Topic: Pamunkey

Powhatan Featherwork

We now come to what is perhaps the most interesting topic in the material life of the southern tribes, the woven feather technique. An art so ancient and so elaborate can hardly be expected to have persisted from colonial times down to the present day where the process of deculturation among the conquered tribes has gone so far. But surprising as it is, the Virginia Indians have not entirely forgotten, nor even lost, the art of weaving feathers into the foundation of textile fabrics. The antiquity of the woven-feather technique is attested by virtually all the authors of the...

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Powhatan Pottery

First let us look over the material from the Virginia tidewater area. Everywhere here from the southern boundary of Virginia by actual observation, north-ward even through the Delaware valley, the pot-sherds are almost identical in material, decoration and color. Holmes has appropriately called the ceramics of the tidewater “the Algonquian type.” On the Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Rappahannock, James, and Chickahominy rivers it is all the same, the rims, decorations, and ingredients being practically uniform within a certain range of variation.

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Powhatan Canoes

The means provided by the Powhatan tribes for transporting themselves about in their marshy wastes was the dugout canoe. This article describes these canoes, their method of manufacture, and provides pictures of them and their paddles.

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Pamunkey Hunting Grounds

Perhaps the most striking feature of all in the natural history of the modern Pamunkey comes before us in the survival of the controlled hunting and trapping rights: the custom by which each hunter in the band controls an assigned and definitely bounded area within which he enjoys the exclusive privilege of setting his traps for fur-bearing animals.

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Legal Status of the Pamunkey Tribe

The Pamunkey, with a resident population of little more than a hundred, still preserve their national independence under the privileges accorded them by the State of Virginia almost two and a half centuries ago. They enjoy the unique distinction of being in all likelihood the smallest independent nation in the world. Pollard’s synopsis of the political circumstances leaves nothing to be added. 1Pollard, J. G., The Pamunkey Indians of Virginia, Bull. 17, Bur. Amer. Ethnol., Washington, 1894, pp. 15-17. In government the tribe is a true democracy, over which, however, the State of Virginia 2Pollard adds in a footnote: ”The writer has been unable to find any statute or judicial decision fixing the relation of the tribe to the State.” Dr. Jones (corresp. Nov. 21, 1928) calls attention to Acts of Assembly of Virginia, 1893-94 (p. 975), covering tribal laws similar to those on published here. exercises a kindly supervision. The State appoints five trustees to look after the interest of the Indians. No reports of these trustees could be found on file at the office of the governor of Virginia, and their only function that could be ascertained to have been performed was the disapproval of certain sections in the Indian code of laws. Laws thus disapproved are expunged from the statute book. The tribe is not taxed, but they pay an annual tribute to the State by...

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Opechancanough and Don Luis

Jamestown was founded in 1607 on land recently conquered by the Powhatan Confederacy. Movies about Pocahontas have given the impression that the “Powhatan Indians” were concentrated on the Chesapeake Bay.  They were not. The villages on the coastline of the Chesapeake were the vassals of the Pamunkey Indians, who forged the confederacy. 1Egloff, Keith and Deborah Woodward, First People: The Early Indians of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1992. The capital of the confederacy, Werowocomoco, was originally on the north side of the York River, not near Jamestown. Note that the town’s name ends with “moko” which is...

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Pamunkey Government and Tribal Laws

In government the tribe is a true democracy over which however the State of Virginia exercises a kindly supervision. The State appoints five trustees to look after the interest of the Indians. No reports of these trustees could be found on file at the office of the governor of Virginia and their only function that could be ascertained to have been performed was the disapproval of certain sections in the Indian code of laws. Laws thus disapproved are expunged from the statute book. The tribe is not taxed but they pay an annual tribute to the State by presenting through their chief to the governor of Virginia a number of wild ducks or other game. As regards the internal government of the Pamunkey the executive power is vested in a chief while the legislative and judicial functions are performed by the chief together with a council composed of four men. The chief was formerly elected for life but now both chief and council are elected every four years by vote of the male citizens. Their method of balloting for their executive officer is unique. The council names two candidates to be voted for. Those favoring the election of candidate number 1 must indicate their choice by depositing a grain of corn in the ballot-box at the schoolhouse while those who favor the election of candidate number 2 must deposit...

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Language of the Pamunkey

One visiting Indian town at the present day would not find a vestige of the Pamunkey language even in the names of persons or things. In 1844 Rev. E. A. Dalrymple collected the following seventeen words 1Historical Magazine (New York) first series 1858 Vol. II p. 182. which so far as the writer can ascertain are all that remain of the language of the Pamunkey Indians proper: Tonshee= son. Nucksee= daughter. Petucka= cat. Kayyo= thankfulness. O-ma-yah= O my Lord. Kenaanee= friendship. Baskonee= thank you. Eeskut= go out dog. Nikkut= one. Orijak= two. Kiketock= three. Mitture= four. Nahnkitty= five. Vomtally= six. Talliko= seven. Tingdum= eight. Yantay= ten. The vocabulary recorded by Captain John Smith 2Travels etc. Richmond 16 1819 Vol. I pp. 147 148. as that of the Powhatan people is of interest in this connection. This vocabulary with its original title is as follows: Because many doe desire to know the manner of their Language I have inserted these few words. Kakatorawines yowo= What call you this. Nemarough= a man. Crenepo= a woman. Marowanchesso= a boy. Yehawkans= Houses. Matchcores= Skins or garments. Mockasins= Shooes. Tussan= Beds. Pokatawer= Fire. Attawp= A bow. Attonce= Arrowes. Monacookes= Swords. Aumoughhowgh= A target. Pawcussacks= Gunnes. Tomahacks= Axes. Tockahacks= Pickaxes. Pamesacks= Kniues. Accowprets= Sheares. Pawpecones= Pipes. Mattassin= Copper. Vssawassin= Iron, Brasse, Silver any white mettall. Musses= Woods. Attasskuss= Leaues weeds or grasse. Chepsin= Land. Shacquohocan=...

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Pamunkey Indians of Virginia

The Pilgrim Fathers of New England, the Dutch traders and merchants of Manhattan island and the Hudson, the Quaker colonists of Pennsylvania, the Jesuit missionaries and Cavalier grantees of Maryland and Virginia, all encountered the native tribes and confederacies of this great stock. This collection looks at the past history of the Pamunkey Indians of Virginia up until the 20th century.

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Early History of the Pamunkey Indians

At the time of the settlement of Jamestown, in 1607, that region lying in Virginia between Potomac and James rivers was occupied by three great Indian confederacies, each of which derived its name from one of its leading tribes. They were: (1) The Mannahoac, who lived on the head waters of Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers; (2) The Monocan, who occupied the banks of the upper James (3) The Powhatan, who in habited all that portion of the tidewater region lying north of the James. The last-named powerful confederacy was composed of thirty warlike tribes, having 2, 400 warriors, whose disastrous attacks on the early settlers of Virginia are well known to history. The largest of the tribes making up the Powhatan confederacy was the Pamunkey, their entire number of men, women, and children in 1607 being estimated at about 1,000, or one-eighth of the population of the whole confederacy. The original seat of the Pamunkey tribe was on the banks of the river which bears their name, and which flows somewhat parallel with James River, the Pamunkey being about 22 miles north of the James. This tribe, on account of its numerical strength, would probably from the beginning have been the leader of its sister tribes in warfare, had it not been for the superior ability of the noted chief Powhatan, who made his tribe the moving spirit of...

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