Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe of Southampton County, Virginia Wins 19th Century Court Case
Written by Chief Walt “Red Hawk” Brown
On February 5, 1849, the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe filed suit in the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery for the County of Southampton, against Jeremiah Cobb, a prominent White farmer, in Southampton County Virginia.
The suit was filed on behalf of Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) tribal members and a few Nansemond Indians that were living with them on their reservation land in Southampton County, by the tribe’s Trustees (all of whom were white): James W. Parker, G.N.W. Newsom, and Jesse S. Parham on November 8th, 1850.
The suit stemmed from a land dispute between the tribe and Jeremiah Cobb. In his decision, Judge Rich H. Baker ruled in favor of the Cheroenhaka. On March 3, 1851, as witnessed by Littleton R. Edwards, Clerk of said court, the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Tribe were awarded $818.82 with interest from June 1, 1845.
At that time, the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe still owned approximately 7,000 acres of its original 41,000 acres of reservation land that was granted to the tribe in 1705 by the Virginia House of Burgesses (currently the House of Delegates).
This case was and is significant. The Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) are the only Native American Indian Tribe in Virginia that ever prevailed, successfully winning a Court Case in 19th Century Virginia.
As a result of winning this case and the resultant decision, the Commonwealth of Virginia (via the Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery for the County of Southampton County) officially recognized tribal status for the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway).
From the tribe’s perspective, its government recognition dates to 1851 and since that time no government – neither the State of Virginia nor the Federal Government, has by way of law, act, bill or policy negated the tribe’s recognition status as a sovereign Nation/Tribe.
Submitted by Chief Walt “Red Hawk” Brown
Editor’s note: Want to join the 2019 Commemoration in surfacing authentic portrayals of Virginia Indians and Native Americans? Don’t miss the Pocahontas Reframed Storytellers Film Festival.