The history of North America is the study of the past, particularly the written record, oral histories, and traditions, passed down from generation to generation on the continent in the Earth's northern hemisphere and (chiefly) western hemisphere.
This page details the history and current status of Indian tribes in the present-day Commonwealth of Virginia.
All of the Commonwealth of Virginia used to be Virginia Indian territory, an area estimated to have been occupied by indigenous peoples for more than 12,000 years. Their population has been estimated to have been about 50,000 at the time of European colonization. The various peoples belonged to three major language families: roughly, Algonquian on the coast, and Siouan and Iroquoian in the interior. About 30 Algonquian tribes were allied in the powerful Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom, estimated to include 15,000 people at the time of English colonization.
Native Americans are the indigenous peoples within the boundaries of the present-day United States, including those in Alaska and Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes and ethnic groups, many of which survive as intact political communities. The terms used to refer to Native Americans have been controversial. According to a 1995 U.S. Census Bureau set of home interviews, most of the respondents with an expressed preference refer to themselves as "American Indians" or simply "Indians"; this term has been adopted by major newspapers and some academic groups, but does not traditionally include Native Hawaiians or certain Alaskan Natives, such as Aleut, Yup'ik, or Inuit peoples.
Since the end of the 15th century, the migration of Europeans to the Americas has led to centuries of conflict and adjustment between Old and New World societies. Many Native Americans lived as hunter-gatherer societies and told their histories by oral traditions; Europeans therefore created almost all of the surviving historical record concerning the conflict.
The Powhatan (also spelled Powatan and Powhaten) is the name of a Native American confederation of tribes in Virginia. It may also refer to the leader of those tribes, commonly referred to as Chief Powhatan. It is estimated that there were about 14,000–21,000 Powhatan people in eastern Virginia when the English settled Jamestown in 1607. They were also known as Virginia Algonquians, as they spoke an eastern-Algonquian language known as Powhatan or Virginia Algonquin.
In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, a mamanatowick (paramount chief) named Wahunsunacawh (a.k.a. "Chief Powhatan"), created a powerful organization by affiliating 30 tributary peoples, whose territory was much of eastern Virginia, called Tsenacommacah ("densely inhabited Land"), Wahunsunacawh came to be known by the English as "Chief Powhatan". Each of the tribes within this organization had its own weroance (chief), but all paid tribute to Chief Powhatan.
Longhouses were built by native peoples in various parts of North America, sometimes reaching over 100 m (330 ft) in length but generally around 5 to 7 m (16 to 23 ft) wide. The dominant theory is that walls were made of sharpened and fire-hardened poles (up to 1,000 saplings for a 50 m (160 ft) house) driven into the ground and the roof consisted of leaves and grass. Strips of bark were then woven horizontally through the lines of poles to form more or less weatherproof walls, with doors usually both ends of the house covered with an animal hide to keep warm, although doors also were built into sides of especially long longhouses. Longhouses featured fireplaces that kept them warm. On top of the longhouses they made holes to keep the smoke out so they didn't lose oxygen. This can be a problem when it rains or snows.