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FOCUSED: A Century of Virginia Indian Resilience

Jamestown Settlement Special Exhibition
On display through March 25, 2022

Focus on 100 years of Virginia Indian resiliency in a yearlong special exhibition featuring personal and professional photography collections charting this century of change, from the passage and repeal of the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 to state and federal recognition today.

Nannie and Paul Miles, Union Collins and boy; Frank Speck photograph collection, N12730; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.

In 1919, Pamunkey Indian couple Nannie and Paul Miles, along with an unidentified child and Union Ottaway Collins holding a dog, posed on the front porch of a house on the Pamunkey Reservation in Virginia. Frank Speck photograph collection, N12730; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.

In collaboration with Virginia Indian tribal communities, Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century Virginia, presents “FOCUSED: A Century of Virginia Indian Resilience,” a contemporary exhibition on display through March 25, 2022.

“FOCUSED” is principally a photographic exhibition drawing from collections held by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, as well as images from anthropologist Frank Speck in 1910s to 1930s, the work of award-winning Baltimore Sun photographer A. Aubrey Bodine in the 1940s and 1950s, and portraits by contemporary American Indian photographers.

The special exhibition focuses on the resilience of Virginia’s Indian population, from the passage and repeal of the Racial Integrity Act in 1924 to the contemporary efforts of 11 Virginia tribes to receive state and federal recognition. The exhibition highlights themes central to Virginia Indian daily life, including the establishment and maintenance of Virginia Indian reservations and tribal lands, education, fishing and hunting, and traditional crafts and cultural heritage.


Turkey Feather Mantle Made in 1930s by Mollie Adams, Upper Mattaponi
Turkey Feather Mantle, circa 1930s by Mollie Adams, Upper Mattaponi_Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection

Turkey Feather Mantle, circa 1930s by Mollie Adams, Upper Mattaponi. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection.

A turkey feather mantle hand-woven in the 1930s by Mollie Adams, a leading member of the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, is among the featured objects in the special exhibition. The mantle, still retaining the iridescence and glow of countless turkey feathers, is in the permanent collection of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and was last on public display in 2007.

Anthropologist Frank Speck undertook extensive research of some of the Virginia Indian tribes, including the Upper Mattaponi community in King William County, where he met Mollie Adams (1881-1973) and her family in the 1918. Speck’s written field notes included descriptions of feather work which correspond to the turkey feather mantle featured in the exhibition.

Portrait of Mollie Adams, Upper Mattaponi, 1918. Frank Speck photograph collection, N12647; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.

Portrait of Mollie Adams, Upper Mattaponi, 1918. Frank Speck photograph collection, N12647; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.

Mollie Adams, was an Upper Mattaponi tribal leader with her husband, Jasper Lewis Adams, who served as chief of the Upper Mattaponi from 1923 to 1973, followed by her son Andrew Washington Adams in 1974-1985. Her grandson, Kenneth Adams, serves as chief of the Upper Mattaponi today. Mollie and Jasper Adams raised 12 children in King William County and faced similar hardships as her neighbors, including poverty, difficulty in attaining education, as well as bigotry and segregation in the wake of the 1924 Racial Integrity Act. The Racial Integrity Act, created through the Virginia Bureau of Vital Statistics, reclassified all Virginia Indians as “negro” or “colored,” a law that was eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. For Mollie Adams, she obtained a certified statement of her Indian ancestry, and worked to build a strong foundation for the Upper Mattaponi through her church and tribal activism.

About Jamestown Settlement

Jamestown Settlement explores the world of America’s first permanent English colony and the Powhatan Indian, English and West Central African cultures that converged in the 17th century. Through comprehensive and immersive indoor exhibits and outdoor living-history experiences, the museum explores life in the Jamestown colony and its first century as Virginia’s capital.

Visitors can learn about the Virginia Indian history and culture in the 17th century through expansive indoor galleries and artifacts, including exhibits that use period objects to examine the myths and realities associated with the life of Pocahontas, incorporate historical research and archeological findings on Werowocomoco (capital of Powhatan, leader of 30-some Algonquian-speaking tribes in coastal Virginia) and share the story of Cockacoeske (recognized as “Queen of the Pamunkey” by the colonial government) and her role in “Bacon’s Rebellion,” which unfolds in a 4D experiential theater. Outdoors, visitors can explore a re-creation of Paspahegh Town, based on the archaeological findings at a nearby site along the James River once inhabited by Paspahegh Indians, the Powhatan tribal group closest to Jamestown, and descriptions and illustrations recorded by English colonists in the 17th century.

Jamestown Settlement, located on Route 31 just southwest of Williamsburg, is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; closed on Christmas and New Year’s days. The special exhibition is included with museum admission. In 2021, admission to Jamestown Settlement is $18.00 for adults and $9.00 for ages 6-12; children under 6 are free. Residents of James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg, including William & Mary students, receive complimentary admission with proof of residency. Parking is free.


“FOCUSED: A Century of Virginia Indian Resilience” is made possible with the support of James City County.