Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Danielle Moretti-Langholtz

Committee Members

Martin Gallivan

Ashley Atkins Spivey

Andrew Fisher


The Pamunkey Indian Tribe has engaged in riverine-oriented subsistence practices for centuries and has a long history of local natural resource management. However, tribal participation and interest in the traditional practice of fishing on the Pamunkey Indian Reservation have declined significantly in the past few decades. This thesis combines contemporary ethnographic fieldwork with historical literature research to explore socio-economic, cultural and environmental change on the Reservation through the window of the tribe's declining shad fishery. The research addressed three questions: 1) How have the history of colonial expansion and shifts in the global political economy affected traditional natural resource practices and environmental sovereignty on the Reservation? 2) How is the tribe responding to the political ecology of environmental change and natural resource management? In what ways does their recent acquisition of Federal Recognition impact this approach? 3) How do tribal members perceive that the environment is changing on the Reservation and what might this mean for the continuation of their traditional practices and culture? I concluded that the Pamunkey face an immediate risk of losing fishing as a traditional practice, which would impact conceptions of Pamunkey tribal identity. As the tribe adapts to their new federal status, the next few years will be extremely formative as tribal leadership may choose to revitalize old traditions or leave them in the past. Environmental changes on the Reservation have historically been driven by shifts in the global market economy and climate change is perceived by tribal members to pose a significant risk to the Reservation's continuity. The Pamunkey have historically been limited to local environmental conservation efforts, but Federal Recognition creates an opportunity to contribute to broader environmental conversations.

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