Chickahominy Tribe

The Chickahominy tribe is a state-recognized Indian tribe located on 110 acres in Charles City County, midway between Richmond and Williamsburg. Early in the twenty-first century its population numbered about 875 people living within a five-mile radius of the tribal center, with several hundred more residing in other parts of the United States. MORE...

 

In 1607, when English colonists established the settlement at Jamestown, the Chickahominy Indians lived in towns and villages along the Chickahominy River, from the fall line of the river to its mouth. They spoke a dialect of Algonquian and practiced a culture similar to the other Algonquian-speaking Indians of Tsenacomoco, a paramount chiefdom ruled in 1607 by Powhatan. Although they lived in the heart of Tsenacomoco, the Chickahominy did not send a representative to the alliance's council until around the year 1616. And rather than be ruled by a single weroance, or chief, they governed themselves through a council of elders.

Because of their proximity to Jamestown, the Chickahominy Indians had early contact with the English, trading with John Smith on his several voyages up the Chickahominy River in 1607 and teaching the colonists how to grow and preserve their own food. After the First Anglo-Powhatan War (1609–1614), the Chickahominy Indians negotiated an independent treaty with the English leader Samuel Argall, becoming tributary allies of the Virginia colonists, providing 300 bowmen in case of war with the Spanish, and paying a yearly tribute of two bushels of corn for every fighting man.

In 1644, the Chickahominy joined the paramount chief Opechancanough in his attacks against the English. The peace treaty concluding that war, in 1646, set aside land for Virginia Indians, including the Chickahominy, in the Pamunkey Neck area of present-day King William County. In 1677, the Pamunkey chief Cockacoeske signed a new treaty with the English on behalf of several Indian groups, but the Chickahominy, joined by the Rappahannock, refused to become subservient to her or pay her tribute. After 1718, the Indians were forced to relocate, and by 1820 the Chickahominy Indians gradually had begun to settle in the tribe's present-day location on Chickahominy Ridge. There they purchased land, built homes, and established the Samaria Indian Church.

Like other Virginia Indians, the Chickahominy struggled to preserve their identity and culture early in the twentieth century. The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 and subsequent legislation banned interracial marriage in Virginia and asked for voluntary racial identifications on birth and marriage certificates. "White" was defined as having no trace of African ancestry, while all other people, including Indians, were defined as "colored." To accommodate elite Virginians who claimed Pocahontas and John Rolfe as ancestors, the law allowed for those who had "one-sixteenth or less of the blood of the American Indian and have no other non-Caucasic blood [to] be deemed to be white persons." The laws essentially erased Virginia Indians as a category of people.

The tribe nevertheless took steps to assert its identity. The Chickahominy tribe reorganized early in the 1900s. In 1901 an old church on tribal land was reorganized as the Samaria Indian Baptist Church, with 90 members in 1910 and 210 in 1945. A new church was built in 1962 and became the Samaria Baptist Church in 1987. On March 25, 1983, Virginia Joint Resolution 54 officially recognized the tribe, which is governed by a chief, two assistant chiefs, and a twelve-person council.

Time Line

  • November 9–15, 1607 - John Smith makes three successful trading voyages up the Chickahominy River.
  • April 1614 - At the conclusion of the First Anglo-Powhatan War, the Chickahominy Indians negotiate a peace treaty with the English independent of the Powhatans.
  • 1616 - By early in the year, Opechancanough has persuaded the Chickahominy Indians to renege on the terms of their peace treaty with the English and he soon incorporates them into the Tsenacomoco political alliance.
  • October 1646 - The General Assembly confirms a peace treaty ending the Third Anglo-Powhatan War.
  • May 29, 1677 - Cockacoeske signs the Treaty of Middle Plantation, and at her request several tribes are reunited under her authority. But having been free of Powhatan domination since 1646, the Chickahominy and Rappahannock stubbornly refuse to become subservient to her or to pay tribute.
  • 1718 - After this year, Virginia Indians are forced to relocate from the Pamunkey Neck area of present-day King William County, where they have lived since the peace treaty of 1677.
  • 1820 - By this year, families with present-day Chickahominy surnames have begun to settle in Charles City County.
  • March–April 1901 - The Samaria Indian Baptist Church is organized by members of the Chickahominy tribe.
  • 1908 - Chickahominy Indians formally organize themselves as a tribe.
  • 1910 - The Samaria Indian Baptist Church in Charles City County has ninety members, most or all of them members of the Chickahominy tribe.
  • March 20, 1924 - The General Assembly passes "An act to Preserve Racial Integrity," a law aimed at protecting whiteness on the state level. It prohibits interracial marriage, defines a white person as someone who has no discernible nonwhite ancestry, and requires that birth and marriage certificates indicate people's races.
  • 1945 - The Samaria Indian Baptist Church in Charles City County has 210 members, most or all of them members of the Chickahominy tribe.
  • 1962 - A new location for the Samaria Indian Baptist Church is built in Charles City County.
  • March 25, 1983 - Virginia Joint Resolution 54 extends official state recognition to the Chickahominy tribe, the Eastern Chickahominy tribe, the Mattaponi tribe, the Pamunkey tribe, the United Rappahannock tribe, and the Upper Mattaponi tribe.
  • 1987 - The Samaria Indian Baptist Church in Charles City County changes its name to the Samaria Baptist Church.
Further Reading
Egloff, Keith, and Deborah Woodward. First People: The Early Indians of Virginia. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006.
Wood, Karenne, ed. The Virginia Indian Heritage Trail. Charlottesville: Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 2008.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Encyclopedia Virginia staff Chickahominy Tribe. (2013, February 25). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Chickahominy_Tribe.

  • MLA Citation:

    Encyclopedia Virginia staff. "Chickahominy Tribe." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 25 Feb. 2013. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: February 21, 2013 | Last modified: February 25, 2013