Virginia State Seal

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

First People: The Early Indians of Virginia
    Modern Indians A.D. 1800–Present                                 Page 2 of 2  

Today there are eight organized tribes in Virginia and two small reservations.  There are 3,500 people on the tribal registers, and the census figures show another 25,118 people of American Indian, Alaskan, and Hawaiian ancestry living across Virginia.  Two tribes, the Pamunkey and the Mattaponi, have small reservations in King William County.  Their state reservations date from the 1600s.  Six other incorporated groups are officially recognized as Indian tribes by the Commonwealth of Virginia.  They are the: Chickahominy Indian Tribe in Charles City County; Chickahominy Indian Tribe—Eastern Division in New Kent County; Monacan Indian Nation in Amherst County; Nansemond Indian Tribe in the City of Chesapeake; Rappahannock Indian Tribe in Essex, Caroline, and King & Queen Counties; and the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe in King William County. 

In its concern over education, a group of seven tribes formed The United Indians of Virginia (UIV) in 1988.  The UIV set up a scholarship fund for young adults.  Other goals included coordinating cultural events and economic and social development efforts.  The council operated by consensus, with officers elected by the eight tribes.

The Virginia Council on Indians was established by an act of the General Assembly in 1983.  Presently the Council is composed of eighteen members:  one member from each of the state recognized tribes, five Indian-at-large members, one citizen-at-large member, and four members of the General Assembly.  The Council is affiliated with the Secretary of Natural Resources in the Governor's Cabinet.  It informs and advises the Governor, General Assembly and state agencies on issues of interest to Indians in Virginia, such as the educational Standards of Learning, archaeology on Native American sites, and the respectful treatment of Native remains and funerary objects.  The Council also serves as a resource to Native Americans throughout Virginia, as well a to the general public for questions about the Virginia Indians.

During the 1990s the Virginia tribes pursued federal recognition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. After the Bureau indicated that it could take decades to receive administrative recognition, the tribes in 1999 formed VITAL, the Virginia Indian Tribal Alliance for Life.  VITAL decided to pursue Congressional recognition.  Since 2000, bills have been introduced to both houses of the United State Congress seeking federal acknowledgement for Virginia tribes.  VITAL recognizes the right of Indian tribes to self-government and supports tribal sovereignty and self-determination.  VITAL is also a research and education organization dedicated to a wider understanding and appreciation of the ideas and knowledge of indigenous peoples, and to the social, economic and political realities of the American Indians of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Click image to enlarge
Indian groups in Virginia today



    Early Hunters
Paleoindians 15,000–8,000 B.C.
Early Archaic 8,000–6,000 B.C.

Dispersed Foragers
Middle Archaic 6,000–2,500 B.C.

Sedentary Foragers
Late Archaic 2,500–1,200 B.C.
Early Woodland 1,200–500 B.C.
Middle Woodland 500 B.C.–A.D. 900

Late Woodland A.D. 900–1600

European Contact
Indians A.D. 1600–1800
Modern Indians A.D. 1800–Present



First People: The Early Indians of Virginia—Introduction

DHR Archaeology Program

DHR Artifact Collections