I’m related to Pocahontas. Can I enroll in her tribe?

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QUESTION:

We have recently traced my husband’s roots to Pocahontas. His Grandmother had always told him there was a relation, but he never had any proof. He is now interested in joining a tribe. Is this something that is completed in the state we reside? We have found that there is a Accohannock Tribe in Maryland, but we reside in North Carolina. Thanks in advance for your assistance.

   ~Submitted by Connie C.

ANSWER:

Hi Connie,

The state you reside in has nothing to do with your eligibility for enrollment in any native american indian tribe. Enrollment eligibility is determined solely by the tribe and your state government and the state the tribe is located in has no role in determinging this.

Enrollment is usually based on a degree of indian blood traceable to a specific relative who is on the tribal roll today, and/or on a government roll that recorded members of a tribe at the time that tribe went onto a reservation or drafted a constitution or charter. You can usually live anywhere, even in a foreign country, and still be a tribal member if you meet that tribe’s enrollment requirements. A few tribes require you to reside on their reservation on at least a part-time basis for enrollment, but most don’t.

You would apply for tribal membership at the tribal offices of whatever tribe you are decended from, in whatever state their offices are now located, regardless of where you live. This can usually be done through the mail.

Most tribes have a minimum blood quantum requirement for enrollment today. Because of intermarriage between different tribes and non-indians, many people only have a small fraction of indian blood from a specific tribe in their heritage and are many generations removed from their indian ancestor, which seems to be the case of your husband. At some point this becomes nearly indistinguishable from other Americans, who may be part Irish, part Italian, part African American, or whatever. Most Americans of our generation come from some sort of ethnic melting pot.

Each American Indian tribe in the US decides in their constitution by-laws what the blood quantum cutoff will be. Usually this is somewhere between 1/8 and 4/4 tribal blood, with 1/4 being the most common requirement, although there are some exceptions. A few tribes will enroll you regardless of blood quantum if you can trace at least one parent’s bloodline to someone on their original rolls, or if one parent is currently enrolled. Some tribes also have a time requirement for how long after birth you have to apply for membership in the tribe, and some require you to return to the reservation to live from time to time in order to be eligible for membership. The requirements for enrollment are different for each tribe.

Also, Pocahontas did not belong to the Accohannock Tribe in Maryland. Her immediate family were members of the Pamunkey tribe, which is still located in Virginia. The Pamunkey tribe is state recognized, but does not have federal recognition.

However, it is possible one of her decendants may have married someone from the Accohannock Tribe. One decendant of Pocahontas in the Byrd line married a Rapphannock woman. Their son is currently enrolled with his matrilineal Rappannock tribe due to his ancestry on the mother’s side.

Other Pocahontas decendants belong to the Powhatan Renape Nation, an american indian nation located at the Rankokus Indian Reservation in Westampton, New Jersey. This is a state recognized native american tribe. They are not recognized by the federal government as a tribal entity.

The Powhatan Confederacy once consisted of more than thirty tribes in eastern Virginia who had a loose political alliance. The Eastern shore of Maryland also had tribes which were probably part of the Powhatan Confederacy. These tribes included: the Nanticokes which had about 200 warriors; the Accowmacks and Accohanocks in Northampton County; and the Pawtuxents and other tribes which lived on the Patuxent River.

Each small tribe was basically independent, as there was no centralized authority (and no chiefs who ruled them all). Wahunsunacock, known as Chief Powhatan in English, is credited with creating this alliance of tribes. He was the hereditary chief of four of the tribes in the Powhatan Confederacy and the father of Pocahontas.

Chief Powhatan eventually had a strong politcal influence on all the tribes in the confederacy, which gave him the appearance of ruling them from the European’s viewpoint, but he was not the chief of all of them. He and his immediate family belonged to the Pamunkey tribe, but the four tribes he held chieftanship in collectively were referred to historically as the Powhatan Proper. The Pamunkey tribe was the largest of the Virginia tidewater tribes.

All of the tribes in the Powhatan Confederacy were relatively small, with most only having about 40 to 100 warriors when John Rolfe arrived. The Powhatan Confederacy which once numbered about 10,000 had been largely destroyed by European encroachment and epedemic diseases by 1646. As the colonial expansion continued, many remnant members assimilated into the populations of persons of European and African origin.

