the parking lot, where a weathered hand-painted sign marked the Sharon Indian School, Home of the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe, est. 1919. Most carloads of students flew right past the gravel parking lot beside the small brick building. In fact, that signage and the Baptist church next door fit in neatly with the surrounding material culture: this might have been just another few buildings on the side of a busy rural highway ---which, in fact, they were. More about this later...

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