Pamunkey heritage runs deep for native Virginian

james-90.jpgJames Krigsvold wants to study archaeology. After he graduates from Rappahannock Community College with an arts and sciences degree he wants to transfer and major in anthropology at the College of William and Mary. Last summer he attended the college’s Archaeological Field School. “That experience really sold me on the idea.” He participated in the excavation of the Werowocomoco site  (more simply known as “Wero”), in Gloucester County–home and political center of Chief Powhatan in the early 17th century. Excavations of the site have revealed it dates back to the Archaic period (8000 B.C. – 1200 B.C.).

For James, the history-rich area that encompasses the service region of RCC has special significance. James is Pamunkey Indian from his mother’s side of the family. The 25-year-old student says, “So far, we have traced our family back to the 1700s.” He enjoys speaking about the history of the tribe and has taken part in the annual ceremony to the Governor’s Mansion to honor the treaties made in the 1600s. The Mattaponi and the Pamunkey tribes give gifts to the governor on the day before Thanksgiving in lieu of taxes on the reservation lands. 

As a child, James lived on the 1,200-acre Pamunkey Reservation adjacent to King William County, where his grandmother still lives. After graduating from high school, James moved to Florida and attended the University of Tampa. “I was not as motivated as now, and it just didn’t work out,” he shares. After three semesters, James returned to Virginia and for the next few years worked in construction and became a brick mason–something he continues to do part-time.

“I was too smart and was not using my academic potential,” says James about his decision to return to school. He says there is nothing wrong with construction, but decided on another path and RCC was a good starting point.

James also wants to minor in political science. Speaking with Del. Harvey Morgan on a recent visit to the General Assembly, they candidly discuss the hurdles the Virginia tribes have encountered over the years. Although eight tribes have been recognized by the state, the Virginia Indian tribes have yet to gain federal recognition, due in part to a decision in the early 20th century. Virginia removed the category of “Indian” from birth and marriage records — resulting in a “record genocide.” In 1999, Virginia’s General Assembly agreed to HJ Resolution 754, urging Congress to grant federal recognition to the Virginia tribes. Says James, “I want to get involved and help as much as I can in these kinds of issues.”

Posted by Carol Kyber


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