American Indians American Indian languages American Indian tribes
|Find Native American ancestors in your family tree|
This article was originally published by the Bureau of Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution in 1894. To the best of our knowledge it is in the public domain, so we are reprinting it here. Note that this text is quite dated and contains some insulting stereotypes. The text is reproduced here for historical and linguistic purposes. We have not standardized the spelling. If you are the author of another article you would like us to add to our archives, feel free to contact us.
|Tonshee, son||Nikkut, one.
||Nueksee, daughter||Orijak, two.
||Petucka, cat||Kiketock, three.
||Kayyo, thankfulness||Mitture, four.
||O-ma-yah, O my Lord||Nahnkitty, five.
||Kenaanee, friendship.||Vomtally, six.
||Baskonee, thank you||Talliko, seven.
||Eeskut, go out, dog.||Tingdum, eight.
The vocabulary recorded by Captain John Smith3 as that of the Powhatan people is of interest in this connection. This vocabulary, with its original title, is as follows:
Because many doe desire to know the manner of their Language, I have inserted these few words.
Kakatorawines yowo. What call you this
Nemarough, a man.
Crenepo, a woman
Marowanchesso, a boy
Matchcores, Skins or garments
Attawp, A Bow
Aumoughhowgh, A target
Vssawassin, Iron, Brasse, Silver, any white mettall.
Attasskuss, Leaves, weeds, or grasse.
Shacquohocan, A stone
Wepenter, A cookold
Maskapow, the worst of enemies
Mawchick chammay, The best of friends
Casacunnakack, peya quagh acquintan vttasantasough, In how many daies will there come hither any more English Ships.
Necut, 1, Ningh 2., Nuss, 3, Yowgh 4. Paranske, 5. Comotinch, 6, Toppawoss, 7, Nusswash, 8, Kekatawgh, 9, Kaskeke, 10.
The count no more but by tennes as followeth
Case, how many.
Ouiyougcosoughs, Pettie Gods and their affinities.
Mowchick woyawgh tawgh noeragh kaqueremecher, I am very hungry? What shall I eate?
Tawnor nehiegh Powhatan, Where dwels Powhatan.
Mache, nehiegh yourowgh, Orapaks. Now he dwels a great way hence at Oropaks.
Vittapitchewayne anpechitchs nehawper Werowacomoco. You lie, he stayed ever at Werowacomoco.
Kator nehigh mattagh neer vttapitchewayne. Truely his is there I doe not lie.
Spaughtynere keragh werowancemawmarinough kekate wawgh peyguaugh. Run you then to the King Mawmarynough and bid him come hither.
Vtteke, e peya weyack wighwhip. Get you gone, and come again quickly.
Kekaten Pokahontas Patiaquagh niugh rawrencok audowgh, Bid Pokahontas bring hither two little Baskets, and I will give her white beads to make her a chaine.
For purposes of comparison the meager vocabulary of the Pamticough (Pamlico) Indians, collected by Lawson, may be introduced. The Pampitcough tribe were the southernmost tribe of the Algonquian stock in the middle Atlantic slope. The list4 (excluding the "Tuskeruro" and "Woccon") is as follows:
Black or Blue, idem, Mow-cotto-wosh.
Awl or Needle, Moc-cose.
A Hoe, Rosh-shocquon.
Peak, Gan hooptop.
Gun, Gun tock seike.
A Flap, Maachone.
A Pine Tree, Onnossa.
The most extended known vocabulary of the. Indians of the Powhatan confederacy is that of Strachey, published in the Hakinyt collections; but, like that of Smith, it includes various dialects.
MODE OF SUBSISTENCE
The Pamunkey Indians make their living for the most part in true aboriginal style. Their chief occupations are hunting and fishing, and although they do not neglect their truck.patches, they cherish a hearty dislike for manual labor and frequently hire negroes to come in and work their little farms. The deer, the raccoon, the otter, the muskrat, and the mink are captured on the reservation. As many as sixteen deer have been killed in this small area in one season. The skins of all these animals are a good source of income, and the flesh, except of the mink and otter, is used for food. Perch, herring, bass, chub, rock, shad, and sturgeon are caught in large numbers by means of seines Sora (reedbirds), wild geese, ducks, and turkeys are abundant.
In the autumn sora are found in the marshes in great numbers, and the Indian method of capturing them is most interesting: They have what they strangely call a "sora horse," strongly resembling a peach basket in size and shape, and made of strips of iron, though they were formerly molded oat of clay. The "horse" is mounted on a pole which is stuck in the marsh or placed upright in a foot-boat. A fire is then kindled in the "horse." The light attracts the sora and they fly around it in large numbers, while the Indians knock them down with long paddles. This method is, of course, used only at night. Every year, many white hunters visit the reservation and employ the Indians as their guides in hunting this same toothsome bird. They, however, use the slower but more sportsmanlike method of shooting them on the wing.
One of the clay "sora horses" above referred to may be found in the National Museum as part of a collection which the writer made from the Pamunkey in behalf of the Smithsonian Institution.
