The George L. Nelson papers consist of documents belonging to Chief Nelson and left in the posession of his daughter Waneta Swain. The bulk of these documents relate to the work done by Chief Nelson in establishing the Rappahannock Indian Association in 1922 and the activities that led to the recognition of the tribe as part of the larger Virginia Indians Powhatan Confederacy. Chief George L. Nelson was born and raised in Indian Neck, VA.
Scope and Contents:
The George L. Nelson papers consist of documents belonging to Chief Nelson and left in the possession of his daughter Waneta Swain. The bulk of these documents relate to the work done by Chief Nelson in establishing the Rappahannock Indian Association in 1921 and the activities that led to the recognition of the tribe as part of the larger Virginia Indians Powhatan Confederacy. These includes letters, speeches, notes and membership lists. These papers also include letters and articles from Frank Speck, an anthropologist from the University of Pennsylvania, who maintained a relationship with Nelson and his family. Additionally these records includes notes and documents written by Chief Nelson regarding the Racial Integrity act (Bill No. 68) which was enacted in 1924. There are three family photographs which were accompanied by a newspaper clipping announcing the 50th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. George L. Nelson.
This collection has been arranged alphabetically by folder title.
Biographical / Historical:
Chief George L. Nelson (Rappahannock) was born circa 1883 in Indian Neck, Virginia to parents Samuel and Virginia Nelson. A member of the Rappahannock community, Nelson began working to incorporate his tribe under the state laws of Virginia. The Rappahannock Indian Association was founded in 1921 with George Nelson as Chief. In the early 1920's anthropologist Frank Speck spent time among the Rappahannock photographing Nelson and other community members.
Nelson married Polena Sensenbaugh daughter to Simon and Louisa born 1888 in South Whitely, Indiana in 1908. They became acquainted while Nelson was on his way home following a trip around the world with the Navy. George and Polena had 11 children, six sons and five daughters and the family eventually moved to Millville, New Jersey. Nelson died in 1960 in Cumberland, New Jersey. Nelson's daughter Waneta Swain Ackerman (born Waneta Pocahontas Nelson) bequeathed her father's papers to the National Museum of the American Indian in 2005.
Speck, Frank. "The Rappahannock Indians of Virginia," Indian Notes and Monographs, Volume V, No. 3. Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation, 1925.
Photographs of Chief George Nelson and family were taken both by Frank Speck and Frederick Johnson in the 1920's and can be found in their photo collections.
Frank Gouldsmith Speck photograph collection (NMAI.AC.001.032)
Frederick Johnson photograph collection (NMAI.AC.001.038)
The Chief George L. Nelson papers were donated to NMAI in 2005 by the Estate of Waneta P. Swain, daughter to Nelson, along with an outfit worn by Nelson which can be found in the object collections (NMAI Object 265403).
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