Mary Belvin Wade

(November 29, 1951–April 18, 2003)
Richmond
Virginia Indian Advocate

Growing up in Huntington, West Virginia, Mary Belvin "Laughing Dove" Wade (November 29, 1951ľApril 18, 2003) did not learn of her Monacan Indian heritage until she was an adult. After moving to Richmond with her husband, Wade worked as a receptionist for a law firm and made a fortuitous discovery that the Virginia Council on Indians met nearby. She attended a meeting and under the mentorship of Indian activist Thomasina Jordan, Wade took up the fight for Virginia's Indian tribes.

The governor appointed Wade to the Virginia Council on Indians in 1995 and she was reappointed to her seat three years later, serving as its secretary. As a member of the council she helped establish November as American Indian Month in Virginia. She also lobbied for a state law to eliminate the fee for Indians to correct inaccurate racial designations on their birth certificates, which had been the result of an earlier state policy that forbade Indians from being identified as such on official documents. In 2001 Wade helped establish the Virginia Indian Tribal Alliance for Life (VITAL), a political action committee supporting the efforts of Virginia's tribes in the General Assembly and Congress. She served as the first president of VITAL, helping to set policy and direction for the organization and assisting with its fund-raising activities. Wade continued to work on behalf of six Virginia tribes<—> Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Monacan, Nansemond, Rappahannock, and Upper Mattaponi<—>as an advocate for their federal recognition until her death.