Virginia State Seal

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

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

Today there are eleven organized tribes in Virginia. Two tribes, the Pamunkey and the Mattaponi, have small reservations in King William County. Their state reservations date from the 1600s. Nine other incorporated groups are officially recognized as Indian tribes by the Commonwealth of Virginia. They are the: Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe in Southampton County; Chickahominy Indian Tribe in Charles City County; Chickahominy Indian TribeEastern Division in New Kent County; Monacan Indian Nation in Amherst County; Nansemond Indian Tribe in the City of Chesapeake; Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia in Southampton County; Rappahannock Indian Tribe in Essex, Caroline, and King & Queen counties; and the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe in King William County.

During the 1990s, six Virginia tribes pursued federal recognition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs: the Chickahominy Indian Tribe, Chickahominy Indian Tribe–Eastern Division, Monacan Indian Nation, Nansemond Indian Tribe, and Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe. 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.

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe continued to seek recognition though the Bureau of Indian Affairs. After a tumultuous vetting process and multiple appeals, the Pamunkey achieved federal recognition on January 28, 2016, becoming the first Virginia Indian Tribe to do so.

Click image to enlarge
Indian groups in Virginia today



    Early Hunters
Paleoindians 15,0008,000 B.C.
Early Archaic 8,0006,000 B.C.

Dispersed Foragers
Middle Archaic 6,0002,500 B.C.

Sedentary Foragers
Late Archaic 2,5001,200 B.C.
Early Woodland 1,200500 B.C.
Middle Woodland 500 B.C.A.D. 900

Late Woodland A.D. 9001600

European Contact
Indians A.D. 16001800
Modern Indians A.D. 1800Present



First People: The Early Indians of VirginiaIntroduction

DHR Archaeology Program

DHR Artifact Collections