Browse Exhibits (6 total)

By Our Own Hands: Virginia Indian Artists

This exhibit revolves around a series of interviews conducted in 2006 with various Virginia Indian artists and performers, most of whom later participated in the Smithsonian Museum's National Folklife Festival in Washington, DC, in 2007.

Among the Virginia Indian tribes, several traditional cultural forms are still practiced, and new traditions have developed as well.  A few artists make their living solely from their art; generally speaking, however, these practices are a part-time endeavor.  Tribal artists are involved in beadwork, leather crafting, wood carving, pottery, and basket weaving.  Tribal dancing has continued as a tradition, and the Virginia Indians practice not only their own traditional dances, such as the Green Corn Dance and the Canoe Dance, but they also participate in intertribal contemporary powwow dancing as well.

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Frank G. Speck's Photographs, 1914-1942

A student of noted anthropologist Franz Boas, Frank G. Speck taught at the University of Pennsylvania, where he specialized in the Algonquian and Iroquoian cultures of the northeast United States and Canada.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Speck visited Virginia tribes several times and wrote that his work there "carries me into the closest intimacy with every aspect of their life. Collections of several hundred ethnological specimens were made for the Museum [of the American Indian in New York] during this time, and photographs of the people and their activities were obtained." Many of the objects he collected are now housed at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Speck was born in Brooklyn, New York, but was a sickly child and was sent at the age of seven to live with his parents' friend, Fidelia Fielding, in Mohegan, Connecticut. She was an American Indian and the last speaker of her Algonquian language, Mohegan Pequot. From her, Speck acquired a lifelong interest in American Indians and their languages. Later he sponsored American Indian students at the University of Pennsylvania including Gladys Tantaquidgeon, a Mohegan woman. During his fieldwork with the Iroquois, he was adopted by the Seneca Nation into the Turtle Clan. Speck maintained respectful relationships with tribes from Canada to the southeastern United States.

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Jackson Davis's Photographs of Virginia Indians, 1914

Henry Jackson Davis was an educator by trade. He served as principal of public schools in Williamsburg and Marion and as superintendent of public schools in Henrico County. From 1910 until 1915 he served as State Agent for Negro Rural Schools, which required him to travel around the state inspecting—and documenting—the conditions of minority schools, including the schools for Virginia Indians.

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Reporters and Mythmakers: Depicting Virginia Indians

John White was an English artist who in 1585 accompanied a failed colonizing expedition to Roanoke Island in present-day North Carolina and who, in 1587, served as governor of a second failed expedition, which came to be known as the Lost Colony. As an artist attached to the first group of colonists, White produced watercolor portraits of Virginia Indians and scenes of their lives and activities.

A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia, by Thomas Hariot, was the first book about North America to be produced by an Englishman who had actually visited the continent. Many of White's paintings were published, sometimes in altered form, by Theodor de Bry as etchings in Hariot's illustrated edition.

This exhibit demonstrates some ways in which primary sources that depict Virginia Indians were altered or manipulated to suit European tastes and purposes. Those sources remain important in helping us to understand the lives of Virginia Indians and how they were seen by Europeans.

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First Peoples of Virginia

This exhibit provides an historical and archaeological overview of Virginia's first peoples from earliest times until the Late Woodland era , the point of contact with English colonists in 1607. It also describes the three linguistic and cultural groups found in Virginia by the Woodland period.

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American Indian Education in Virginia

For thousands of years, indigenous peoples in the Americas educated their children by example and used stories to transmit knowledge and social values.  When the English arrived at Jamestown in 1607, they assumed that their own cultural practices and religious beliefs were superior to those of Native peoples, and they believed it their duty to educate Indians according to English traditions and to instruct them in the Christian faith. In so doing, they hoped to create Indian teachers and missionaries who would work among their own people to eliminate “savage behavior” and replace it with English attitudes.

The first institute for Indians in Virginia was the Brafferton School at the College of William and Mary. It was followed a century later by an American Indian program at the Hampton Normal School.  Both programs required the Indian students to relocate far from home, and neither program incorporated Native perspectives into its policies or curricula.

During the 20th century, many Virginia Indian students attended primary schools that were operated by church missions established in their local areas. Because secondary schools for Indians did not exist in Virginia, many students attended federal Indian boarding schools as far away as Bacone Indian University in Oklahoma. When schools across the country were desegregated in the 1960s, Virginia Indians entered public schools and gained access to higher education.

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