Topic: Mattaponi

Chief William Terrill Bradby, Pamunkey

Powhatan Featherwork

We now come to what is perhaps the most interesting topic in the material life of the southern tribes, the woven feather technique. An art so ancient and so elaborate can hardly be expected to have persisted from colonial times down to the present day where the process of deculturation among the conquered tribes has gone so far. But surprising as it is, the Virginia Indians have not entirely forgotten, nor even lost, the art of weaving feathers into the foundation of textile fabrics. The antiquity of the woven-feather technique is attested by virtually all the authors of the old

Recent Pamunkey pipes.

Powhatan Pottery

First let us look over the material from the Virginia tidewater area. Everywhere here from the southern boundary of Virginia by actual observation, north-ward even through the Delaware valley, the pot-sherds are almost identical in material, decoration and color. Holmes has appropriately called the ceramics of the tidewater “the Algonquian type.” On the Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Rappahannock, James, and Chickahominy rivers it is all the same, the rims, decorations, and ingredients being practically uniform within a certain range of variation.

Dugout canoe of the Pamunkey in course of construction.

Powhatan Canoes

The means provided by the Powhatan tribes for transporting themselves about in their marshy wastes was the dugout canoe. This article describes these canoes, their method of manufacture, and provides pictures of them and their paddles.

Pamunkey fishermen returning from their nets.

Powhatan Fishing Customs

The Powhatan tribes still adhere to some fishing practices worth mentioning. Until not long ago fish fences were employed. These were chiefly for sturgeon, but now this splendid fish is so scarce that whereas thirty years ago from three to six a day during July and August would be taken, now the record is three a season by six boats fishing the same period. Captain John Smith mentions 52 and 68 being taken ”at a draught.” 1Smith’s account of Virginia in Tyler, L. G., Narratives of Early Virginia, New York, 1907, p. 85. The Virginia explorers noted the great abundance

Part of the Mattaponi Indian town seen from the river

Adamstown Indians or Upper Mattaponi Band

One of the most important of the hitherto little known and unrecognized bands resides below Aylett’s landing, south of Mattaponi River, about a mile inland. The district is called Adamstown from the large number of the Adams family (fig. 20, a). They are citizens and have independent holdings near a large swamp which harbors considerable small game. On Captain John Smith’s map of 1612 their location corresponds correctly with a village marked on his chart as Passaunhick. Archeological surface surveys in the neighborhood evidence an extended and numerous original population and the Indian blood of the inhabitants, their Indian tradition