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2021 Treaty Research Scholars Present Findings at Conference

A team of scholars has researched the history of Virginia’s treaties between colonial and native governments.  They will present their findings at the conference to help attendees understand how relationships developed, what the treaties meant to the Europeans and Native Virginians, and how they continue to remain relevant today. 

Dr. Jason Sellers, Associate Professor of History at the University of Mary Washington, will discuss how tribes continued to relate to each other and the English as independent peoples into the early 18th century, despite English efforts to claim exclusive sovereignty for the Crown in a top-down model of colonial relations. Dr. Sellers holds graduate degrees from the University of California, Irvine, and an undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a cultural and environmental historian of 17th-and 18th-century North America interested in landscapes and bodies and is currently working on a project that explores the interactions of Munsee Indians and European colonists in the 17th-century Hudson Valley. ​

Dr. Edward Ragan, Coordinator for Student Success at Centenary College of Louisiana, will discuss the treaties from a balance of power point of view, showing how the colonies impeded the treaty-making process with the nations from the Tribe’s ground-level view.​ Dr. Ragan received hisB.A. and M.A. from Louisiana State University, Shreveport, and his Ph.D. from Syracuse University.  His dissertation, “Where the Water Ebbs and Flows: Place and Self Among the Rappahannock People,” is a comprehensive early history of the Rappahannock Tribe. He has worked with the Rappahannock Tribe since 1996 on matters of federal acknowledgement and cultural recovery and was the Tribe’s lead historian for their federal acknowledgement project. He has worked with the Chief to develop programs for tribal members and the surrounding non-Indian community, including a community education program and cultural recovery projects.

Dr. Jessica Taylor, Assistant Professor of Oral and Public History at Virginia Tech, will discuss challenges to Native sovereignty in the Chesapeake, how Native strategies for strengthening land claims and sovereignty developed over time, and how Virginia’s plantation economy led to economically destructive outbursts against Native people like Bacon’s Rebellion.  Dr. Taylor earned her doctorate at the University of Florida and her principal areas of research are oral history, early American history, historic preservation, and Native American history. Her dissertation is entitled: “Certaine Boundes: Indian Peoples, Nations, and Violence in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake.”

Dr. Sam Cook, Associate Professor of History, Presidential Advisor on American Indian Initiatives  and Director of American Indian Studies at Virginia Tech, will bridge the common themes of the team’s research to discuss the intention behind the treaties from the European point of view, the agency of the Tribes throughout the centuries to today, and how state and federal recognition is used to European advantage. Dr. Cook holds a PhD from the University of Arizona; his current projects include 1) indigenous natural resource management , traditional ecological knowledge and its relationship to community capacity; 2) collaborative revitalization of Indigenous histories of the New River Valley in response to settler narratives; 3) assessment of the ways in which contemporary Indian nations confront and overcome legal obstacles to the exercise of their inherent sovereign powers.