Obituary of Shirley McGowan (1943 – 2021) – Mattaponi, Virginie

MCGOWAN, Shirley “Little Dove” Custalow, 78, entered Eternal Rest on September 13, 2021. Little Dove was born on March 1, 1943 to the late Chief Webster “Little Eagle” Custalow and Mary Lee “White Feather” Adams Custalow on the Mattaponi Indian Reservation in King William County, Virginia, one of the oldest reserves in the country (1646). Shirley was predeceased by her 61-year-old husband, Olson B. “Mickey” McGowan. Her proudest achievement was above all her role as a loving and devoted mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt and friend. She is survived by her four sons whom she loved very much, Richard “Red Hawk” McGowan (Darlene), John “Swift Hawk” McGowan (April), James “Falling Water” McGowan (Joyce) and Samuel “Running Deer” McGowan Sr. (Amber). Our mother was fortunate to have 10 grandchildren, Crystal, Sarah, Tracey, Rachel, Travis, Isabelle, Emma, ​​Curtis, Alexandra and Caela. She is also survived by seven precious great-grandchildren; two brothers, Carl Custalow and Leon Custalow Sr .; four sisters, Eleanor Canada, Edith Kuhns, Delores Salmons and Debra Graciano; with a host of extended family and friends.

Shirley was educated on the Mattaponi Indian Reservation and accepted Christ from a young age while attending the Mattaponi Indian Baptist Church. She was immersed in the rich history of her people from an early age by her elders. At the age of four, her grandfather, Chief George Forest “Tecumseh” Custalow, gave her the name Little Dove, and received her mission in life, to travel in the direction of the four winds by teaching the history of his people and always seeing others through the eyes of the creator. Through her hard work and perseverance, Little Dove has become a respected historian who will spend her life sharing the history of the Powhatan people with the world. Its living history programs have touched countless people in museums, historical societies, schools, churches, festivals and many other events spanning over 50 years. She was well known for her craft skills, creating traditional baskets, pottery, tools and badges representative of her people. Countless newspaper articles and reports captured his true mission to make sure that everyone left their programs knowing that their people were still with us. Shirley has been interviewed as a resource on Pocahontas by The Washington Post, Japanese Television, International Herald Tribune, New York Times, Richmond-Times Dispatch, Daily Press, Tidewater Review, BBN, CNN, Entertainment Tonight, PBS and has featured in from the Mothers of America and the American Princess movies. She served on the board of directors of the Jamestown – Yorktown Foundation, on the advisory board of the Virginia Historical Society, Colonial Williamsburg and Henricus College (1619) Inc. and was a Native American consultant for the Disney film Pocahontas. Little Dove has also left us with books, articles, collaborations, documentaries and films that will continue to fulfill its mission and educate future generations.

His life and inheritance will be an everlasting testimony of his unwavering faith in God. It gives us great comfort to know that she is in Heaven.

The family will receive friends on a walk-in visit from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, September 23, 2021 at Vincent Funeral Home, 417 11th St., West Point, Virginia. A cemetery funeral service will be held at 12:00 noon on Saturday, September 25 at Mattaponi Indian Baptist Church Cemetery, 1409 Mattaponi Reservation Circle, West Point, Virginia 23181. Tributes can be posted at

Posted by Richmond Times-Dispatch on September 21, 2021.

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