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Native Americans Still Pay Tribute To Va. Governor In Centuries-Old Tradition

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The tradition of native American tribes paying a Thanksgiving-time tribute to Virginia's governor dates back to 1677. Even with fewer numbers attending the ceremony, the tribes are doing their best to keep it going. 

The ceremony dates back to a 1677 treaty. Every year, each tribe offers a deer and gifts to the Governor and the First Lady in lieu of paying taxes and performs a ceremonial dance afterwards. This year, the Pamunkey tribe offered a goose in addition to the deer. The governor even joked about it at the ceremony earlier this week.

"What we have here is a buck buck goose," McDonnell said. 

But the crowd seemed thinner, the media presence was lighter, the dance was shorter and the tribes represented were down to just two — as opposed to many others in previous years. But Assistant Mattoponi Chief Mark "Falling Star" Custalow said that doesn't mean the tradition is fading.

"There's a different style of dance, different people dancing, and then some of the people are getting older and not being able to come and make it for the tribute," he said.

Some very young members of his tribe also attended, the next generation who are learning the meaning and significance of the tribute and dance, Custalow said. And the tribe's ongoing discussion includes how to keep the tradition alive and relevant despite ever-changing times.

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