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Virginia Indian Tribes Pay Tribute Taxes to Governor Baliles, Photograph, 1989


Materials in the Library of Virginia’s collections contain historical terms, phrases, and images that are offensive to modern readers. These include demeaning and dehumanizing references to race, ethnicity, and nationality; enslaved or free status; physical and mental ability; and gender and sexual orientation. 


The annual payment of tribute by Virginia's Indians has been a long-standing practice which still occurs today. In 1646 Necotowance, “the King of the Indians” as the English referred to him, signed a treaty to end the third Anglo-Indian War. Annual payment of tribute to the colonial governor was to be 20 beaver skins “att the goeing away of Geese”. The tribute made clear his and his people’s submission to the English Crown. It also established that contact between the two groups became less spontaneous and more ritualized. Thirty-one years later, Cockacoeske, the weroansqua or chief of the Pamunkey Virginia Indians, signed the Treaty of Middle Plantation. The treaty recognized the authority of the colonial government, but also acknowledged property, land use, and hunting rights of the Virginia Indians.

More than 300 years later, those treaties continue to shape and govern the relationship between the Commonwealth, the state recognized Virginia Indian tribes, and the federally recognized Virginia Indian tribes. The Mattaponi and Pamunkey, represent the original treaty signers and they continue to pay tribute to the Commonwealth's government in a ceremony each year.

The photograph take December 4, 1989, shows Governor Gerald L. Baliles accepting a tribute of wild turkey from Herman A. Dennis (left) and Tecumseh Deerfoot Cook (right) of the Pamunkey Indian tribe in a ceremony on the steps of the Virginia Executive Mansion in Richmond. On Thanksgiving that year, Baliles hosted the chiefs of Virginia's then eight state-recognized Virginia Indian tribes at a dinner at the Executive Mansion.

Citation: Indian Tribes Pay Tribute Taxes to Governor Baliles, 1989, Prints and Photographs, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.


VS.I, VS.9, USII.1, USII.8, USII.9, VUS.1, VUS.15

Suggested Questions

Preview Activity

Look at It: Look at the photograph. What do you think is happening? Why would this event have taken place?

Post Activities

Social Media Spin: If Facebook and Twitter had been around in 1989, what hashtags and posts would you have created to explain this event?

Up for Debate: Do you think this tradition is a positive concept, or does it reinforce negative historical facts from early treatment of Virginia's Indians?