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Native-American Ancestry

Culpepper Native-American Ancestors, Indian Princesses and Cherokee Indian Great-grandmothers

A surprising number of Americans have as part of their oral family tradition that they have a Native American ancestor.

In addition, there are legends about an Indian Princess (generally Cherokee) from whom certain Culpeppers are reportedly descended.

However, Native American historians dispute the use of the "Indian Princess" term.  Of course, there is the modern-day father-daughter YMCA-sponsored program using the term. Also in modern times, some Indian tribes, such as the Pawnees, have used the term to refer to the daughters of the chief or in connection with a beauty contest. But there is no evidence that such a term was used in the pre-20th-century times during which the ancestral claims are made.

It is possible that the claimed Indian ancestry may not have been American Indian at all, but rather African-American. A researcher of another surname received a message that her "Indian princess" ancestor had turned out to be African-American, and when she did more research into it, "Indian princess" and "Cherokee princess" were sometimes used in the South as somewhat derogatory terms for light-skinned mulatto women (similar to "high yellow.") This appellation may have been passed down by people who were unaware of its original meaning.

A documented connection between Pocahontas and a branch of a Mississippi Culpepper family will be found near the bottom of this page, but no other Indian ancestral connection has ever been found by Culpepper Connections.

Excerpted from Vine Deloria, Jr., "Indians Today, the Real and the Unreal," from Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto, New York. Macmillan, no. 1-27. 1969.

"During my three years as Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians it was a rare day when some white didn't visit my office and proudly proclaim that he or she was of Indian descent.

"Cherokee was the most popular tribe of their choice and many people placed the Cherokees anywhere from Maine to Washington State. Mohawk, Sioux, and Chippewa were next in popularity. Occasionally, I would be told about some mythical tribe from lower Pennsylvania, Virginia, or Massachusetts which had spawned the white standing before me.

"At times I became quite defensive about being a Sioux when these white people had a pedigree that was so much more respectable than mine. But eventually I came to understand their need to identify as partially Indian and did not resent them. I would confirm their wildest stories about their Indian ancestry and would add a few tales of my own hoping that they would be able to accept themselves someday and leave us alone.

"Whites claiming Indian blood generally tend to reinforce mythical beliefs about Indians. All but one person I met who claimed Indian blood claimed it on their grandmother's side. I once did a projection backward and discovered that evidently most tribes were entirely female for the first three hundred years of white occupation. No one, it seemed, wanted to claim a male Indian as a forebear.

"It doesn't take much insight into racial attitudes to understand the real meaning of the Indian grandmother complex that plagues certain whites. A male ancestor has too much of the aura of the savage warrior, the unknown primitive, the instinctive animal, to make him a respectable member of the family tree. But a young Indian princess? Ah, there was royalty for the taking. Somehow the white was linked with a noble house of gentility and culture if his grandmother was an Indian princess who ran away with an intrepid pioneer. And royalty has always been an unconscious but all-consuming goal of the European immigrant.

"The early colonists, accustomed to life under benevolent despots, projected their understanding of the European political structure onto the Indian tribe in trying to explain its political and social structure. European royal houses were closed to ex-convicts and indentured servants, so the colonists made all Indian maidens princesses, then proceeded to climb a social ladder of their own creation. Within the next generation, if the trend continues, a large portion of the American population will eventually be related to Powhattan.

"While a real Indian grandmother is probably the nicest thing that could happen to a child, why is a remote Indian princess grandmother so necessary for many whites? Is it because they are afraid of being classed as foreigners? Do they need some blood tie with the frontier and its dangers in order to experience what it means to be an American? Or is it an attempt to avoid facing the guilt they bear for the treatment of the Indian?"

For other discussions of this from both Native Americans and experienced genealogists, see:
 - Why Your Great-Grandmother Wasn't a Cherokee Princess,
 - The Myth of the Cherokee Princess

The Indian Culpeper Minutemen

A tradition passed down in one branch of the Northeast Alabama Culpeppers is that the Culpeper Minutemen of Revolutionary War fame were actually all Indians pressed into service by George Washington. According to this fanciful legend, all American Culpeppers are descended from them.

There is no evidence supporting the idea that any of the Minutemen were Indians, and likewise there is no evidence that any of the Minutemen were Culpeppers or Culpepers. The absence of the family in the Culpeper Minutemen is ironic, but it has never been disputed with facts by any researcher.

The Pocahontas Connection:
Culpeppers Who Really Do Descend from an Indian

A connection between Pocahontas and a branch of a Mississippi Culpepper family is well documented, but no other Indian ancestral connection has ever been found by Culpepper Connections.

  1. Chief Powhatan (b abt 1547, d 1618). real name Wa-Hun-Sen-A-Cawh or Wahunsonacook, was the ruler of the Powhatan confederacy of Algonquian tribes. These tribes inhabited Virginia from seaboard to the falls of the rivers at the time the English first settled there in 1607. Chief Powhattan was the father of: 

  2. Matoaka Rebecca "Pocahontas" Powhaton. Her real name was Matoaka; the name Pocahontas means "playful one." She was described as her father's "dearest daughter" and the idol of her tribe as well as admired by all England.

    According to a legend, in 1608 Pocahontas saved the life of Captain John Smith by holding his head in her arms as he was about to be clubbed to death by her father's warriors. Many historians doubt the story, which is not found in Smith's detailed personal narrative written at the time. The story first appeared in Smith's Generall Historie of Virginia (1624).

