The Pamunkey Indian Tribe
Often when asked “how long have you been here?” Native people will respond with “we’ve always been here.” The Powhatan creation story honors this statement.
Ahone, the Creator, who took the form of a Great Hare, comes from the rising sun carrying a magic bag containing man and woman. After creating the world and populating it with deer, Ahone took man and woman from the bag and placed them into the world to live in harmony.
Between the Middle Woodland (500BCE-900CE) and Late Woodland Periods (900-1,600CE) is when indigenous people in Virginia saw the most change in their society. During the Middle Woodland Period, Tribes lived in hamlets scattered along major waterways. By the Late Woodland Period, indigenous people were living in large villages with hundreds to thousands of people under a complex system of politics, economics and social structure. The ranking of cultures and individuals arises in the Woodland Period. Items become specialized (ex. introduction of the bow and arrow) and trade increases (ex. beads produced for adornment), indicating that sophisticated craftsmen and a rich culture flourished in Virginia. The creation of wealth, social security and political interests gave rise to the Tribal Leader.
Tsenacomoco, also known as the Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom, was a political alliance that arose out of the Late Woodland Period among numerous Algonquian-speaking Tribes ion the region. It is estimated that approximately thirty different Tribal groups paid tribute to Powhatan, the paramount Chief of Tsenacomoco, with a total estimated population of 15,000 people. These indigenous peoples were here far before the English settled at Jamestown with their homelands stretching from the Coast of Virginia to the Piedmont Plateau.
The ancestors of these early indigenous people are still here today. The Pamunkey Indians have long defended their rights as unique citizens of the United States, with treaty and legal privileges that date back more than four hundred years. Today, the Pamunkey seat of government remains in place on one of the oldest Indian reservations in North America, established in 1646. Connection to the Pamunkey River, which surrounds the Reservation, continues to provide sustenance to the Tribe, including fish for consumption and clay for traditional Pamunkey pottery making. The Pamunkey Indian Tribe became a federally recognized Indian tribe in 2016 and the Tribal Administration oversees five departments that help manage tribal operations (Cultural Resources, Natural Resource, Housing, Enrollment and Business Enterprises).