Indian Princess in the Family Tree: Nicketti, Niece of Pocahontas

1622

Jamestown

Among our Virginia ancestors is Nicketti, an Indian princess of the Powhatan Nation. Our Freyschlag cousin Joanne Ferguson uncovered her existence many years ago, and Grandma Ruth Wilson was already aware of Joanne's find: Grandma mentioned an Indian in the family tree from time to time.

Nicketti was born around 1638 in Virginia. Her father, Opechancanough, was a Powhatan Chief: thus Nicketti can be called an "Indian princess." Nicketti's mother, Cleopatra, was a younger sister of Pocahontas, which makes Pocahontas a great-aunt. "Nicketti" means "she who sweeps the dew from the flowers." Her father was quite elderly when she was born and died when she was a young girl.

Opechancanough ruled from 1622 until 1644, when white settlers killed him during the same conflict in which Indians murdered our ancestor, Dr. John Woodson, of Jamestown.

When Nicketti came of age, she married a Scottish trader, referred to in records as "Trapper Hughes" because his first name is lost. In the late 1600s, the couple built a trading post along the banks of the upper James River, deep in the Blue Ridge forest, in Amherst County, Virginia. Their post's stone chimney was a well-known landmark that was cited in land surveys for many decades; a remnant of the chimney survives today at the site. Hughes was the first white settler in Amherst County and was accepted by the Indians because of his wife's heritage.

Hughes and Nicketti had at least one daughter, Mary Elizabeth Hughes, a "half-breed" who married Nathaniel Davis, an immigrant from Wales. Some of their children were quite dark skinned and gave rise to the so-called "black Davis" family of Kentucky. One member of this branch faced forfeiture of his land because Kentucky land laws excluded ownership by blacks. However, he was able to prove his Indian heritage and kept his land.

Sgts. Charles Floyd and Nathaniel Pryor, of the Lewis & Clark expedition, were fifth generation descendants of Nicketti and were likely aware of their Indian ancestor: "Nicketti" was a common girl's name in the Floyd family, including the daughter of the Governor of Virginia 1830-1834, John Floyd. Perhaps the Indian ancestry of Charles Floyd and Nathaniel Pryor made these two men more comfortable with the prospect of journeying across the country through Indian territory.

Why isn't there the "Nicketti Mullins Casino & Spa" in Virginia? The requirements to join a tribe vary widely, but generally there is a "Blood Quantum" requirement of at least 1/16 Native American blood so Nicketti is too removed now. Also, for an extremely complex, Kafka-esque set of political reasons, the Powhatan Nation has yet to obtain Federal recognition. In part this is because the tribe was so peaceful and non-assertive after signing a treaty with England in 1677; in part it's because of vehement opposition to gambling in Virginia. In fact, there are no recognized Native American tribes in Virginia. A small group of Powhatans has united with members of five other Virginia tribes to pursue recognition in Congress, along with the support of Virginia's two senators. So the 400-year-old battle between Native Americans and immigrant families continues though now it is thankfully a peaceful battle.