    In 1612 Pocahontas was captured by the English and taken to Jamestown. She became a convert to Christianity and took the name Rebecca. On 5 Apr 1614 at Jamestown, she married John Rolfe, one of the colonists, with the blessings of both the governor and her father. Eight years of peace between the Native Americans and the English followed the marriage.

    In 1615 Pocahontas had her first child, Thomas Rolfe3, and the following year the family went to England. She met the king and queen of England and was received with royal honor. On the eve of her return to Virginia, Pocahontas died of smallpox and was buried in the chapel of the parish church in Gravesend, a Thames River port some twenty miles downstream from London. Her son was educated in England, but returned to Virginia and became an important settler.

    It is a definite possibility that Pocahontas was married prior to her marriage to John Rolfe and may very well have had one or more children. However, this has never been proven.

    Pocahontas (b abt 1595, died 21 Mar 1617, in London, Middlesex, England from smallpox) and John Rolfe  (b bef. 6 May 1585, Heacham, Norfolk, England, baptized 6 May 1585, Heacham, Norfolk, England, d 22 Mar 1622, Jamestown, James City Co, VA killed in Indian massacre), were the parents of:

  3. Thomas Rolfe (b 30 Jan 1615, Richmond, Indian Territory, VA (Smith's Fort Plantation), d 1675, Kippax, Prince George Co. VA) who married in 1640 Jane Poythress (b abt. 1630, Jamestown, James City Co. VA, d Jan 1680, Charles City, VA). Thomas and Jane were the parents of:

  4. Jane Rolfe (b 10 Oct 1650 Petersburg, Indian Territory (Dinwiddie Co.) VA, d 1676, Kippax, Charles City Co. VA) who married 1675 in Petersburg, Col. Robert Bolling (b 26 Dec 1646, All Hallows, Barking Parish, London, England, Immigrated 2 Oct 1660 VA, d 7 Jul 1709, Kippax, Charles City Co. VA). Jane and Robert were the parents of:

  5. Col. John Bolling (b 26 Jan 1675, Kippax, Charles City Co. VA, d 20 Apr 1729, Cobbs, Henrico Co. VA) who married 29 Dec 1697 in Henrico Co, VA, Mary Kennon (29 Jun 1679, Conjuror's Neck, Henrico Co. VA, d 27 Jun 1727, Cobbs, Henrico Co. VA). John and Mary were the parents of:

  6. Col. John Bolling (b 20 Jan 1699/1700 Cobbs, Henrico Co. VA, d 6 Sep 1757, Cobbs, Henrico Co. VA) who married 24 Aug 1728 Elizabeth Bland Blair (b 20 Jan 1705/06 VA, d 22 Apr 1775 VA). John and Elizabeth were the parents of:

  7. Anne Bolling, who married 21 Apr 1770 William Alexander Dandridge II (b Hanover County, VA, d 1801 Hanover County, VA). William was a Major in 1777 and a Colonel in 1779-83. In 1781, as commissary for troops at Yorktown, seized 200 gallons of liquor. Played minuet with Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson at "Elsing Green". Ann and William were the parents of:

  8. William Spotswood (Alexander?) "Dover" Dandridge, born 30 Aug 1772 in Hanover Co, VA and died 10 Sep 1842 in Henry Co, VA. He married 1st before 1799 Joanne Stith (b 1778 in New Kent Co, VA). Married 2nd on 26 Jun 1800 in Goochland Co, VA, Nancy Harris Pulliam (b 23 Mar 1782 in Goochland Co, VA, d 9 May 1835 in Henry Co, VA), dau of William Pulliam and Mourning Richardson. Nancy was mother of John. After 1814, William moved to Henry County. William and Nancy Dandridge, both buried in Henry Co., were the parents of:

  9.  John Robert Dandridge, born 26 May 1814 in Hanover Co, VA. Married 1st on 12 Jan 1836, Martha Washington Pulliam, daughter Thompson W. Dandridge and Ann Catherine Moore of Goochland Co, VA. Married 2nd, after 1856, Lousie Virginia Perkins of Louisa Co, VA. John and Martha were the parents of:

  10. Henry Spotswood Dandridge, born 15 Jul 1842, Hanover Co., VA and died 23 Apr 1915, Laurel, Jones Co., MS. Henry was the father of:

  11. Martha Roberta 'Burda' Dandridge, born 16 Aug 1882, Cuba, Sumter Co., AL and died 7 Oct 1940, Hattiesburg, Forrest Co., MS. She married on 4 Oct 1903, Horace Greeley Culpepper, who was born 18 Jun 1872, Lauderdale Co., MS and died 25 Dec 1958. Burda and Horace were the parents of: six daughters and two sons. One of their two sons, Joseph Henry Culpepper (1928-1976) had no sons. The other son was:

  12. Horace Conn Culpepper, born 22 May 1909 and died 21 May 1990. He married circa 1944 Bobbie Ridgeway Murphey, who was born in 1912 and died in 1986. Horace and his wife Bobbie Ridgeway Culpepper were the parents of only one child:

  13. Jack Thomas Culpepper, born 1945 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and as of 2008, Jack is still living. However he has no sons, and therefore the Culpepper - Pocahontas connection will die with him.

Sources

bulletStuart E. Brown, Jr, and Lorraine F. Myers, Pocahontas' Descendants, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997.
bulletMicrosoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia.
bulletJack Thomas Culpepper letter

Last Revised: 23 January 2013

 
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