Verdiacee Turner Hampton Goston died in 2014, but not before leaving her mark on a section of Ouachita Parish and a claim to a large chunk of America that her followers across America are still pursuing today. This week the Washitaw Nation is celebrating the 40th anniversary of what Goston called the “Empire Washita Dougedomonia, ” and they are doing it in the town that Goston founded, Richwood, La.
When Goston died in 2014, she was 87 years old. Over the course of her life, she participated in civil rights activities, founded a town and started a push for reclamation of what she says were lands stolen from the Washita Indians and illegally sold to the United States by Napoleon.
In the early 1970’s Goston began a push to incorporate the Terzia community in South Louisiana into what is now the Town of Richwood. Her style was abrasive and unorthodox, but she successfully charter the community into a town, and she became its first mayor, her husband Johnny Goston was the police chief.
As Richwood Mayor
As mayor, Goston was not an able administrator and often clashed with residents over the collection of taxes and laws she was accused of dreaming up over night. She served two terms as mayor 1975-76 and then another 1980-84. Although her distaste for the United States government and its authority endeared her to many, she was not able to build upon her single accomplishment of founding the town getting residents to believe Richwood was a real town, run by African-Americans.
She was suspicious of all forms of government. When her husband Johnny Goston died, she claimed that he was murdered by local authorities who had removed his brain, put it in a jar and used it for studies. She had his body exhumed a year after his death, but her claim was not verified. She argued that report itself was altered as well.
While Mayor of Richwood she began celebrating Dougedemonnia Days, an annual celebration of black people indigenous to America long before white explorers came. The celebration included music, parades, and plenty of food as she told how she was a descendant of the Washitaw Nation, and one of the few descendants of the tribe she traces through the Turner family.
After her term as mayor ended Goston assumed the title of Empress Verdiacee Tiari Washitaw Turner Goston El-Bey. She declared the Washitaw Nation to be independent of the United States and demanded that the United States return the lands of the Louisiana Purchase, less New Orleans proper, to the tribe.
Return of the Ancient Ones
She authored a book called the “Return of the Ancient Ones” which detailed her claims. It purported to contain a copy of an 1848 Supreme Court Ruling in which the court agreed with the Washitaw Indian-Turner Family claims. Apparently, the only copy of the decision is in her book, scholars have not been able to locate the case she cited “Turner family Heirs vs. The United States of America.”
A new generation of descendants promotes the Washita Nation claim today. Like the Empress, they are convinced that the indigenous people of America owned the lands now called the United States and since no treaty was ever signed by the Washita to sede its territory to the U.S., the tribal descendants are an independent nation, free from the control of the U.S. Government.
Under the direction of the Empress, the Washitaw Nation produced its own license plate, birth certificates, and passports. These acts have prompted several investigations by the Federal Government, but each time no serious charges were ever filed, which bolstered the Empress’ status among her followers, some of who have elevated her to divinity.
While the Empress stayed clear of illegal operations, some of those around her have been taken to court for operating as agents of the independent Nation of Washitaw. In 2010 Wanda Henley was accused by the government of running a mortgage fraud scheme in Detroit. She claimed that she was a diplomat of the Sovereign Washitaw Nation and the courts had no jurisdiction over her, but she had no documentation for her claims. The Federal Court refused to recognize the nation, and so have other courts across the nation.
The Empress and her followers dismiss the rebuffs by the courts as the actions of thieves who stole lands from the Washitaw, who work together to keep what they have stolen.
The Southern Poverty Law Center dismisses the Nation as a fringe cult with no legal claims, but that only fires up the 200 or more members of the Nation to continue the pursuit of the Empress’ dream of reclaiming their ancestral lands.
In Monroe this week Washita Nation are meeting in the town the Empress founded to celebrate 40 years of the Empire Washitaw Dougedemonia.
The anniversary consists of a three-day event to honor the Empress who was also the first mayor of Richwood.
On Sunday they celebrated with a spiritual celebration to look back at the work and progress their empress had set forth for the Washitaw Nation.
“She is the founder of Richwood, she put together a lot of things there in Richwood that probably wouldn’t have never had been if it wouldn’t have been for her,” Event Specialist Charles Burk told media representatives
On Wednesday night there will be a conference call about Writing Campaign to Reclaim Land marked off from 1848 Supreme Court Case “The Turner Heirs Vs The United States.” The call in number is 712-775-7035 access code is 905563# 7 pm MST
Our Wednesday Night another conference call will feature a reading of the book ” Return Of The Ancient Ones ” by Empress Verdiacee Tiara Washitaw – Turner Houston El-Bey
641-715-0700 access code is 597871# 7 PM MST
While the Empress’ views about the Washita Nation have not been acknowledged by any legal authorities in the United States, there is one accomplishment that is recognized and that is her establishment, in spite of the odds of the Town of Richwood.
There is not a picture, citation or landmark noting the Empress in any building in the town.