Brown#8217;s legacy can never be buried
WINTON – A voice so strong and passionate for Native Americans is now silent, but not before Arlene Melton Brown was responsible for restoring pride in the Meherrin Indians.
It was only fitting that Brown’s death came Tuesday, Sept. 4, a mere 24 hours after Labor Day….thus ending her labor of love to see the Meherrins recognized as a full-fledged Indian tribe by the North Carolina government.
It was on June 19, 1986 when Brown addressed the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs as well as other state officials representing the Department of Natural Resources and Community Development and the Department of the Administration. She gave a history of her heritage and lineage to Sally M. Lewis, a full-blooded Meherrin Indian. Following her speech, a motion was made and passed accepting the Meherrin Tribe descendents of Sallie M. Lewis for state recognition.
According to her son, Chief Wayne Brown, the compassionate plea for recognition marked the first time in 250 years that Meherrin government officials had direct contact with the governor’s office.
“Her funeral and burial were tribute to her statesmanship,” Chief Brown said. “It was a ceremony that was to her people.”
The Sept. 8 funeral was indeed a tribute to a long and fruitful life, one that saw Brown rise to the title of Senior Princess of the Meherrin Tribe and Chief Woman of the Snipe Clan. It began with her children and grandchildren assembling outside the Meherrin Native American Indian Church in downtown Winton. There, Rev. William Reid, bearing a ceremonial peace pipe, offered a Native American prayer. Meanwhile, the Eastern Bull Drummers softly filled the air with a sacred song.
Those observing the brief ceremony included two state officials n District 4 Senator Ed Jones and District 5 Representative Annie Mobley. At the ensuing funeral held at the Garrett’s Funeral Home Chapel, both state officials took an active role in paying tribute to Brown as Rep. Mobley read Governor Mike Easley’s letter of condolence while Senator Jones offered condolences on behalf of the North Carolina General Assembly.
Officials from the State of Virginia were also in attendance. Chief Bass offered his condolence from the Nansemond Tribe. Paige Reid Archer, former Miss Senior Meherrin Princess, presented Daffie Brown Woldman with a turtle bag in honor of her mother from Chief Kenneth F. Adams of the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe of Virginia. The turtle bag was placed with Arlene Brown in preparation of her journey to the after life.
Additionally, Archer read the burial rights of the passing of a Chief Woman under the Iroquois Great Law of Peace. According to Chief Brown, this marked the first time in over 500 years that the Great Law of Peace was used during a funeral service.
Letters of condolence were also read from the Brunswick County (Va.) government and from Susan Morrison of the Meherrin Regional Library in Brunswick County.
“From the list of dignitaries present and those who sent letters of condolence, it is evident that my mother was truly revered as statesman of the tribe,” Chief Brown said. “She was truly a Great Chief Woman, a title quite befitting.”
Chief Brown went on to say that his mother leaves a great legacy.
“Her stay upon this earth was long and fruitful,” he noted. “She was a pillar of the community; strong, compassionate and a loving mother to her children and to all who knew her. She will truly be missed by all who met and knew her.”
Born May 1, 1926 to Clinton and Nollie Reid Melton, Arlene later married Joseph Mackanear Brown.
She is survived by seven sons (Joseph, Wayne, Donald, Kelly, Arnold, Marcus and Patrick) and six daughters (Kitty, Patricia, Patrina, Sharon, Sylvia and Denise) along with three sisters, two brothers, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.