Friday, November 1, 2013

First Families of America

Chief Cook's Pleas Fall on Deaf Ears
Richmond Times Dispatch
1-29-1926

CHIEF COLLAPSES AS HE PLEADS FOR RACE PROTECTION

PAMUNKEY LEADER FALLS OUT AFTER SPEECH ASSAILING RACIAL INTEGRITY BILL

SAYS JOHN SMITH SPIRIT IS MISSING

Chief Cook Denies Kin With Heathen Race -- No Action Taken

By William G. Southall

Chief Cook of the Pamunkey Indians last night literally fell on the field of battle in a verbal clash with his paleface neighbors.

The aged man took the floor to protest before the House Committee and General Laws against the provision of the Norris racial integrity bill which classified as colored all Virginians who are not pure white.  

“I am a sick man,” he said.  “I left a sick-bed,” he said to come here for the speech I shall make.  It may be that I shall go down in the effort. It makes no difference. I told my people that I would be in Richmond for this hearing if it meant that I should be carried back home in a baggage.  I would die for the Pamunkey tribe.

A Natural Orator

The chief is a natural orator. His is an inherited gift.  Indians have been noted for their picturesqueness of speech since they took over the language of the white man,  The leader of the Pamunkeys last night was impressive as he stood in the Virginia Capitol and pleaded for the preservation of his tribe.  His voice broke at time but always he recovered it and continued his impassioned address.

After he had concluded he went slowly back to his seat in the rear of the hall.  An advocate on the other side of the question propounded an inquiry.  The Chief did not answer.  Two or three men came to his side discovered that he was exhausted and assisted him to a long seat upon which he might lie.  Aromatic spirits of ammonia were administered, and the Pamunkey leader finally regained his lost strength.

At times the chief’s speech was tinged with bitterness.

“You talk of granting us land” he cried.  “Do you bring with you from across the sea one foot of soil?  Was not all Virginia ours when you came here?  Some of you boast of being F. F. V’s. I do not. I say that I come from the First Families of America.

God Fearing Folk

“Tell me, would you blot out a nation? God forbid! The charge has been made that we were from the heathen race.  I deny it from the bottom of my soul. We come from  God-fearing folk.  Long before we new the palefaces the Great Spirit brooded over us and died in the belief that we should join our brothers in the Happy Hunting Grounds.”

“Who would have thought.” he concluded dramatically, “that the heart of Captain John Smith, who would “have destroyed all the Pamunkeys, beat in the breasts of the palefaces of this day.?”

Defines White Person

At 12:30 o’clock this morning the committee rose without taking any definite action.

The bill under consideration last night differs from the law enacted at the 1924 session of the Assembly principally in that it defines a white person as one who has not one drop of other blood in his veins, except that persons who trace themselves back to a marriage union between a white person and an Indian contracted prior to 1619, or who have in them an admixture of the blood of Indians belonging to the civilized tribes of Oklahoma or Texas, shall be regarded as white.  All others are to be classified as colored.

This is the objection raised to the bill by the Pamunkey, the Chickahominy, the Mataponi and the Rappahannock tribes.  They would consent, they said, to a law forbidding any intermarriage among the races and providing the severe punishment for violation of the statue.

Opponents of the measure before the House Committee proposed an amendment which would define white, Indian and colored persons.  This suggestion met determined opposition from Dr. W. A. Plecker, Registrar of Vital Statistics, and John Powell; who has labored indefatigably for several years in the cause of racial integrity.  They made the point that thousands of persons whom they regard as mulattos would come forward with the claim of Indian descent, all of whom must be investigated.  Such a burden, they said, would be too much for the department to carry and function efficiently the while.

Recognition of also three races would be out of line with the policy obtaining elsewhere, and would serve no other purpose than to throw out of joint all the machinery of classification.

Dr. Plecker Opens Discussion

Dr. Plecker who holds that there is no Indian in Virginia who does not carry in his veins some negro blood, opened the discussion with a brief explanation of the bill.  Speakers on his side of the question included Delegate Warren, of Portsmouth: Mrs. Fothergill, who was presented as a genealogist; John Powell and Major E. S. Cox.

Representing the opponents of the measure where Senator Douglas Mitchell, who appeared in behalf of the Pamunkeys; Manley H. Barnes, for the Chickahominies George Haw, also for the Chickahominies; Judge Fleet for the Rappahonnocks; M.D. Hart, Roger Gregory, Rev. Mr. Sudduth, Chief George Nelson of the Rappahannocks, and James H. Johnson, a member of that tribe.

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