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Virginia farm owner stays true to Native American heritage

October 2023

by Richard McDonough, The Delmarva Farmer

Chief Red Hawk Brown, on behalf of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian tribe, presented the 310th-year Spotswood Treaty Tribute to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin last April. (Photo courtesy Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin)

Growing up on his family’s farm in Southampton County, Va., Walter David Brown III knew what hard work was first-hand. He would milk cows and help with the fall harvest. He would go with his father and other family members to hunt and to trap beaver, raccoon, deer and mink — helping to put food on the table. In the winter, the family would tan hides and sell the items.

Brown’s father, Walter David Brown Jr., farmed his land until he was in his 70s. He then started renting out the farmland to another farmer.

In 2001, Brown’s father died and ownership of the farm passed to Brown, his brother, Peter Brown and sisters, Carolyn Brown and Eleanor Bailey. The farmland continues to be rented to a local farmer. Peanuts, field corn and soybeans are grown on the acreage. In addition to this farm, two other area farms are owned by members of the Brown’s extended family.

Walter Brown III left farming as a young adult when he went off to college at what is now known as Norfolk State University. As a college senior, he was drafted by the U.S. Army, serving for 28 years, with tours of duty in Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and the United Kingdom. He is also a Vietnam War veteran and a Desert Storm Era Veteran. In 1999, he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army.

Through the years — as a child and through his military service — he kept true to his upbringing as a Native American. Three years after retirement from the U.S. Army, he was elected as Chief of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe in Southampton County. Since then, he has gone by the name of “Chief Red Hawk Brown.”

This Native American Nation includes 263 acres of tribal land at Cattashowrock Town in Southampton County. The size of the property is small compared to the expanse of land once controlled by Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe.

Chief Red Hawk Brown explained that upwards of 41,000 acres of ground once held by the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe were sold off in the region. He noted that many tribal members farmed and hunted on that acreage. “Our lands were encroached upon as the colonists arrived from Europe,” Brown said. “We had tribal members farming in this area in the early 1800s.”

In addition to his leadership within the Cheroenhaka tribe, Brown served as a member of the Southampton County Board of Supervisors from 2004 to 2012. According to his biography, Brown was the first Native American to sit on this board since Southampton County was founded in 1749.

On April 21, Chief Brown, on behalf of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe, presented the 310th year Spotswood Treaty Tribute to Gov. Glenn Youngkin. This tribute included three arrows wrapped in a beaver pelt and a wampum belt. The Spotswood Treaty detailed the relationship between the Native American Nation and the Colony and Dominion of Virginia.

“Our tribe has made this presentation annually to the Governor, in accordance with the Spotswood Treaty of Feb. 27, 1713, on Saint George Day,” Brown said. “We also did a first-time Honor Dance for the Governor and First Lady prior to presenting the treaty tribute.”

The Delmarva Farmer is a weekly newspaper for farmers, farming and the agriculture industry in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.