Topic: Monacan

Monacan Burial Customs

During the autumn of the year 1608 a party of the colonists from Jamestown, led by Capt. Newport, ascended the James to the halls, the site of the present city of Richmond, and leaving their boats, continued westward “into the Land called the Monscane.” This was the territory of the Monacan, a Siouan people who were ever enemies of the Powhatan tribes of the tidewater region, which extends eastward front the line of the Falls to the Atlantic. Moving westward from the Falls the party discovered the Monacan villages of Massinacak and Mowhemenchouch. Although the eastern boundary of this tribal territory was so clearly defined its western limits are not known, but at some time it undoubtedly extended westward to the mountains beyond the Jackson Valley. The Rivanna was near the center of this region, and at or near the mouth of this stream, on the left bank of the James, in the present Fluvanna County, Virginia, was one of the most important Monacan towns, Rassawek as indicated on the map prepared by Capt. John Smith. An Indian village seldom remained for many years on a, given spot, its position being shifted back and forth, as certain causes made necessary; therefore, it is more than probable that remains of an old settlement encountered on the river bank some 3 miles above Columbia indicate the site of Rassawck during some...

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Monacan Indians

Monacan Tribe: Possibly from an Algonquian word signifying “digging stick,” or “spade,” but more likely from their own language. Also called: Rahowacah, by Archer, 1607, in Smith (1884). Monacan Connections. The Monacan belonged to the Siouan linguistic stock. Their nearest connections were the Manahoac, Tutelo, and Saponi. Monacan Location. On the upper waters of James River above the falls at Richmond. Monacan Villages (Locations as determined by D. I. Bushnell, Jr.) Massinacack, on the right bank of James River about the mouth of Mohawk Creek, and a mile or more south of Goochland. Mohemencho, later called Monacan Town, on the south bank of James River and probably covering some of “the level area bordering the stream in the extreme eastern part of the present Powhatan County, between Bernards Creek on the east and Jones Creek on the west.” Rassawek, at the confluence of the James and Rivanna Rivers and probably “on the right bank of the Rivanna, within the angle formed by the two streams.” Two other towns are sometimes added but as they afterward appeared as wholly independent tribes, the Saponi and the Tutelo, it is probable that their connection with the Monacan was never very intimate. They seem to have been classed as Monacan largely on the evidence furnished by Smith’s map, in which they appear in the country of the “Monacans” but Smith’s topography, as Bushnell...

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Monacan Tribe

Monacan Indians (possibly from an Algonquian word signifying a digging stick or spade). A tribe and confederacy of Virginia in the 17th century. The confederacy occupied the upper waters of James river above the falls at Richmond. Their chief village was Rasawek. They were allies of the Manahoac and enemies of the Powhatan, and spoke a language different from that of either. They were finally incorporated with other remnants under the names of Saponi and Tutelo. The confederacy was composed of the Monacan proper, Massinacac, Mohemencho, Monahassano, Monasiccapano, and some other tribes. The Monacan proper had a chief settlement, known to the whites as Monacantown, on James river about 20 miles above the falls at Richmond. In 1669 they still had 30 bowman, or perhaps about 100 souls. Thirty years later, the Indian population having died out or emigrated, a Huguenot colony took possession of the site. For Further Study The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the Monacan as both an ethnological study, and as a people. Consult, Mooney, Siouan Tribes of the East, Bull. B. A. E.,...

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The Monacan Confederacy

The history of the Monacan tribes of Virginia belongs to two distinct periods, the colonization period and the colonial period. By the former we may understand the time of exploration and settlement from the first landing of the English in Virginia to the expeditions of Lederer and Batts, in 1670 and 1671, which supplied the first definite information in regard to the country along the base of the mountains. Under the colonial period we may include everything else, as after the Revolution the small remnant incorporated with the Iroquois in Canada virtually disappeared from history. Up to 1670 the Monacan tribes had been but little disturbed by the whites, although there is evidence that the wars waged against them by the Iroquois were keeping them constantly shifting about. Their country had not been penetrated, excepting by a few traders who kept no journals, and only the names of those living immediately on the frontiers of Virginia were known to the whites. Chief among these were the Monacan proper, having their village a short distance above Richmond. In 1670 Lederer crossed the country in a diagonal line from the present Richmond to Catawba river, on the frontiers of South Carolina, and a year later a party under Batts explored the country westward across the Blue ridge to the headwaters of New river. Thenceforward accounts were heard of Nahyssan, Sapona, Totero,...

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Indians of Virginia

The most complete and veracious account of the manners, appearance, and history of the aboriginal inhabitants of Virginia, particularly those who dwelt in the eastern portion of that district, upon the rivers and the shores of Chesapeake Bay, is contained in the narrative of the re doubted Captain John Smith. This bold and energetic pioneer, after many “strange adventures, happened by land or sea;” still a young man, though a veteran in military service; and inured to danger and hardship, in battle and captivity among the Turks, joined his fortunes to those of Bartholomew Gosnoll and his party, who...

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