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Troy Adkins: NMAI’s Meet Native America Series

The National Museum of the American Indian interview series Meet Native America continues today with Troy Adkins.

In the interview series Meet Native America, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian invites tribal leaders, cultural figures, and other interesting and accomplished Native individuals to introduce themselves and say a little about their lives and work. Together, their responses illustrate the diversity of the indigenous communities of the Western Hemisphere, as well as their shared concerns, and offer insights beyond what’s in the news to the ideas and experiences of Native peoples today.

Please introduce yourself with your name and title.

My name is Troy Adkins, and I'm a member of the Chickahominy Tribal Council.

Can you share your Native name?

It's Dancing Hawk.

Where is your tribal community located?

The Chickahominy Tribe is located in Charles City County and New Kent County, Virginia. Our tribal center and tribal grounds are in Providence Forge.

Where is your tribe originally from?

We are still living in our ancestral land in Charles City County, Virginia.

The area was also known as Chickahominy Ridge. It's situated between the Chickahominy River to the north and the James (Powhatan) River to the south.

What is a significant point in history from your tribe that you would like to share?

Throughout history we, along with other Virginia tribes, were known as the Powhatan people. Chief Powhatan, whose original name was Wahunsenacah, ruled over several tribes, but the Chickahominy were never under his rule. We were fierce warriors and too large for Wahunsenacah to rule over. Thus, we were allies to him and his chiefdom. We are Chickahominy, the Coarse Pounded Corn People. Colonists would recognize that they were among the Chickahominy by the way we ground or pounded our corn.

How is your tribal government set up?

Our tribal government consists of a 12-member Tribal Council, including a chief, a first assistant chief, a second assistant chief, and nine tribal members.

Is there a functional, traditional entity of leadership in addition to your modern government system?

Before European contact, the Chickahominy Tribe was ruled by a council of elders, or munguy. Our modern leadership and Tribal Council members are elected by the tribal body at our tribal meeting. Names on the ballot must be submitted to the Tribal Council to be eligible.

How often are elected leaders chosen?

Leaders are elected to a four-year term. If a leadership position becomes vacant within the term, a special election is held. The position terms are staggered so as not to have all the position terms end at the same time.

How often does your Tribal Council meet?

The Tribal Council meets monthly. The tribal body meets bimonthly.

At the tribal meetings, any council recommendations or issues that need to be voted upon by the tribal membership are discussed and decided, and any tribal business updates are shared.

How did your life experience prepare you to lead your tribe?

I have always been involved in our tribal affairs, whether through dancing in our traditional tribal dance group, through culture classes, or as a member of the Tribal Council. In additional to tribal leadership, I have served on various local boards and councils, such as the Virginia Council on Indians and the Vocational Education Advisory Council for Charles City County.

What responsibilities do you have as a community leader?

My primary responsibility is leading our culture classes for tribal members and other local Natives in our area.

I have a wonderful wife and family, along with a host of friends to help with the classes. It is good to see our youth and elders come out to our tribal center to support our culture classes. We teach our tribal dances, drumming, and singing, as well as some of the pow wow dances.

Who inspired you as a mentor?

Former Chickahominy Second Assistant Chief and Council Member Glenn Canaday. He taught me the value in being proud to be Chickahominy, but also how the public needs to know who we are and how we can use every opportunity to educate to others.

His wealth of knowledge on our tribal history and traditional outfit making was an asset to me as well.

To read the full interview, visit the NMAI series here.