The Pamunkey in Virginia

in the mid-1600's, the Dutch still used the name Pamunkey rather than York River
in the mid-1600's, the Dutch still used the name "Pamunkey" rather than "York" River
Source: Library of Congress, Map of Atlantic Coast of North America from the Chesapeake Bay to Florida (Joan Vinckeboons, 1639?) (1892)

the Confederate Engineer Bureau documented how the Richmond and York River Railroad crossed the Pamunkey reservation
the Confederate Engineer Bureau documented how the Richmond and York River Railroad crossed the Pamunkey reservation
Source: Library of Congress, Map of King William County, Va (by Benjamin Lewis Blackford, c.1865)

When the English colonists arrived in 1607, they sailed up the river they named the James. Captain Newport met a werowance named Tanx (Little) Powhatan, who was in charge of a town just downstream of the the Fall Line. The English thought they had contacted the paramount chief Powhatan.

The colonists later discovered that the paramount chief lived with the Pamunkey at Werowocomoco. The Powhatan tribe at what is now Tree Hill in Henrico County was separate from the Pamunkey tribe living at Werowocomoco, located on Purtan Bay of the York River. The paramount chief, known as Powhatan or Wahunsenacawh, ruled over both tribes.1

the Pamunkey lived on the York River, while the Powhatan lived on the James River
the Pamunkey lived on the York River, while the Powhatan lived on the James River
Source: Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean, Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal

just prior to the American Revolution, John Henry documented where the Pamunkeys had lived since the English first arrived
just prior to the American Revolution, John Henry documented where the Pamunkeys had lived since the English first arrived
Source: Library of Congress, A new and accurate map of Virginia (by John Henry, 1770)

prior to the Civil War, the Richmond and York River Railroad built its line across the lands of the Pamunkey Tribe (Indian Town) to connect Richmond to the deeper port at West Point
prior to the Civil War, the Richmond and York River Railroad built its line across the lands of the Pamunkey Tribe ("Indian Town") to connect Richmond to the deeper port at West Point
Source: Library of Congress, Atlas of the War of the Rebellion, Southeastern Virginia and Fort Monroe, Va.

In 1917, after the United States entered World War I, the Pamunkey objected to plans to draft men into the US military. Because the Pamunkey were classified as "Indians not taxed," they were not treated as citizens until the US Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924.

On August 25, 1917, Chief George Cook testified that:2

...the land and other property of said Pamunkey Tribe of Indians is not subject to taxation by the Commonwealth of Virginia; that said Pamunkey Tribe of Indians have always been wards of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and that the male members thereof have never been allowed to exercise the privilege of voting, and therefore affiant believes that they are not deemed and held citizens within the laws of this State and of the United States, and hence that the members of said Tribe are not properly subject to draft for military service in the present war.

two members of the Pamunkey Indian tribe ceremonially delivered the annual payment of tribute to Gov. Baliles in 1989
two members of the Pamunkey Indian tribe ceremonially delivered the annual payment of tribute to Gov. Baliles in 1989
Source: Prints and Photographs, Library of Virginia, Indian Tribes Pay Tribute Taxes to Governor Baliles

The Pamunkey objected to efforts to erase their identity as Native Americans after the General Assembly passed the Racial Integrity Act in 1924. The registrar of the Bureau of Vital Statistics, Walter A. Plecker, actively sought to revise birth certificates so people in the state would be classified as either "white" or "colored." The state law defined anyone with any black ancestors as "colored," and Plecker claimed that all Native Americans had at least one drop of black blood. In his eyes, the Pamunkey and members of other tribes should be denied access to whites-only facilities.

The chief of the Pamunkey, George Major Cook, was outspoken in his claims that members of his tribe had never intermarried with blacks, and should not be segregated with them based on the 1924 law. To make his point clear, he claimed:3

The Pamunkeys will never, no never, submit to be classed as negroid. The Pamunkeys are a proud and noble race and rather than submit to a loathsome, humiliating, negroid classification, they would prefer to be banished to the wilds of Siberia, there to be hid from the great spirit sunshine, and let their bodies rot in the mines.

