Collection: Pamunkey Indians of Virginia

Pamunkey Government and Tribal Laws

In government the tribe is a true democracy over which however the State of Virginia exercises a kindly supervision. The State appoints five trustees to look after the interest of the Indians. No reports of these trustees could be found on file at the office of the governor of Virginia and their only function that could be ascertained to have been performed was the disapproval of certain sections in the Indian code of laws. Laws thus disapproved are expunged from the statute book. The tribe is not taxed but they pay an annual tribute to the State by presenting through

Language of the Pamunkey

One visiting Indian town at the present day would not find a vestige of the Pamunkey language even in the names of persons or things. In 1844 Rev. E. A. Dalrymple collected the following seventeen words 1Historical Magazine (New York) first series 1858 Vol. II p. 182. which so far as the writer can ascertain are all that remain of the language of the Pamunkey Indians proper: Tonshee= son. Nucksee= daughter. Petucka= cat. Kayyo= thankfulness. O-ma-yah= O my Lord. Kenaanee= friendship. Baskonee= thank you. Eeskut= go out dog. Nikkut= one. Orijak= two. Kiketock= three. Mitture= four. Nahnkitty= five. Vomtally= six.

1910 photo of Pamunkey Indians re-enacting the story of Pocahontas.

Pamunkey Indians of Virginia

The Pilgrim Fathers of New England, the Dutch traders and merchants of Manhattan island and the Hudson, the Quaker colonists of Pennsylvania, the Jesuit missionaries and Cavalier grantees of Maryland and Virginia, all encountered the native tribes and confederacies of this great stock. This collection looks at the past history of the Pamunkey Indians of Virginia up until the 20th century.

Early History of the Pamunkey Indians

At the time of the settlement of Jamestown, in 1607, that region lying in Virginia between Potomac and James rivers was occupied by three great Indian confederacies, each of which derived its name from one of its leading tribes. They were: (1) The Mannahoac, who lived on the head waters of Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers; (2) The Monocan, who occupied the banks of the upper James (3) The Powhatan, who in habited all that portion of the tidewater region lying north of the James. The last-named powerful confederacy was composed of thirty warlike tribes, having 2, 400 warriors, whose disastrous

Present Home of Pamunkey Indians

The Pamunkey Indians of today live at what is known as “Indian-town” which is situated on and comprises the whole of a curiously-shaped neck of land, extending into Pamunkey River and adjoining King William County, Virginia, on the south. The “town,” as it is somewhat improperly called, forms a very small part of their original territory. It is almost entirely surrounded by water, being connected with the mainland by a narrow strip of land. The peculiar protection which is afforded in time of war by its natural position in all probability accounts for the presence of these Indians in this

How the Pamunkey Indians Live

The Pamunkey Indians make their living for the most part in true aboriginal style. Their chief occupations are hunting and fishing and although they do not neglect their truck patches they cherish a hearty dislike for manual labor and frequently hire negroes to come in and work their little farms. The deer the raccoon the otter the musk-rat and the mink are captured on the reservation. As many as sixteen deer have been killed in this small area in one season. The skins of all these animals are a good source of income and the flesh except of the mink

Art of the Pamunkey Indians

In 1891 the writer was sent by the Smithsonian Institution to visit the Pamunkey Indians and make a collection of specimens of their arts. Few articles could be found which were distinctively Indian productions. Of their aboriginal arts none are now retained by them except that of making earthenware and “dug-out” canoes. Until recent years they engaged quite extensively in the making- of pottery which they sold to their white neighbors but since earthen ware has become so cheap they have abandoned its manufacture so that now only the oldest of the tribe retain the art and even these cannot

Characteristics of Pamunkey Indians

No member of the Pamunkey tribe is of full Indian blood. While the copper- colored skin and the straight, coarse hair of the aboriginal American show decidedly in some individuals, there are others whose Indian origin would not be detected by the ordinary observer. There has been considerable intermixture of white blood in the tribe, and not a little of that of the Negro, though the laws of the tribe now strictly prohibit marriage to persons of African descent. No one who visits the Pamunkey could fail to notice their race pride. Though they would probably acknowledge the whites as