For my next post I decided to write about a place that is very special to me, the Middle Peninsula of Virginia. Now I grew up here, and am fairly familiar with the rich Native American History of this area. Especially with Pocahontas’s birthplace being just 45 minutes from my house. I have always been relatively educated about historical Natives in my area, but did not have much knowledge on the current tribes that reside on the Middle Peninsula. So for this post, I decided to do a little bit of research and share it with y’all.
There are currently 5 state recognized Native tribes on the Middle Peninsula and one Federally recognized tribe. The state tribes being the Mattaponi, Upper Mattaponi, Pamunkey, Chickahominy, and Eastern Chickahominy. The only federally recognized tribe being the Pamunkey.
The Pamunkey Tribe is located in King William County on the Pamunkey River. It contains 200 members and the reservation consists of 1,200 acres. Only 36 members live on the reservation, with a majority living in the surrounding area. Archeologists, historians, and anthropologists put Native occupation of these lands back 10-12,000 years. With the Pamunkey land base being established as early as 1658. The tribe is governed by a chief, assistant chief and 7 council members that are elected by the tribe members every four years. These eight officials are responsible for all tribal government functions as set forth by their laws, with the tribe administering their own laws. The Pamunkey Tribe was recognized by the Federal government in 2015.
The Mattaponi Tribe is located in King William County on the Mattaponi River. It contains 450 tribal members and the reservation consists of 150 acres. Like the Pamunkey the reservation can be traced back as early as 1658. With their decedents inhabiting the area up to 12,000 years ago. Only 75 members live on the reservation, but most members live in the surrounding area. The tribe is governed by a chief, assistant chief and 7 council members that are elected by the tribe members every four years. These eight officials are responsible for all tribal government functions as set forth by their laws, with the tribe administering their own laws.
The Upper Mattaponi Tribe is located in King William County and contains 575 members. The tribe owns 32 acres where they currently hold events and plan to develop a tribal center. These lands are not given by the state as a reservation, but purchased by the tribe. On their 32 acres sits the Sharon Indian School, which is the only public Indian school building in Virginia. It is no longer an active school, but is still used for tribal meetings and cultural gatherings. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Upper Mattaponi were referred to as the Adamstown band due to high number of tribal members with the last name Adams. In the early twentieth century, during a nationwide native cultural revival, Adamstown band took on the name Upper Mattaponi Tribe. Their tribe has been trying to gain federal recognition since the 1990s.
The Chickahominy Tribe (nicknamed the “Turtle Clan”) is located in Charles City County and is associated with the Chickahominy River. It contains 840 tribal members and their tribal grounds sit on 110 acres; however, these are not reservation lands given by the state. These are grounds purchased by the tribe to perform ceremonial gatherings and tribal meetings. Every year they hold a Fall Festival and Powwow at their tribal center. Their government consists of elected officials containing a chief and two assistant chiefs, as well as 9 other tribal council members. The tribe has been trying to obtain federal recognition since 1996.
The Eastern Chickahominy Tribe is located in New Kent County and contains 164 tribal members. They own 41 acres that they plan to build a tribal center and museum on in the future. They currently hold meetings at Tsena Commocko Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. The Eastern Chickahominy Tribe shares historical roots with the Chickahominy Tribe splitting off from the tribe in 1910, due to travel inconveniences and political reasons. Tribal government consists of an elected chief, assistant chief, and seven council members. Office positions are held for four years without term limits. The tribe has been trying to obtain federal recognition since 1990.
This is just a snippet of information about the culturally rich Native American Tribes located in the Middle Peninsula of Virginia. All the tribes are trying to improve for the future, while staying culturally rooted in their past. These tribes have been here for hundreds of years, and without a doubt I know they will be here for hundreds more.
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