This page details the history and current status of Indian tribes
in the Commonwealth of Virginia
All of the Commonwealth of Virginia
used to be Virginia Indian territory, an area estimated to have been occupied by indigenous peoples
for more than 12,000 years. Their population has been estimated to have been about 50,000 at the time of European colonization. The various peoples belonged to three major language families: roughly, Algonquian
on the coast, and Siouan
in the interior. About 30 Algonquian tribes were allied in the powerful Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom
, estimated to include 15,000 people at the time of English colonization.
Today, enrolled tribal members of the eleven state-recognized tribes number more than 5,000. Collectively they own fewer than of land. Only two of the tribes, the Pamunkey
, retain reservation lands assigned by treaties signed with the English
colonists in the 17th century.
Federal legislation is being considered that would provide recognition to six of Virginia's non-reservation tribes. Hearings established that they would meet the federal criteria for continuity and retention of identity as tribes, but they have been disadvantaged by lacking reservations and by state governmental actions that altered records of Indian identification. Some records were destroyed during the American Civil War
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