PRIMARY DOCUMENT

“Henry Blow, William Blow, Samuel Blunt, Trustees, to the Governor.” (February 17, 1809)

CONTEXT

In the eighteenth century, based on the false assumption that Indigenous people were incapable of handling their own financial affairs, the colonial government began the practice of appointing trustees—white, male landowners—to oversee and manage the sale of tribal lands and to distribute the resulting funds. In this letter to Governor John Tyler, written in 1809, trustees of the Nottoway Indian Tribe describe tribal resistance to their attempts to convince the tribe to lease more land and forcibly assimilate tribal members into Christian and English culture.

FULL TEXT

1809. February 17, Southampton 

We read your letter of the 14th of December last about the first of January. We should have immediately acknowledged the receipt of it, but were anxious first to collect the sentiments of the Nottoway Indians in respect to leasing out their land. This we have now done, and have to inform you that all the Indians of lawful age (except one) are unwilling to have any part of their lands leased out. Their objections are that the white people are already as near them as they wish them to be, and that if they are to have nearer neighbors they desire to have the choosing them. We have therefore declined leasing any of their land until we are further instructed.

In November last we had all the land belonging to the Nottoway Indians surveyed. There were three thousand one hundred and eighty-three acres of high land, and seven hundred and twenty-nine acres of low grounds. Part of the latter is arable; the balance not. We have had the land occupied by each Indian surveyed conformably to an order of the Council of State of the 4th of June last. The quantity in the occupancy of each is as follows, viz.: Edy Turner, 22 1-5; Nancy Turner 16; Tom Turner, 13 ½; Anny, Winny, Billy and Jenny Woodson, 95; Littleton Scholar, 9; Jenny Wincoak, 45; John and Polly Woodson, 14; Betsy Step, 5, and one other small piece in the occupancy of Nancy Turner, containing 4½ acres. You observe that the rules established by us previous to the 18th of July last are incomplete, as there is no provision made for the protection of the persons and property of the Indians from trespass committed by them on each other, or by other persons residing among them. Nor for the education of the Indian children.

In answer to which we say that if there was the smallest hope of drawing these unfortunate people from the miserable state in which they are, we would most willingly attempt the making such other rules and regulations as we should deem necessary for their welfare.

We have already used every argument in our power to induce them to use the habits of sobriety, industry, frugality, &c., but without effect. If your Excellency will have the goodness to direct us how we are to manage, or what kind of rules will be proper for a people destitute of those habits, we shall acknowledge it as a particular favour, and pursue the direction willingly. Schooling the children belonging to the Tribe has been mentioned to the grown Indians, and the propriety of it made as plain to them as we could make it. They sometimes seem willing to send them to school, but that is as far as they have progressed, and we fear as they ever will without compulsion, which we have no authority to use. We have always endeavored to protect the Tribe from injury, as well of their persons as of their property. Respecting their dealings

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with people who reside among them, they always have our assistance when it is asked, and if bargains are made between them and others without our consent, we do not consider them of force until we approve them. This has been a rule from the time we became Trustees. Since the receipt of your letter the subject of binding the children apprentices has been mentioned to the Tribe, to which they answered that an Indian was never known as apprentice. There is, therefore, no prospect of an artisan from among them. On th 28th of December, 1803, there was an act passed by the General Assembly of Virginia, authorizing the Trustees of the Nottoway Tribe of Indians to sell all the land belonging to them on the north side of Nottoway River, &c.

The sale was made on the 10th of August, in the year 1805, but before the sale, a person entered for the said land (called the Indian Land,) and had it surveyed under a belief that it was vacant land. We have employed an attorney in the business, who had it put off at our last Quarterly Court until March, with a view of getting some information from Richmond respecting the time or times that lands belonging formerly to the Indians on the North side of Nottoway were sold. We can get no information from any laws we have in this place. The land in dispute lies near Cary’s Bridge and joins the place we call Simmons Town. If you will collect the information necessary, it may probably assist in saving for the Indians what we believe they ought to have. If we could ascertain that the two small tracts now in dispute were a part of any ancient grant, we should, we think, succeed. If we cannot, we must depend on the testimony we can get. We would be very thankful for such information on this subject as you can furnish us with before the 20th of March, which will be the Southampton Court day.

We are, &c.

CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Blow, Henry, Blow, William & Blunt, Samuel. “Henry Blow, William Blow, Samuel Blunt, Trustees, to the Governor.” (February 17, 1809). (2022, November 11). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/henry-blow-william-blow-samuel-blunt-trustees-to-the-governor-february-17-1809.
MLA Citation:
Blow, Henry, William Blow, and Samuel Blunt. "“Henry Blow, William Blow, Samuel Blunt, Trustees, to the Governor.” (February 17, 1809)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (11 Nov. 2022). Web. 03 Dec. 2022
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