Remaining descendants of the Powhatan Confederacy in Virginia in the 21st century include seven recognized tribes with ties to the original confederacy, including two with reservations, the Pamunkey and the Mattaponi in Virginia. There are eight state recognized tribes in Virginia: the Pamunkey, Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Upper Mattaponi, Monacan, Nasemund and United Rappahannock.

The original native american inhabitants of New Jersey are considered to be the ancestors of the Lenape Indians. Today, most of the descendants of New Jersey’s original native people are in Oklahoma and in Canada.

The Powhatan Renape Nation wasn’t a tribe in the 1600s when Pocahontas lived. It’s origins were in the late 19th century when a mixture of members of the various tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy, including some of the Pamunkey, began to gather at the subdivisions called Morrisville and Delair in Pennsauken Township. Most of the early members were Rappahannocks from Virginia and Nanticokes from Delaware.

In the 1960’s, they “went public” by establishing a center in Philadelphia and later in Moorestown. In 1976 they moved to larger quarters in Medford. In 1980, the State of New Jersey, by Resolution of its Senate with the concurrence of the General Assembly, recognized these decendants of the Powhatan Confederacy under the name Powhatan Renape Nation. This resolution also called upon the Congress of the United States to recognize the Powhatan Renape Nation.

In 1982 the Powhatan Renape Nation negotiated an agreement with the State of New Jersey to take over 350 acres of state owned land in the town of Westampton. The property is now recognized by the state of New Jersey and the general public as the Rankokus Indian Reservation. Today, there are approximately 600 members in this state recognized american indian tribe.

In April, 1996 the Powhatan-Renape Nation filed a letter of intent to petition for federal recognition as an Indian Tribe with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Recognition, however, would ultimately be denied.

Pocahontas married John Rolfe, a white man, and they had one son, Thomas, who married a white woman. In the sixteen or so generations since the time that Pocahontas lived, in each generation, individuals who were descended from a marriage of a Pamunkey person and a non-Pamunkey person had a choice as to whether he or she wished to take on the cultural identity of one parent or the other. Those choices must have been difficult, given the disadvantages attached to “being Indian” as compared to the struggle of being accommodated within the people of the non-Pamunkey parent.

As far as we know, all the descendents of Pocahontas and John Rolfe made the latter choice, continuing in each generation to marry non-Pamunkey persons.

The descendants of Pocahontas, then, come from her only son, Thomas Rolfe, who was 1/2 Pamunkey. He was born in Virginia in 1615 and the genealogy is as follows, according to the book “Pocahontas & her Descendants“, published by Genealogical Publishing Co. in 1968.

  1. Matoaka (Pocahontas) m 5 Apr 1614 John Rolfe in Anglican Church,
    Jamestown, son Thomas born 1615 Pocahontas 1594 – March 1616 died in
    England buried in Gravesend, England. Thomas was left in England in care of grandparents (another source claims it was his uncle).
  2. Thomas Rolfe b 1615 was the only child of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. He married Jane Poythress when he was 20-25 yrs old in England. They only had one child, a daughter.
  3. Jane Rolfe b ? m 1675 d 1676 Col Robert Bolling b 1646 d 1709 son of John & Mary Bolling of All Hollows, Barkin Parish, Tower Street, London. They had one child, a son.
  4. John Bolling of “Cobbs” (Colonel) b 1676 d 1729 was a member of the House of Burgesses m Mary Kennon dtr of Dr. Kennon, they had one son and 5 daughters.
  5. John Bolling (Major) b 1700 d 6 Sep 1757 m 1 Aug 1728 Elizabeth Blair they had 19 children, break down not given on how many boys versus girls.
  6. a. Thomas Bolling b 7 Jul 1735 d 7 Aug 1804 m Elizabeth Gay=10c 5 sons
        7a. William Bolling (Col & M.H.D.) m Mary Randolph=10c
          8a1. Willam Albert (deaf mute) m Eliza Christian
          8a2. Thomas b 1807 m Louis Morris daughter of Richard Morris

    6b. John Bolling b 24 Jun 1737 d 179? m Martha Jefferson sister of Pres. Thomas Jefferson=11c

        7b1. John Bolling m ? ____ Kennon=7c
        7b2. Edward Bolling d 1835 m Dolly Payne=4c
          8b2a. Powhatan Bolling m _____Payne
        7b3. Archibald Bolling m Catharine Payne=8c
          8b3a. Archibald Bolling d 1860 m Anne E. Wigginton
          8b3b. Edward Bolling d 1855 m Anne Cralle
          8b3c. Alexander Bolling d 1878 m Susan Gray
        7b4. Robert Bolling m Jane Payne=2c 2daughters

