Virginia's Indian Tribes

"Coarse Ground Corn People"
Providence Forge, Virginia
Chief: A. Leonard "Lone Wolf" Adkins
State Recognized February 25, 1983

The Chickahominy Indian Tribe is located in Charles City County between Richmond and Williamsburg. Some tribal members live in communities in other parts of the state. The tribe is governed by a board of directors consisting of both male and female members. The tribe values strong religious beliefs: community and civic involvement, the pursuit of higher education, and pride in America. It considers all of these as necessary ingredients in maintaining the health, growth, and unity of the tribe. The population is approximately 1,000 persons.

"Coarse Ground Corn People"
Providence Forge, Virginia
Chief: Marvin Bradby
State Recognized February 25, 1983

The Chickahominy Indians, Eastern Division, are located in New Kent County approximately twenty-five miles east of Richmond, Virginia. They are a small group organized for religious, educational, and benevolent reasons. The tribe, incorporated as a non-taxable organization to serve the needs of the community, is supported through contributions and dues-paying members. The population is approximately 150 persons.

Mattaponi Indian Reservation
West Point, Virginia
Chief: Webster "Little Eagle" Custalow
State Recognized February 25, 1983

The members of this tribe live on a reservation that stretches along the borders of the Mattaponi River in King William County, Virginia. Presently they number about seventy-five. Many of the younger members have left the reservation to seek work elsewhere. The Mattaponi Indian Reservation dates back to 1658. In those early days, the people made their living completely from nature's sources. Before the first settlers reached this land, these Indians served and worshipped the Great Spirit, who was their God in the Heavens above the sun, the moon, and the stars. Now they worship as Southern Baptists, and have their own church on the reservation. In 1646, the Mattaponi Indians began paying tribute to an early Virginia governor, and this custom continues to the present day when at Thanksgiving they present game or fish to the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Madison Heights, Virginia
Chief: Kenneth Branham
State Recognized February 14, 1989

Bear Mountain in Amherst County has been the home of the Monacan people for more than 10,000 years. Artifacts from hundreds of local archaeological sites reveal that during this time, Indian people thrived by gathering and hunting the area's rich natural resources. The earliest written histories of Virginia record that in 1607, the James River Monacans (along with their Manahoac allies on the Rappahannock River) controlled the area between the Fall Line in Richmond and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The most western of Virginia's eight recognized tribes, the Monacans were not part of the Powhatan Empire. They bring together the Siouan language and culture. The Monacans, over 700 strong, are currently involved in preserving their past heritage and ancient customs. St. Paul's Mission on Bear Mountain was chosen as the site for a Museum and Cultural Center due to open later this year. In presenting a deed of gift on October 7, 1995 to the Monacan Chief Kenneth Branham, Bishop Heath Light of the Episcopal Diocese ended nearly a century of church control over a small tract of Bear Mountain land that the Monacans hold sacred. While this gift involved only a 7-acre tract bordering the mission church founded in 1908, the property has always been considered the spiritual nexus of Monacan efforts to reestablish their identity. The tribe is working to regain the summit of Bear Mountain, with a plan for regrowth and agricultural management. They have begun a cultural education program for the tribal members and a tribal scholarship fund. They hold an annual homecoming and bazaar the first Saturday in October at Bear Mountain. The Monacans today actively work to reclaim their heritage.

Chesapeake, Virginia
Chief: Barry W. Bass
State Recognized February 20, 1985

At the time of the Jamestown Settlement in 1607, the Nansemond Tribe was located in the general area of Reids Ferry, near Chuckatuck, in the current city of Suffolk. Their "king" lived near Dumpling Island where he kept his treasure houses. At that time, the tribe had a population of approximately 1,200 persons with 300 bowmen. The early settlers raided the Nansemond granaries and began the open hostilities between the two communities. As increasing numbers of settlers poured into the Nansemond River area, the tribal members relocated their reservation and tribal lands on several different occasions. The last 300 acres located on the Nottaway River in Southampton County were sold in 1791/1792. The tribe holds their monthly meetings at the Indian United Methodist Church, which was founded in 1850 as a mission for the Nansemond Indians. The tribe is one of the remaining tribal groups of the Powhatan Confederacy and has a population of approximately 300 members.

King William, Virginia
Chief: "Swift Waters" Miles
State Recognized February 25, 1983

The Pamunkey Indians were the most powerful of the tribes in the great Powhatan Confederacy which consisted of approximately 32 to 34 tribes with some 10,000 people under the leadership of Chief Powhatan. His territory encompassed the entire coastal plain from the North Carolina border area to Washington D.C. The Chief and his famous daughter Pocahontas lived among the Pamunkey. The Pamunkey are exceedingly proud of their history and enjoy telling how bravely their ancestors resisted the encroachment of the white settlers. The Pamunkeys have the distinction of being one of the tribes east of the Mississippi who have practiced the art of pottery-making continuously since aboriginal times. The tribe of approximately 100 persons is located on the King William County Pamunkey Indian Reservation near Lester Manor, Virginia.

"Where the Tide Ebbs and Flows"
Indian Neck, Virginia
Chief: G. Anne Richardson
State Recognized February 25, 1983

At the time of first contact with the English in 1607, their King's house, (Chief Kekataugh) and reservation occupied the Rappahannock River and much of Richmond County. The first of three treaties was signed in 1608 between the Rappahannocks and the colonial government. It established boundaries for their reservation. After many years of fighting to preserve their reservation lands, the Rappahannocks were moved by the 1670s to the present Tappahannock, Virginia location by order of the colonial government. Through many moves and struggles, the Rappahannocks' last reservation, which encompassed boundaries in Essex, King and Queen, and Caroline counties, was established by the Treaty of the Middle Plantation in 1677. This treaty identified the Rappahannocks as tributaries of Pamunkey. The present-day Rappahannocks live on much of these same lands even though they had lost their official reservation lands by the early 1700s. They still maintain a tribal government and headquarters which are located in Indian Neck, King & Queen County, Virginia. Today the tribe owns 21 acres of land in Indian Neck on which they have initiated a construction project to erect a three-phase cultural center complex. Phase one was completed in 1995. The second phase structure houses the civic center, providing space for live performances and exhibitions. The third phase will be a museum and archives complex displaying history of the Rappahannocks as well as other tribes. The Rappahannocks hold their annual heritage festival in August at George Washington's birthplace in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

Mechanicsville, Virginia
Chief: Edmond S. Adams
State Recognized February 25, 1983

The Upper Mattaponi tribe is a group of urban, non-reservated Indians whose origin can be traced to both the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Reservations. The Upper Mattaponi are a people of high morals and strong ties to Christianity, and their community is centered around the Indian View Baptist Church. Adjacent to the church, the Upper Mattaponi built the Sharon Indian School in about 1919. The school was renovated in 1952 and closed in 1964. In 1985, the King William County Board of Supervisors agreed to return the school and two acres of land to the tribe. This structure is now used as a tribal center and meeting place for approximately 100 members. The Upper Mattaponi sponsor an annual spring festival to promote the culture and history of Indian people.

Web site provided by the Virginia Museum of Natural History for the Virginia Indian Council. This article  reprinted from the Virginia Explorer, summer, 1997 issue, copyright 1997.