By 2019, there were over 400 enrolled members of the tribe, and 85 of them lived on the reservation.4

The Federal government recognized the Pamunkey in 2016. Formal recognition came through the administrative process of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in the US Department of the Interior. The recognition came over objections by the Black Caucus, which was familiar with the earlier objections of the tribe to being associated with blacks.

That preserved the right to open full-scale gambling casinos (Class III, with roulette wheels and slot machines) under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. In contrast, the six Virginia tribes that were recognized in January 2018, when the US Congress passed the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act, agreed to give up any opportunity to open casinos.

In 2019, the General Assembly started the process to authorize state-regulated casino gambling. Legislation in 2019 restricted the potential Norfolk and Richmond markets to just the Pamunkey. The Norfolk City Council then committed to sell to the Pamunkey land next to Harbour Park for a hotel, restaurant, and entertainment venue anchored by a Class III gambling casino. The tribe also acquired land in Richmond.5

Federal Recognition of Native American Tribes in Virginia

Native American Gaming and Casino Gambling in Virginia

Native American Tribes in Virginia Since Contact

Pamunkey Reservation on the Middle Peninsula

Pamunkey Reservation and Sea Level Rise

Powhatan

Chief William Terrill Bradley in the 1920's
Chief William Terrill Bradley in the 1920's
Source: Museum of the American Indian, Chapters on the ethnology of the Powhatan tribes of Virginia (p.243)

Nannie Miles and Mrs. Allmond in the 1920's
Nannie Miles and Mrs. Allmond in the 1920's
Source: Museum of the American Indian, Chapters on the ethnology of the Powhatan tribes of Virginia (p.247)

Links

References

1. Powhatan's World and Colonial Virginia: A Conflict of Cultures, University of Nebraska Press, April 2000, pp.28-30, https://books.google.com/books?id=aYRTlZ4vDCwC (last checked January 21, 2022)
2. "Deposition of Chief Cook, August 25, 1917," Library of Virginia, http://edu.lva.virginia.gov/online_classroom/shaping_the_constitution/doc/cook_deposition (last checked April 22, 2019)
3. "Unfinished Business: Indigenous Voters In Virginia," Uncommonwealth blog of the Library of Virginia, https://uncommonwealth.virginiamemory.com/blog/2020/11/04/unfinished-business-indigenous-voters-in-virginia/ (last checked June 7, 2021)
4. "Betting on success," Virginia Business, October 30, 2019, http://www.virginiabusiness.com/news/article/betting-on-success (last checked November 7, 2019)
5. "Pamunkey tribe working to buy land for casino near Harbor Park in Norfolk," The Virginian-Pilot, December 19, 2018, https://pilotonline.com/news/government/local/article_0e93ab18-03a7-11e9-89fc-2b17dbcb7b30.html; "Hotel & Resort Casino Update," Norfolk City Council, September 10, 2019, https://www.norfolk.gov/documentcenter/view/48582; "Pamunkey casino deal could mean nearly $33 million annually for Norfolk," The Virginian-Pilot, September 10, 2019, https://www.pilotonline.com/government/local/vp-nw-norfolk-casino-deal-update-20190910-poqv7hrxeffmlc7hj4dmlop424-story.html; "Pamunkey tribe proposes casino in South Richmond in addition to Norfolk gaming site," Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 18, 2020, https://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/pamunkey-tribe-proposes-casino-in-south-richmond-in-addition-to/article_d3dba75f-e7b0-5737-80e3-71684865cd4a.html (last checked February 14, 2020)

Carolina Proprietors produced a map in 1709 that omitted Virginia settlements but highliighted Indian Land, to steer immigrants to Carolina instead
Carolina Proprietors produced a map in 1709 that omitted Virginia settlements but highliighted Indian Land, to steer immigrants to Carolina instead
Source: John Carter Brown Library, Map of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina (by Joshua Kocherthal, 1709)


"Indians" of Virginia - the Real First Families of Virginia
Exploring Land, Settling Frontiers
Virginia Places