Thomasina “Red Hawk Woman”, a member of the Wampanoag Nation, was passionate in her goal – the advancement of American Indian people. Her focus was always the American Indian, especially education and services.
Thomasina served as chairperson of the Virginia Council on Indians from 1994 when Governor Allen appointed her, until her death. She served on numerous other boards as well.
Education was important to Thomasina – it was her lifelong pursuit, not only for herself, but for all American Indians, who for generations were denied the right to attend public school. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s of fine arts at Bishop Lee College; Master’s in Indian Studies, Harvard University, doctorate in special education, Catholic University.
Recurring battles with cancer did not stop her. Five days before her death, she lobbied Congress from a wheelchair. She worked for her people until the end. Thomasina “walked on” May 23, 1999.
Thomasina was an honorary member of the Chickahominy Tribe and Nansemond Tribe.
Federal Recognition for Virginia Indian Tribes was her mission and among her many dreams for Indian people.
A final blessing poem for her people…
“Oh Great Spirit, hear our plea. Always bring us back to Thee. Give us wisdom to understand those less fortunate than we. And if, per chance we should fall because we didn’t hear you call, Please, before the day goes by, Grant us another chance to try.”
Mary B. Wade, a blood-member of the Monacan Indian Nation, located on Bear Mountain in Amherst, Virginia, walked on April 18, 2003.
Mary’s seemingly endless source of energy has been called on many times on behalf of the Indian people of Virginia. Mary served two three-year terms as the Monacan representative to the Virginia Council on Indians (VCI), the state agency which deals with matters of concern to Virginia’s Indian residents.
Mary served in various capacities on the VCI, including the Virginia Department of Corrections as a member of the Committee on Religious Rights of Indian Inmates. She was also a member of the Virginia Cultural Network, participating in planning for the Jamestown 2007 Commemoration.
As a member of VCI, Mary was a protege’ of the late Thomasina Jordan, Chair of the VCI and an ardent activist for Indian rights. With the support and encouragement of Thomasina, Mary became active in the legislative process, testifying at many General Assembly committee hearings on VCI-sponsored legislation. Some of the legislation which Mary was instrumental in getting passed included: sale and possession of animal parts for Virginia’s Indian residents use in ceremonies and regalia; re-instatement of the Virginia Tribes’s treaty rights to hunt and fish without a license; and design and introduction of a license plate to commemorate Virginia’s Indian heritage.
In 1999, Mary became active in the quest for Federal Government recognition of the Virginia Tribes. That year, a resolution was introduced in the General Assembly requesting the United States Congress to grant Federal recognition to Virginia’s Indian Tribes. Following passage of this resolution, Mary scheduled meetings with Congressmen in Washington D.C. and assisted with drafting the initial legislation in the House of Representatives.
When the Tribes realized the need for an independent organization to work towards Federal recognition, Mary was the focal point in incorporating the Virginia Indian Tribal Alliance for Life (VITAL) and served as its founding president. She also helped set policy and direction for the organization, was active in its fundraising activities and acted as the liaison between the Tribes and the lobbyist.
Mary also served as the Monacan Nation representative to The United Indians of Virginia, a non-profit organization of the Virginia Tribes. Al Wade, her husband of 22 years, encouraged and supported her work with her people. He shares her dream of federal recognition for the Virginia tribes.