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The Accohannock Indian Tribe

Regarding the Accohannock History site at

  The information contained in the history portrayed is totally fake. If you need proof of the information being a fake, I will e-mail you the report that Dr.Helen Rountree sent me on this site and her credentials. We are trying to remove that site from the Internet all together. Thank you for your help and understanding in this matter.
     Dawn Manyfeathers, CEO Lenapehauken Education and Research Center

Date:Wed, 20 Nov 2002
From:"Helen Rountree"
Subject: Helen Rountree's response to Accohannock history

   . . . I have serious problems with the history as it is currently posted on that tribe's website -- as a scholar, not as a person, for I know and like several of the people calling themselves Accohannock. I do not mean merely a problem with the "oral tradition" about "hiding in plain sight"; I discussed my skepticism about the possibility of that strategy actually working with Mary Hope Billings and her brother when I saw them on November 2nd. As long as they call it an "oral tradition," I can tolerate it.

   But there are some factual errors in the history, including a date that is just plain wrong. Whoever "researched" that history for the tribe apparently could not take in what either the original eye-witness records or the scholarly books said. And while the tribe posts such an error-ridden history, I fear that its own reputation will be negatively affected. I'll be specific:

PARAGRAPH 1: There is no documentary evidence that "Occohannock" territory extended as far north and west as the Annamessex River in pre-Contact or Contact times. Instead, the limited documents indicate that the "Annamessex Indians" -- which is how the residents are called -- were allied with the Pocomokes.

PARAGRAPH 2: There was no "Accomac Confederation" -- or any "Confederation" on the Eastern Shore. Instead the records show chiefs, who were medium-powerful hereditary rulers. The 17th century English always called them "kings" or "queens" or "emperor/empresses." The Accohannock district-chiefdoms (about a dozen of them) were ruled over by a paramount chief who in the 1620s was the younger brother of the paramount chief of Accomac. The elder brother was called "emperor" by the English; after his death, when the Accomacs went their separate way, the "emperor [later, "empress"] of the Eastern Shore" was the paramount chief of the Occohannock districts.

PARAGRAPH 3: The treaty of 1646 has never had a title, and it did not involve the Eastern Shore at all. The Treaty of Middle Plantation was made in 1677, and no Eastern Shore rulers signed it. However, its relatively enlightened (for the time) provisions were customarily extended to the Eastern Shore Indians in Virginia. Neither treaty detribalized anyone. Neither treaty forced English culture on Indian people, in the sense that boarding schools out West tried to do it to Plains Indian children in the 19th century. Both treaties provided for Indian children to join English families voluntarily, but the surviving Virginia records indicate that few children did so. Meanwhile, the 1677 treaty stated specifically that Virginia Indian people were guaranteed protection of their persons and property in the same way (by suing in court) that English people were. That is nothing like an attempt to "prohibit the culture." Grass-roots English racism and loss of the landbase eventually caused Indian people to adopt English agriculture to survive -- a process that occurred in the late 17th century for the Accomacs (by then called Gingaskins) and mainly in the 18th century for the Accohannocks (by then living in Maryland, with either the Pocomokes or the Nanticokes).

PARAGRAPH 4: The English settlers took most of the land on both shores. The major thing that kept the peace on the Eastern one was the native people's willingness to sell out fast -- and that is documented best of all for the Accohannocks in the 1640s-60s. The revealing of the poisoning plot occurred in 1621, and the revelator was the Accomac paramount chief, not the Accohannock one. The one and only document about that incident says nothing about any intention to poison wells; only people. A subsequent document speaks about Opechancanough's resentment toward Accomacs; nothing appears in any records during those years about Accohannocks.

PARAGRAPH 5: There is no documentary evidence at any time for Accohannocks changing their name (or having it changed by others) to Annamessex. There is no Maryland or Virginia document dated 1659 that mentions the Annamessexes at all. The Accohannocks were still living in Virginia and selling off land, according to the Accomack County records, and they would do so for at least another decade. All of these documentary matters ought to be straightened out with the present-day Accohannocks if possible, or else have the University of Maryland cease to publish the history in its present form. The present form does a real disservice to readers who want a short but accurate history of Eastern Shore native people. For anyone wishing to see the academic background from which I am making these rather strongly-worded comments, I am enclosing a short curriculum vitae. And the comments may be forwarded as needed. Helen C. Rountree, Ph.D. Professor Emerita of Anthropology Old Dominion University Norfolk, Virginia

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