The greatest American Thanksgiving tradition you don’t know

Tomorrow marks Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday celebrated by tens of millions. Today, however, marks another annual tradition that might be surprising.

Dating back to 1646, leaders of the Pamunkey and Mattaponi Indian tribes bring an annual tax tribute to the governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The treaty of 1646 ended the Anglo-Indian war.

The words of the treaty required the Powhatan Indians to pay a tribute of 20 beaver pelts to the colonial government yearly. In return, they would be protected from their enemies. In 1677, the Treaty of Middle Plantation was signed. This treaty set the tribute at 3 Indian arrows, a mere formality. More important was the political alliance that was formed between the tribes and the colonial governing body.

Since then, the ceremony has been held annually. Over the years it was moved from March to the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the beaver pelts and arrows were replaced by deer, turkey and handmade pottery. The deer and turkey are donated to food kitchens for the homeless.

If continued this year, today will mark the 338th tax tribute ceremony.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch covered the presentation in 2013 with a series of photos from the event.
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The featured image of  Virginia Governor Terry McCauliffe at a tribute ceremony.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • Mark Dance

    Very interesting. Thx for sharing this

  • Alycia Comer-Wright

    We had the honor of attending today. The two tribes each presented a buck, pottery and jewelry to the Virginia first family. It was a wonderful way to start Thanksgiving.