Powhatans lived in homes called "Yi-Hakans", built by
the women of the tribe. Several women and their children working
together could build a "Yi-Hakan" in a day or so. As the
group laboured together, the work became a fun event, a time to
Powhatans depended on the rivers and the Bay to provide a means
of travelling to other villages. They fished the waters for food
and used the streams and creeks for drinking water.
They did much of their fishing from canoes, which they called "Quintans".
Men and women often danced together in a circle around someone
or something. One dance that honoured the early Jamestown colonists
was the "welcome" dance. One person danced a solo in the
centre of a circle of people who were seated. As each person got
up to take his or her turn at dancing, the previous person sat down
in the circle. When the last person was finished dancing, then all
of the dancers got up and danced in a ring. Dancing
was a very important part of most of the Powhatans ceremonies.
The Mattaponi Indian Reservation was created from land long held
by the Tribe by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1658.
Being one of the oldest reservations in the country, the Tribe traces
its history back to the Great Chief Powhatan, father of Pocahontas,
who ruled most of Tidewater Virginia when Europeans arrived in 1607.
The story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith begins here.
Since the Assembly's designation of the Reservation in 1658, the
Mattaponi Tribe has maintained its heritage and many of its customs
despite strong pressures pushing toward assimilation with the mainstream
The river is flowing threw this land is named after the tribe and
reaches shortly afterwards the Chesapeake Bay.
Through the years both the Reservation's physical size and the number
of Tribal members have been diminished. The Reservation presently
encompasses approximately 150 acres, a portion being wetland. Although
the Tribal Roll numbers 450 people, only 60 actually live on the
Reservation. The Mattaponi Indian Tribe is State recognized and
continues to maintain its own Sovereign government.
Many Mattaponis who live off the Reservation would like to return
to their traditional homeland to continue the Tribe's culture and
traditions. To do so will require expansion of the land holdings
of the Mattaponi Tribe.
Map of the route taken from Cape Henry to Jamestown, searching
for a place to settle.