History

The 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 socialize.

The 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 culture.

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.

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