The Pocahontas Exception

In their article, “The Pocahontas Exception: The Exemption of American Indian Ancestry from Racial Purity Law, Kevin Noble Maillard examines the ambiguous relationship White Virginians have toward “Indian blood” from the exposure to the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 . Maillard argues that antimiscegenation laws like the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 gave Native Americans closer proximity to whiteness through their ability to intermarry with White people and the enthrallment of Pocahontas as an active member in White American bloodlines. However, this inclusion of “partially” Native- Americans as marriage partners, forces Native people into a centuries-long cycle of assimilation, and it inherently disappears Native Americans and Native American culture from the scene of palpable American identity. Maillard contends that these complicated feelings toward Native people and their romantic relationship to White bodies were contextualized through the growing acceptance of eugenics and the need to continue the superiority and life-hood of the White race. Eugenics and the peculiar placement of the Native people through the Racial Integrity Act highlights White Virginia’s decision to somewhat accept “Indian blood” as tolerant to American lineage while dispelling Native culture. This makes them less like people and more like “abstractions” (357).

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