Do you have ‘reservations’?


On my last day in Richmond, my wife and I, and in-laws visited the Pamunkey Indian reservation. My wife Amy is 1/4 Pamunkey Indian, and her mom is 1/2, but they hadn’t been out to the reservation in some time. When we arrived at the Pamunkey museum, my mother-in-law began chatting with the ladies running it. They both knew of her mother and aunt, who at one time lived on the reservation. As we began to talk to these ladies, I was saddened over a number of actions taken against the native Americans.

My mother-in-law’s mother went to a public school, and was repeatedly sent home (in first grade!) because the teacher wouldn’t teach Indians. Another woman had to go to an Indian boarding school in another state to receive education.

Another of the women currently living on the reservation had to get married in North Carolina, because Virginia had a law against Indians intermarrying (she married a white boy). I also found out that my in-laws marriage wasn’t really legal either because that law wasn’t changed until 1968! Fortunately for them there was no documentation! Unfortunately for our kids (who would be 1/8 Indian), we can’t prove Indian blood for college scholarships!

All in all, it was a fascinating journey into the history of a forgotten people. But it was also a journey into some of the history white people like me would like to forget. Perhaps some repentance from the Christian community may put a few more Pamunkeys back in the pews (there was a small fairly unattended Baptist church on site). I’m sure much of the prejudice came from people claiming they knew a thing or two about Jesus. But I wonder if they really did.

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