The Pamunkey River and Indian Reservation

Farmer cutting cover crop, maybe alfafa.

June 7 -- The eastern Tidewater part of state where I have traveled this week is very new to me, and so different from the Blue Ridge mountains and Piedmont pastures that I am used to back home. And that's what has been so fun about this trip - seeing places not so far from home that feel like a world away. 

I walked east out of Hanover County on long back roads through young woods, corn and wheat toward the Pamunkey River. Contrary to what I was expecting, the landscape here is not flat as a pancake.   
Train trestle I used to cross the Pamunkey River.
 I made it to the Pamunkey Indian Reservation where I had gotten permission to visit and pitch a tent at the home of Warren Cook's family. He and his wife, Susan, live right on the river in a special section of backwater and wetland called "the Pocket". Warren and his youngest daughter, Allyn, who lives next door were there when I arrived and treated me so kindly. Allyn had even been cooking dinner for me before I arrived. 
Warren Cook and his daughter Allyn, with the Pamunkey River as their front yard and marker of their cultural homeland.
I was sorry to drop my bag and rush off so quickly after my late arrival, but Garrie Rouse and his daughter Kat with Mattaponi Canoe and Kayak had offered to show me around that section of the river at high tide, around 6:00 when I arrived. Let me just tell you that I can't believe I had never been on the Pamunkey River before. Being out there on that quiet and wide still water among the yellow pond lillies as the sun moved low on the horizon was...breathtaking. The scene was so novel to me. Is this still Virginia in the year 2012?
Garrie Rouse shows me flower of yellow pond lilly

We did talk about the past, as Warren, Allyn, and I ate fresh omelets the next morning out in Allyn's great tiki hut beside here house. Warren explained that this is the oldest reservation in the country, established by a treaty with the King of England in the 1600s.  As I understood it, Pamunkey tribal land at that time radiated six miles out from its current center at the Pocket in the river, but was gradually whittled away by white men who started paying taxes on outter portions of the territory until they were eventually granted a deed to that chunk of land.  Approximately 1200 acres makes up the reservation as it is known today.  Before I left after breakfast, Warren took me on a quick drive around the reservation.  It doesn't look too terribly different from the scene on the outside, except that the homes are a little closer together and there are places to gather - a museum and meeting room, a pottery studio, a fish hatchery on the river, and soon to be a picnic pavilion by the river.  And of course there are woods, corn, and wheat. 

Warren Cook, the omelet chef.

Warren makes jewelry. This bracelet shows the symbol of the Pamunkey Tribe.

The school that Warren attended on the reservation as a child, shown in the background.  Because of Segregation, the only school he could attend after 7th grade was the Cherokee school in North Carolina.
Photos in the Pamunkey Indian Tribe Museum on the reservation, showing Warren (right) with his father, Chief Tecumseh Cook (center) who lived to be over 100 years old, and his great grandfather George Major Cook also a longtime chief (left).