A response to ‘Setting the record straight’

Published 11:06 am Tuesday, November 6, 2012

To the Editor:

The Meherrin-Chowanoke Nation scheduled their annual PowWow at the Ahoskie Amphitheatre on October 26-28. We did not need endorsement from any group in order to hold that which has been a part of our tradition and culture within the community for over 24 years.

Our name reflects the evolution of tribal history in our area which archeological studies performed by ECU’s faculty substantiated years ago.  In addition, the Chowanoke Indians are the ONLY Indians in this area who can trace historical documentation in government or court records to the early 1800’s and whose descendants remain today. A newspaper article written in the late 1950’s based solely on family folklore and later reprinted and prefaced as such in a book is not historical documentation.

The Chowanokes lived on the Parker’s Ferry reservation site for over 900 years until they moved to another reservation site. They continued to exist communally and even formed their own schools in the area. The Meherrins later migrated to the same Parker’s Ferry reservation site and lived there for only about 70 years until they too disseminated in the community. Historical records noting any Meherrin descendants cannot be found.

Due to the racial climate against Indians during the 1800’s and later, most tribes along the eastern shores disbanded and began to employ survival tactics. While the two tribes did not exist in the 1700’s as one tribal entity, once the groups disbanded, they became neighbors, intermarried and forged bonds. Again, archeological research proves this.  One having both Chowanoke and Iroquoian bloodlines should not be confused with tribal membership as we are born Native American.  Most state recognized tribes in North Carolina incorporate historical names to reflect changes which occurred since the 1700’s. Likewise most federally recognized tribes do not use their original historic names, but a variant of it.

Strife is counterproductive. My mother, along with other Meherrin-Chowanokes, worked hard for years to win state recognition for the Meherrin Indian Tribe. They won, yet the tribe endured much as a result. We did not expect 30 years of the same treatment that had been rendered from outside of the Native community to have been rendered within. We wish the best for Wayne Brown and his tribe.  However, our goal is to move forward and to direct our energies for benevolence within the community.

Duvonya Chavis

President, Roanoke Chowan Native American Association, Inc.

Meherrin-Chowanoke Tribal Member