Modern — And Indian
Ashley Atkins Spivey is writing her anthropology dissertation on the historic subsistence practices of her tribe — fishing, trapping, hunting, pottery making — and how the Pamunkey used those activities to engage the region's market economy. Spivey's research proves that by the time the Constitution established the United States of America, the Pamunkey had long since forged cross-cultural relationships with their non-Native neighbors.
That doesn't mean that the Pamunkey had surrendered their ancient ways, according to Spivey. Instead, they were being pragmatic, using their knowledge of life to best take advantage of the status quo. When Spivey excavated an archaeological site on the reservation in 2010, for example, she found a lot of so-called colonoware. "This was pottery made in European form using indigenous methods," she explains.
"They are using their centuries-old, multi-generational knowledge of the reservation landscape to appropriate and engage the market economy to their benefit. And in turn this engagement fosters the continuation of these practices.
"Indian communities are unfairly held to a special standard where outsiders…assume that if Indians engage the modern world around them than they are no longer authentically Indian. The
general public believes Indians can't be modern and Indian at the same time. And of course this is absolutely ridiculous. Indian people live in the contemporary modern world like everyone else," says Spivey.