Exhibit Depicts Early 20th-Century Lives of Virginian Indians

February 13, 2008
February 13, 2008 — “Family Portraits: Virginian Indians at the Turn of the 20th Century,” a photographic exhibit organized by Sweet Briar College with support from the Virginia Indian Heritage Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, will open at the University of Virginia’s Kaleidoscope Center for Cultural Fluency in Newcomb Hall on Feb. 22 and remain on display through May 25.

Native Virginia Indian community leaders will give a gallery talk at a reception on Feb. 22, hosted by U.Va.’s American Indian Student Union. The reception will begin at 6 p.m. at the Kaleidoscope Center.

More than 30 photographs depict members of six tribes of Virginia Indians in portraits, school pictures and tribal gatherings. The exhibition includes reproductions of candid, studio and ethnographic photographs taken of Monacan, Pamunkey, Nansemond, Chickahominy, Rappahannock and Mattaponi Indians in the early 1900s. Many of the photos are anonymous; others were taken by Smithsonian photographers James Mooney and G.L. Dill, and by the Foster Studio, which operated in Richmond from 1900 to 1925.

The exhibition is an update of one originally created and shown at Sweet Briar College in 1993 as a research project by Katherine Schupp Zeringue, then a Sweet Briar undergraduate student, under the guidance of art galleries director Rebecca Massie Lane and anthropology professor Claudia Chang.

The photographs were selected from collections at the Virginia Historical Society, the Valentine Richmond History Center, the Library of Virginia, the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Virginia Special Collections. The written descriptions that accompany the images have been updated for the current show, using information learned since the original showing. Photographs of Monacan Indians, which were not available in 1993, also have been added.

In 1993 — as now — an important part of the project was the participation of those whose forebears are pictured, said Sweet Briar assistant professor of anthropology Lynn Rainville. She took on revising the labels, as well as securing funding for the project through a VFH grant. She collaborated with the Virginia tribes and with Deanna Beacham, program specialist for the Virginia Council on Indians, to amend the descriptions.

For her show in 1993, Schupp wrote to the Virginia tribal chiefs for help identifying people in the photographs. Two chiefs responded and the new information was provided to the lending institutions, who expressed gratitude for her efforts to find the lost information.

The updated version of "Family Portraits" was shown by the Sweet Briar Art Gallery during the fall 2007 semester, which coincided with Jamestown’s 400th anniversary year, Virginia Archaeology Month in October and National American Indian Heritage Month in November. Now, with VFH support, Sweet Briar has made it available to travel to venues throughout the commonwealth, with its first stop at the University of Virginia's Newcomb Hall.

An online version of the exhibit may be seen at www.faculty.sbc.edu/lrainville/VAIndiansExhibit/. It compares the 1993 and 2007 labels to demonstrate how the exhibition’s content changed after discussions with descendant communities and the incorporation of new scholarship.

The exhibit is open to visitors from 8 a.m. to midnight during regular Newcomb Hall hours. For information, contact Karenne Wood, director of the Virginia Indian Heritage Program, at karennewood@virginia.edu or (434) 924-3296.

For information on bringing the exhibit to a gallery, contact Rebecca Massie Lane at rmlane@sbc.edu or (434) 381-6248. It will travel to James Madison University for the fall semester, again sponsored by the Virginia Indian Heritage Program at the VFH.

Karenne Wood Becomes Virginia Indian Heritage Program Director

Karenne Wood was recently named director of the Virginia Indian Heritage Program, the newest program to be added to the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Wood is a member of the Monacan Indian Nation and serves on the Monacan Tribal Council. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of Virginia, working to reclaim indigenous languages and revitalize cultural practices.

She was previously the Repatriation Director for the Association on American Indian Affairs, coordinating the return of sacred objects to native communities. She has also worked at the National Museum of the American Indian as a researcher, and she directed a tribal history project with the Monacan Nation for six years. Wood held a gubernatorial appointment as Chair of the Virginia Council on Indians for four years, and she has served on the National Congress of American Indians’ Repatriation Commission.

Wood recently edited the Virginia Indian Heritage trail, published by the VFH, led the “Beyond Jamestown” Teachers’ Institute and curated the “Beyond Jamestown: Virginia Indians Past and Present” exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

Her vision for the Virginia Indian Heritage Program is to “help redress centuries of historical omission, exclusion and misrepresentation," she said. "Virginia Indians have always believed that the story told about our ancestors in history books is wrong. It’s a story that portrays us incorrectly and, worse, as invisible from a modern-day perspective. The Virginia Indian Heritage Program will help correct these inaccurate representations."