The Pamunkey farm on a very small scale. They do little more than furnish their own tables. They also raise a few horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs.
A general merchandise store is conducted on the reservation by a joint stock company, composed of members of the tribe. Their fish, game, flits, and the few farm products not consumed at home, find market in Richmond and Baltimore.
In government the tribe is a true democracy, over which, however, the State of Virginia5 exercises a kindly supervision. The State appoints five trustees to look after the interest of the Indians. No reports of these trustees could be found on file at the office of the governor of Virginia, and their only function that could be ascertained to have been performed was the disapproval of certain sections in the Indian code of laws. Laws thus disapproved are expunged from the statute book. The tribe is not taxed, but they flay an annual tribute to the State by presenting through their chief to the governor of Virginia a number of wild ducks or other game.
As regards the internal government of the Pamunkey, the executive power is vested in a chief; while the legislative and judicial functions are performed by the chief together with a council composed of four men. The chief was formerly elected for life, but now both chief and council are elected every four years by vote of the male citizens. Their method of balloting for their executive officer is unique. The council names two candidates to be voted for. Those favoring the election of candidate number 1 must indicate their choice by depositing a grain of corn in the ballot-box at the schoolhouse, while those who favor the election of candidate number 2 must deposit a bean in the same place. The former or the latter candidate is declared chosen according as the grains of corn or the beans predominate.
The chief and council are the judge and jury to try all who break the law, and to settle disputes between citizens. Their jurisdiction is supposed to extend to all cases arising on the reservation and which concern only the residents thereon, with the exception of trial for homicide, in which case the offender would be arraigned before the county court of King William county. The Indians claim, however, that it would be their privilege to use the courts of the commonwealth of Virginia to settle such difficulties as could not be efficiently dealt with by their own courts, provided such difficulty arose from a breach of a State law. The writer does not know on what this claim is based. As may be seen from the printed transcript (verbatim et literatim) of the written laws of the Pamunkey which follows, they impose only fine or banishment as penalties. There is no corporal punishment either by chastisement or incarceration.
The Laws of the Pamunkey Indian Town written here in Sept. 25 1887
The following Laws made and approved by chief and council men Feb. 18th 1886. For the Rauling of the Pamunkey Tribe of Indians.
1st Res. No Member of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe shall intermarry with anny Nation except White or Indian under penalty of forfeiting their rights in Town.
2nd No non-resident shall be allowed to be hired or sheltered more than 3 months and if anny person are known to hire or shelter anny sutch persons shall pay 50c pr. day for every day over the above mentioned time. Amendment. Should sutch person persons be quiet and agrecable they may be hire 30 or 60 day under good behavior.
3rd Anny person slandering another without suficient evidence shall be fined in the 1st offence $5 Second $10 and in the 3rd they are to be removed from the place by the Trustees chief and councle men.
4th No non-resident shall be taught in our free school except the concen of chief counclmen or any other Indian Tribe.
5th Anny party or person found guilty of stealing anny thing belonging to anny one else they shall pay the party for the amt. that are stolen from them and also shall be fined from $1 to $5. 3rd time they are to be removed from the place.
6th If anny person shall depridate or Trespass on another ons premises and shall break down gates or destroy fences or anny other property shall be made to pay or replace all damages and if any miner are engaged in sutch, their parent shall be responsible for their acts and each and anny that are found guilty Shall be fined from $1 to $5.
7th be it known that each road of Indian Town shall be 30 ft. wide and all person that has moved their fence in the road shall have 30 days to move them out and if they are not moved they are to be moved by the chief and the council men and the expence paid by the Trespasser.
8th if anny citizen are notifide to attend anny meeting and fails to do so with without sufficient excuse shall be fined from $1 to $1.50.
9th be it known that all the citizens age 16 to 60 of Indian Town shall work on the road as far as red hill and anny member refuse to work shall be fined 75c and Jacob Miles to be Road Master and he to be paid $1 pr. year.
l0th Be it known that no person be allowed to swear on the high way of Indian Town and if so they are to be fined from $1 to $2. (Amendment) 1st offence 25 2nd 75 3rd 100.
11th. Be it known that anny person or persons seen or known to be fighting upon the highways or else where of Indian Town in the Town the one found guilty of first breaking the peace shall be fined not less than $3. nor more than $5 dollars.
12th. Resolve that each male citizen of Indian Town owning a piece of land shall pay $1.00 pr. year or the value in produce to the Treasurer of Indian Town yearly for her benefits.
13th Be it known that the Hall Sein Shore of Indian Town shall be rented out yearly for the benefit of the Treasury of Indian Town and if anny person are known to set anny obstruction in the way shall be fined $5 in each offence.
14th If anny person owning a piece of land and do not build and live upon it in 18 m it shall be considered as town property and the person shall be allowed 20 days to move what they has thereon off; then it shall be considered as Town Property and the Town can allow any one else the same privelege under the obligations.
15th Anny person that become rude and corrupt and refuse to be submissive to the Laws of Indian Town shall be removed by the Trustees, chief and councilmen.
