There is unmistakable pride in the voice of Chief Walt “Red Hawk” Brown when he talks about the history of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Tribe of Courtland, Virginia, and the pow wow held again this month in their ancestral land.
“We celebrate the Native American Heritage Month. We want to share our culture and tradition,” said Chief Red Hawk about the 14th Annual Cheroenhaka Indian Inter-Tribal Corn Harvest Fall Festival Powwow & school day to be held November 15 and 16.
The tribe will open “Cattas-howrock Town” on it’s land in Virginia’s Southampton County. The town is a replica of the Native Palisade Fort, the village that American Colonial writer William Byrd (1674-1744) saw when he visited on April 7 and 8 of 1728.
During the two-day event, Chief Red Hawk wants guests to visit with the “eyes of Byrd.”
“What he saw were arbors, long houses, a three sisters garden, Native flat cookers for smoking/drying fish, an Iroquoian corn threshing booth and dug-out canoe.”
Chief Red Hawk said Byrd described in his writings how men and women looked, sang, danced and dressed. “He saw dancing, with Native women in regalia. He saw gourd drums.”
For a tribe that took some time to gain state recognition, the Chief said it is historically significant to point out that Byrd wrote, “Cheroenhaka (Nottaway) Indian tribe was the only tribe of Indians of any consequence still remaining within the limits of Virginia.”
In 2010, the Virginia General Assembly officially recognized the tribe. A year before that, the tribe reclaimed 100 acres of its former 41,000-acre reservation land. It is on those 100 acres that the event this month will be held.
On Friday, more than 1,000 schoolchildren will take a tour of Cattas-howrock. The children will be able to see the Iroquoian Long House and craft demonstrations, such as, beading, basket weaving, blow gun, hide tanning, hand drum and flint knapping.
One of the booths will feature the Iroquoian language. And the Chief is scheduled to speak at noon about the tribe’s history.
On Saturday, the pow wow will feature jingle, fancy shawl, stomp, grass, round and straight dances. Luis Salinas & the Aztec Dancers will also perform.
Also performing are Keith Colston, MC; Donnie “One Feather” Freeman, arena director; Nassaw, aka Red Earth, host drum; and Southern Eagle, guest drum. Mike Cranford and Jeannie Cranford (both Cherokee) are head male and female dancers.
“We want to make sure that people attend our pow wow and learn our history. This is not a show. This is the time to come together, meet old friends and make new friends,” said Chief Red Hawk.
Chief Red Hawk said there is more to be done beyond the pow wow. The tribe is now raising $750,000 to build a museum, a wellness center and a non-denominational church in their land.
In the meantime, as guests enjoy the festivities, the Chief said they should know that Native people may have dispersed, but they are not extinct. “Native People are still here and they have always been here,” he said.