The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities will be building the Commonwealth of Virginia’s only online historical and cultural archive about Virginia’s Indian tribes.
Called Virginia Indian Heritage Online, the project is being funded by a $150,000 grant from Dominion Resources, a Richmond, Va.-based energy company, and a $75,000 award from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation. A collaboration between VFH’s Virginia Indian Heritage Program and Encyclopedia Virginia, it will create a comprehensive record of Virginia Indian history.
The project, which will take about two years to complete, will entail visits to tribal communities to scan historic photographs and documents and collect oral histories from tribal elders and others. VFH staff will also collect historic images housed in archives and other facilities; relevant documents, such as treaties, court records and letters; and will build audio and video programs, including a narrated slideshow named “A Place to Be Ourselves.” As content is created, it will be incorporated into the Encyclopedia Virginia.
Karenne Wood (Monacan), director of the Virginia Indian Heritage Program at the VFH, said in a press release announcing the project: “We are trying to help redress centuries of historical omission, exclusion and misrepresentation by reaching students, researchers and members of the public. This project will enable Virginia’s tribes to preserve and access the treasured record of their past and present, and will provide a wealth of new information throughout Virginia and beyond.”
Virginia has 11 state-recognized tribes: the Mattaponi, Pamunkey, Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Rappahannock, Upper Mattaponi, Nansemond, Monacan Indian Nation, Cheroenhaka (Nottoway), Nottoway of Virginia and Patawomeck.
Lynette Allston, chief of the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia, welcomes the project. “Much has been written about Virginia’s early history, which is intertwined with Virginia’s Native Americans. This project has the ability to present a comprehensive view of Virginia’s First People by bringing history forward to the present day. Of great benefit will be the opportunity to correct the many misinterpretations and omissions that have been put forth.”
Allston went on to say that documents, now in repositories throughout the state, are an untouched treasure trove of information that can offer insight into the political interactions between the state and the tribes.
The Nottoway tribe has plenty of documents that it would like included in Virginia Indian Heritage Online, like a three-page copy of the 1713/14 Treaty with the Nottoway and the signature page from the Treaty of Middle Plantation 1677. Allston said it also has a multitude of court documents, such as land deeds and other records related to the loss of its reservation through sale and allotments in the 19th century, along with photographs of Nottoway people from the late 1800s and early 1900s showing how they lived through time.
“Thank you to the Dominion Foundation for seeing the merit in this project and to the VHF, the Virginia Indian Heritage Program and Encyclopedia Virginia for collaborating on this effort,” Allston said.