    6c. Robert Bolling (Col) 17 Aug 1738 d 1769 m Mary Burton (2) Susan Watson=6c

        7c1. Linneaus Bolling b 1773 d 1836 m Mary Markham=4c
          8c1a. Phillip A. Bolling m Mary Eppes=1c son
          8c1b. Robert Bolling m Shara Hobson (2) Mary Watkins (3) Martha
          Bracket
        7c2. Powhatan b 1767 d 1802

    6d. Archibald Bolling 20 Mary 1750 d ? m (1) Sharah Cary 1770

    (2) Jane Randolph 1774

    (3) Widow Byrd 1797

    (4) Widow Clark 1802=13c total

        7d1. Blair Bolling b 1792 m(1) M. A. Webster 1824 (2) Penelope Storrs 1827
          8d1a Archibald Bolling m Feb 1852 Eliza Trueheart Armistead
          8d1b John Bolling m Oct 1855 Maria Page Armistead (2 m) Julia

Within seven successive generations, many educators, ministers, statesmen, and lawmakers descended from Pocahontas. Several surnames associated with her line are: BLAIR, BOLLING, LEWIS, and RANDOLPH (of which the most distinguished was John RANDOLPH of Roanoke, State Representative of the Great State of Virginia in the House of Representatives). Other surnames include FLEMING, ELDRIDGE, GAY, WALKE, DUVAL, CABELL, MEGGINSON, ARCHER, TAZEWELL, BENTLY, BERNARD, EPPES, WORSHAM, and Thomas Jefferson Randolph, the grandson of President Thomas Jefferson and the 6th great-grandson of Pocahontas.

A person born from Pocahontas’ bloodline in the 15th generation would have approximately one Pamunkey ancestor and 16,383 ancestors of other races or tribes, making today’s generations 1/16384th (15th generation) or 1/32768th (16th generation) Pamunkey. This calculation is assuming each generation was approximately 25 years old when giving birth and the 15th generation was born after 1950, and the 16th generation was born after 1975.

You would have to contact the Pamunkey tribe to see if this is enough blood quantum to qualify for membership in their tribe and what documentation you would need. If your husband is from the Byrd line that married a Rapphannock woman, he might qualify for membership in that tribe. Most likely your husband’s blood quantum is too low to qualify for the Powhatan Renape Nation.

RELATED LINKS ON THIS SITE:

Facts about Pocahontas

The Real Pocahontas

Pocahontas Profile for Kids

History of the Pamunkey tribe

The Powhatan Indians

Virginia Tribes

This page also has some Powhatan history on it.

New Jersey Tribes

The Accohannock Indian Tribe is a sub-tribe of the Powhatan nation

Don Luis a.k.a. Opechancanough, Chief Pohatan’s brother

Queen Anne, Pamunkey(ca. 1650-ca. 1725)

Pocahontas, Pamunkey(1595?-1617)

EXTERNAL LINKS:

Tribes in the Powhatan Confederacy

The Pocahontas Myth

Pocahontas and her decendants
84 pages of genealogy information on decendants of Pocahontas and relatives by marriage.

NOTES SUBMITTED BY READERS IN RESPONSE TO THE ABOVE ARTICLE:

I read the article about Pocahontas with much interest. I also am descended from her; I come from Maj. John Bolling and Mary Kennon’s daughter Jane Bolling, who married Richard Randolph. Their daughter Frances married Joel Halbert. I’m wondering if you have any info on this, as there seems to be some conflict on Frances. I have seen info showing Frances married to a Jones, then having a daughter who married the Halbert. But the dates don’t work out right.

I believe Frances married first to the Jones, then to the Halbert; Frances and Joel had a daughter Hannah, who married William Hill Jr. Hannah and William had a daughter Winnie, who married George King. I can document everything from myself back to William and Hannah. I’m hoping you can clarify the parentage of Hannah Halbert. I believe two generations were combined into one.

Can you help with this? Thanks also for the info on the Pamunkey tribe. I was told by the genealogist for the Nansemond tribe that “nobody knows what tribe Pocahontas came from, but she’s not connected with the Nansemond”. Thanks for any help you can give.

Sincerely,

Jill L.