“Nottoway Indians: Petition.” (December 11, 1821)


In this 1821 petition, Wané Roonseraw (also known as Edith or Edy Turner), a leader of the historic Nottoway Tribe, and other tribal members request that the General Assembly distribute the remaining segment of the initial 44,000-acre Nottoway Indian reservation into individual descendant ownership allotments. Roonseraw is appealing to European notions of private property as a foundation for capitalism when she argues that the collectively held land couldn’t be the basis for surplus production. Roonseraw made this petition at a time when the government-appointed trustees of the Nottoway Tribe were selling off their lands, threatening the involuntary ejection of the Nottoway people westward.



To the Honourable the Speaker and House of Delegates 

The petition of the undersigned, the female Chief, and others, of the Nottoway tribe of Indians, in behalf, and with the assent of the whole tribe, convened in Council for that purpose, on the [2]7th day of October 1821 most respectfully represents and submitts:

That the Lands belonging to the said tribe are rendered in a great measure useless by their being held in common, which tenure takes away the main inducement to industry in the cultivation of them, derived from a certainty that the benefits to be received will bear a just proportion to the efforts made by each individual. It is found to be impossible to divide a common Crop, made by a number, of persons of various power, and different wills, so as to give to each a share strictly proportioned to the part taken in the labour performed, and in consequence of long continued dissatisfaction on that head, at length no crop at all is made.

There is no longer any game worth pursuing on the lands of the said tribe, and the people are wholly unemployed. Their wants have brought them to consider the timber as the property of the individual who first finds, and marks the tree; as the game formerly was of those who could first get possession of it. Each Indian is apt to take on himself the power of selling the choice timber trees he may chance to find, and the whole, of what is of any value, must soon be destroyed.

That your Petitioners, while they solicit to have their lands divided amongst them, have no expectation of being admitted to the right of suffrage, although they are conscious they could never misuse it; and they will acquiesce readily in a limitation upon the power to alienate the land allotted to each, which may prevent the first, second, third and fourth holders, in succession, from selling more than one fourth part, each, of the quantity actually confirmed to each individual by the acts of division: and allso if thought requisite they will be satisfied with an extension of the time of minority, among them, and their descendants, for a given number of years. Your Petitioners humbly solicit that a law may be passed containing provisions such as the Legislature in its Wisdom may deem most fit for the aforementioned purposes, and they will as in duty bound, ever pray yr[illegible]

Done in presence of

Thos W. Randolph

Jne B. Richardson

Joseph Danforth

Wané Roonseraw or

Edith Turner

X his mark

Karé hout or

Polly Woodson

X her mark

WM Woodson

Te-res-ké or

Solomon Rogers

X his mark


Petition of Nottoway Indians.

Decr. 11th. 1821.

refd to Cts. of J.

Ord.d to lie Decr 28th

Rejected Januy 23d


APA Citation:
Tribe, Historic Nottoway. “Nottoway Indians: Petition.” (December 11, 1821). (2022, September 29). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Tribe, Historic Nottoway. "“Nottoway Indians: Petition.” (December 11, 1821)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (29 Sep. 2022). Web. 21 May. 2024
Last updated: 2023, September 11
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