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Indian Tribe Gets Hand From ‘Mr. Las Vegas’

February 8, 2010

By Amelia Reddington
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – In the mid-1900s, during an archeological dig in Stafford County, the Smithsonian Institution uncovered the remains of 130 members of the Patawomeck Indian tribe.

Robert “Two Eagles” Green, now the chief of the Patawomeck Indians, wants the ancestral remains returned to their familial home. But to achieve this, his tribe needs official recognition from the commonwealth of Virginia.

So Green turned to his state delegate – William Howell of Fredericksburg, who also is speaker of the Virginia House. Howell proposed House Joint Resolution 150, granting the Patawomecks state recognition.

Last week, a House committee held a hearing on HJ 150 and unanimously recommended its approval. The resolution now goes to the full House for consideration.

“It will validate our identity and give us our rightful place in history,” Green told members of the House Rules Committee.

The Patawomecks’ request for state recognition got a boost from Green’s famous cousin, entertainer Wayne Newton. The Las Vegas icon attended the legislative hearing and testified in support of Howell’s resolution.


Newton, who was born in Norfolk and as a boy spent time in Stafford County and Fredericksburg, descends from the Patawomeck Indians through his father, Patrick J. Newton, and his grandfather, Brodie Newton.

Newton, 67, showed lawmakers a photograph of his grandfather in a feathered headdress. He also passed around a peace medal that he said had been bestowed by Gen. George Washington and had been passed down through his family.

Newton believes preserving the heritage of native communities is important not just to the Patawomeck tribe but to the entire country. He recalled for the Rules Committee when he told his 7-year-old daughter that she was part Indian.

“Does that mean I’m half-Indian and half-human?” the girl asked.

At that moment, Newton said, he realized how little his daughter knew about the value of her Indian heritage. “I realized that I had let her down, and I needed to do something to correct that.”

The Patawomeck Indians, sometimes called the Potomac tribe (the namesake of the river), nearly became extinct after hostilities erupted with Virginia’s colonial government in the mid-1660s. Most Patawomeck men died in the conflict, while the women and children were enslaved or forced into hiding.

Now, 350 years later, the Patawomecks have officially re-organized their tribe and have established a Patawomeck Constitution, hoping to create a place in Virginian’s history books.

The tribe applied for state recognition with the Virginia Council on Indians, which handles such matters.

The council told the Patawomecks that they met only five of the six criteria required. The Patawomecks were told there was not enough documentation to prove the tribe had existed as an Indian community over time.

Dr. William L. Deyo, former president of the Virginia Genealogical Society and a descendant of the Patawomeck tribe, disputes that finding. He says there is sufficient evidence to establish claims of the Patawomeck tribal descendants.

Deyo has spent 30 years documenting the Patawomeck tribe survivors remaining in Stafford County and has traced several families back to the original Patawomeck nation.

“When I was young and made up my Christmas list, one thing I wanted was my family tree,” Deyo said. “It was fascinating to me as a child.”

Deyo is working to educate people about the Patawomecks because he believes the tribe is an important part of Virginia’s history.

“The main thing,” he said, “is keeping the heritage alive.”

Indian Tribes of Virginia

If the General Assembly and Gov. Bob McDonnell approve House Joint Resolution 150, the Patawomeck Indians would be the ninth tribe recognized by the state of Virginia. The other tribes are:

  • Chickahominy, in Charles City County
  • Eastern Chickahominy, in New Kent County
  • Mattaponi, on the banks of the Mattaponi River in King William County
  • Monacan Indian Nation, on Bear Mountain in Amherst County
  • Nansemond, in the cities of Suffolk and Chesapeake
  • Pamunkey, on the banks of the Pamunkey River in King William County
  • Rappahannock, on Indian Neck in King & Queen County
  • Upper Mattaponi, in King William County

Delegate Roslyn C. Tyler, D-Jarratt, is sponsoring resolutions to recognize two more tribes:

  • House Joint Resolution 32 would recognize the Nottoway Indian Tribe. The House Rules Committee voted 15-0 in favor of this resolution.
  • House Joint Resolution 171 would recognize the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe of Southampton County. The Rules Committee voted 11-3 for this proposal.

On the Web

To learn more about the Patawomeck Indian tribe, visit

Morgan’s proposals drew support from former law-enforcement officials, legal professionals, members of the medical community and patients who have used marijuana. However, subcommittee members did not let either bill go forward for consideration by the full committee.
The subcommittee voted unanimously to table House Bill 1134, which would have decriminalized possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana.

The subcommittee voted 4-3 to table HB 1136, which would have allowed doctors to prescribe medicinal marijuana to treat a range of ailments and conditions.