16th Anny person that are in debt to the town and refuse to pay the amt, enoug of their property shall be sold to satisfy the claim.
17th be it known that we shall have a fence law and it shall be 4ft. high on a ditch Bank and 5 ft. high on a levil and the holes are to be 1 foot 4 in hole 2 ft 6 in holes 3 ft 8 in hole and Remainder to the judgement of the fencer.
l8th An amendment to Resolution all male citizens of Indian from 18 year upward shall pay $1.00 pr. year and until the amt is paid they will not be given no land.
Besides these written laws, there are others which have not been committed to writing, the most important of which relate to the tenure of land. The reservation belongs to the tribe as a whole. There is no individual ownership of land. The chief and council allot a parcel or cleared ground of about 8 acres to the bead of each family. The occupant is generally allowed to keep the land for life, and at his death it goes back to the tribe to be realloted, unless the deceased should leave helpless dependents, in which case the land is rented for their benefit. The houses on the reservation are individual property and can be bought and sold at pleasure.
In 1891 the writer was sent by the Smithsonian Institution to visit the Pamunkey Indians and make a collection of specimens of their arts. Few articles could be found which were distinctively Indian productions. Of their aboriginal arts none are now retained by them except that of making earthenware and "dugout" canoes.
Until recent years they engaged quite extensively in the making of pottery, which they sold to their white neighbors, but since earthenware has become so cheap they have abandoned its manufacture, so that now only the oldest of the tribe retain the art, and even these can not be said to be skillful. The clay used is of a dirty white color, and is found about 6 feet beneath the surface. It is taken from the Potomac formation of the geologic series, which yields valuable pottery clays at different localities in Virginia and Maryland, and particularly in New Jersey. Mr. Terrill Bradby, one of the best informed members of the tribe, furnished, in substance, the following account of the processes followed and the materials used in the manufacture of this pottery.
In former times the opening of a clay mine was a great feast day with the Pamunkey. The whole tribe, men, women, and children, were present, and each familv took home a share of the clay. The first steps in preparing the clay are to dry it, beat it up, pass it through a sieve, and pound it in a mortar. Fresh-water mussels, flesh as well as shell, having been burnt and ground up, are mixed with the clay prepared as above, and the two are then saturated with water and kneaded together. This substance is then shaped with a mussel shell to the form of the article desired and placed in the sun and dried; then shaped with a mussel shell and rubbed with a stone for the purpose of producing a gloss. The dishes, bowls, jars, etc., as the case maybe, are then placed in a circle and tempered with a slow fire; then placed in the kiln and covered with dry pine bark and burnt until the smoke comes out in a clear volume. This is taken as an indication that the ware has been burnt sufficiently. It is then taken out and is ready for use. The reasons for the successive steps in this process, even the Indians are unable to explain satisfactorily. The collection above referred to as having been made for the Smithsonian Institution was put on exhibition at the World's Columbian Exposition. It consists almost altogether of earthenware. Besides the various articles for table and kitchen use, there are in the collection (1) a "sora horse" made of clay, and already described under the head of mode of subsistence, and (2) a "pipe-for-joy," also made of clay. In the bowl of this pipe are five holes made for the insertion of five stems, one for the chief and one each for the four council men. Before the days of peace these leaders used to 'celebrate their victories by arranging themselves in a circle and together smoking the "pipe-for-joy." The collection comprised also a "dugout" canoe, made of a log of wood, hollowed out with metal tools of white man's manufacture. Such canoes were formerly dug out by burning, and chopping with a stone axe.
A mortar, used in pounding dry clay as above referred to, could not be obtained for the collection. They are, however, made of short gum logs, in one end of which the basin of the mortar is burnt out. The pestle accompanying it is made of stone.
Of the arts of the white man the Pamunkey Indians have not been ready imitators. There is hardly a skilled artisan among them.
1. There are a few Indians (Dr. Albert S. Gatschet found 30 or 35 in 1891) 1iving on a small reservation of some 60 or 70 acres on Mattapony river, about 12 miles north of the Pamunkey reservation. They are thought by some to be the remnant of the Mattapony tribe, but the writer is of a different opinion. He believes that the territory of the Pamunkey once extended from the Mattapony to Pamunkey river, and that the land between gradually passed into the possession of the white man, thus dividing the tribe, leaving to each part a small tract on each of the above named rivers.
2. Historical Magazine (New York), first series, 1858, Vol. II, p. 182
3. Travels, etc., Richmond, 16, 1819, Vol. 1, pp. 147, 148.
4. Lawson. History of North Carolina, reprint by Strother and Marcom, Raleigh, 1860, pp. 366- 369.
5. The writer has been unable to find any statute or judicial decision, fixing the relation of the tribe to the State. What is here stated on this subject is the view taken by the chief and council men of the tribe.
Return to our main Amerindian site
Read our article submission guidelines
Language of the day: Chibchan language
Native American heritage South American natives Chickasaws Big Owl Man Dream catchers
Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?