Indigenous Peoples Day

This week at John Tyler Library (Midlothian), we celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.

As a Virginia resident, you may realize that many place names in your hometown are Native American in origin, or you be a member of a Native American tribe yourself! Regardless of your connection, there is no doubt that the presence and influence of Native Americans remains integral to the story of Virginia.

The following is the list of recognized Native American Tribes in Virginia:

Eastern Chickahominy
Upper Mattaponi
Cheroenhaka (Nottoway)
Nottoway of Virginia

Although this may seem like a history lesson, some of these tribes actually weren’t recognized federally until 2018!

In 2016, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe became the first federally recognized Virginia Tribe by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Then, in January 2018, the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, and the Monacan Tribes were officially recognized by the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017.

Photo: “DSC_2577,” attributed to Mark Warner, CC BY-2.0

As part of our celebration, we will showcase several notable Native Americans who contributed to popular fields of study here at John Tyler, such as engineering, education, and healthcare.

Susan La Flesche Picotte was a notable physician of the Omaha tribe.

Born in 1865, Susan grew up on the Omaha Reservation on eastern Nebraska. As a child, she witnessed a fellow Indian die because a white doctor refused to treat her. Many Omaha women were healers during this time period, but Victorian women often did not attend medical school. By attending Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, Susan became the first Native American to earn a medical degree. She worked to educate her community about alcoholism, preventative medicine, and tuberculosis (for which there was no cure at the time). The hospital where she worked on the reservation was declared a National Historic Landmark in her honor.

John Herrington is an astronaut from the Chickasaw Nation.

In 2002, he boarded the Shuttle Endeavour as a mission specialist, bringing with him six eagle feathers, two arrowheads, and a braid of sweet grass to honor his ancestral heritage. He holds membership with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and earned his PhD in education from the University of Idaho. Recently, he was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the Sand Diego Air & Space Museum in 2017.

Fred Begay (AKA Fred Young or Clever Fox) was a notable nuclear physicist of the 20th century.

Until the age of 10, Dr. Begay spoke only native Navajo and Ute languages and did not learn English until he attended a Bureau of Indian Affairs School in Colorado. By the age of 36, he had earned his doctorate in nuclear physics. His research focused largely on thermonuclear plasma heating methods for use in alternative energy technologies, and in 1979 a NOVA documentary titled The Long Walk of Fred Young showcased his life work. He sadly passed away in April 2013, after earning tenure in the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s laser program and teaching at Stanford University and the University of Maryland.

Feel free to come by and check out a book from our Indigenous Peoples Awareness Display! We have books on all ranges of topics, including art, mythology, Native American authors, warfare, and history of the United States.


Did you know that there is an American Indian Library Association?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *