- Things to Do
- Where to Stay
- Plan Your Trip
- About the Area
Native Americans have been living in Virginia for more than 15,000 years, thousands of years before the arrival of the first Europeans. However, written history prior to the 1600s is minimal. Pocahontas, the daughter of the Great Chief Powhatan of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, lived in the area's first town, Henricus, where she also converted to Christianity and married tobacco planter and Englishman John Rolfe, resulting in improved relations between the English and Native Americans.
The Commonwealth of Virginia formally recognizes eight Native American Indian tribes, whose ancestors and cultural connections can be traced directly to groups documented to have been living in Virginia in 1607 at the time of initial English colonization. However, none of these tribes are formally recognized by the federal government. In 1985, the Virginia Council on Indians was organized as a state agency, and in 1999, both chambers of Virginia's General Assembly agreed to House Joint Resolution 754 urging Congress to grant federal recognition to the Virginia tribes and asking the state's delegation in Congress to take all steps to advance this legislation. With support from the Virginia Indian Tribal Alliance for Life, area Native Americans continue to push for this legislation.
Although only the Mattaponi and Pamunkey Indians have reservations in Virginia, most tribes maintain their own continuing governing bodies. The governing bodies usually consist of a chief and council members elected every few years. The Chief and Council perform all tribal governmental functions as set forth by their laws. All of these laws are governed by the Tribe.
While modern Native American life is much different than it was 400 years ago, local tribes honor their heritage and traditions with a variety of cultural events throughout the year. Only a short drive from the Richmond Region in nearby King William County, you can experience a Native American pow-wow or visit a Mattaponi Indian reservation. You can also explore the Pamunkey Indian Museum, built to resemble the houses of the ancient Pamunkey and home to the only documented history of a tribe that has existed on its present homeland since the Ice Ages. In New Kent County, the Chickahominy Indians, Eastern Division, gather to support the community through religious, educational and charitable activities.
Most tribes host annual pow-wows with native dancers, music, crafts, food and cultural demonstrations. These gatherings serve not only as opportunities for the public to learn about Virginia's Native American culture, but most importantly as social events and homecomings for many of the tribal members. Check out our cultural festivals sampler.