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Festival Honors Native Virginians

Rappahannock Tribe Thought to Have Harbored Potcahontas

Under a very blue sky, three indigenous tribes came together at Riverbend Park in Great Falls last Saturday to celebrate the fourth Virginia Indian Festival on the banks of the Potomac River.

More than 700 people came to see demonstrations of dancing, bow and arrow use, and how stone tools and fires were once made.

Scott Silsby of Arlington demonstrated flint-knapping — or stone tool-making.

The Indians “flaked” stones by striking them either with another stone or the antlers of elk or deer to “pressure flake them” for a finer edge. Those stones turned into billets for knocking flakes off stones, and that is how Indians made projectile points for spears and arrows, said Marty Smith, the manager of Riverbend Park.

They ground them down to have a smooth edge because it made the blade stronger, more durable, and chopped better, said Smith.

But local Indians preferred to hunt with the lighter-weight “atl-atl,” than spears, which had points and heavy handles.

At Riverbend last weekend, the Rappahannock Tribe demonstrated various forms of dance, used for social, religious, and celebratory purposes, he said.

The Rappahannock Tribe is one of few in Virginia that is recognized by the state. but has no reservation, Smith said. They are now trying to acquire land for their use.

Both the Pamunkey and Mattaponi tribes have reservations granted by the King of England in the 1600s, Smith said.

Pocahontas, the famous Indian princess, was visiting the Patowmack Indians when she was kidnapped from a village on the Potomac River by English traders who wanted her father, Chief Powhatan, to concede to their wishes, said Smith, but the chief wouldn’t concede.