Patawomeck in Virginia

the Patawomeck once lived at Marlboro Point (1), and are developing a new tribal center at Duff Green Park (2) near Fredericksburg (3)
the Patawomeck once lived at Marlboro Point (1), and are developing a new tribal center at Duff Green Park (2) near Fredericksburg (3)
Source: GoogleMaps

When John Smith sailed up the Chesapeake Bay in 1608 and visited the mouth of Potomac Creek, he first met the Patawomeck with their palisaded town.

The Patawomeck lived on the fringe of Powhatan's paramount confederacy. They quickly realized that they could deal directly with the English. The "tassantassas" could use their ships to avoid crossing through Tsenacommacah. Despite Powhatan's efforts to starve the English, the Patawomeck traded corn for iron tools, textiles, and prestige goods such as copper and beads.

In 1609, the Patawomeck provided a safe refuge for Henry Spelman when he ran away from Werowocomoco. Two years later, Lord de la Warre described the Patawomeck chief "as great as Powhatan," rather than subordinate to him.1

In 1613, they betrayed Powhatan's emissary rather than provide the required tribute to the paramount chief. Japasaws, the Patawomeck chief, sold Pocahontas to the English ship captain Samuel Argall. Japasaws receive at least one copper kettle in exchange for his treachery.

Powhatan lost control over the periphery of Tsenacommacah. When Opechancanough organized assaults on the English in 1622 and 1644, he was unable to get the Patawomeck to join.

The tribe is now seeking to rebuild a tribal village at Duff Green Memorial Park, on Marlborough Point in Stafford County. That would provide a permanent base, eliminating the need to create a temporary site each year at Fort AP Hill for education and outreach. The tribe is the only one officially recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia without land for a permanent home.

The original town site is underwater now, but the park is near where the Patawomeck lived when Pocahontas visited in 1613. A Stafford County supervisor, supporting donation/lease of the local park to the tribe, noted in 2019 the tourism potential related to historical sites:2

There's lots of people traveling down to Jamestown to look at them. With this, we will get them and capture those tourism dollars, and get them into our restaurants

In 2019, the county and tribe arranged for a 10-year lease of a 17 acres at Duff Green Park, with optional lease renewals for up to 50 years. The tribe will use the Duff house for educational museum exhibits, and build a cultural village showcasing native plants of significance to the lifeways in the past. The entire project, including upgrading the access road, was projected to cost only $334,000.3

In 2022, US Rep. Rob Wittman expressed support for the tribe to get Federal recognition through Congressional action. Such recognition would spur the Smithsonian to repatriate artifacts acquired after an archeological dig at Marlborough Point from 1935-1940. The artifacts could be displayed at the tribe's Little Falls Farm cultural center.4

Native American Tribes in Virginia Since Contact



1. Helen C. Rountree (editor), Powhatan Foreign Relations, 1500-1722, University Press of Virginia, 1993, p.4, (last checked August 31, 2017)
2. "Indian tribe wants to recreate village on donated land next to Rappahannock River," Potomac Local, March 25, 2019, (last checked March 27, 2019)
3. "Patawomeck Indian Tribe leases Stafford park land for new village," Potomac Local, June 20, 2019, (last checked June 21, 2019)
4. "Stafford's Patawomeck tribe seeks federal recognition," Free Lance-Star, January 19, 2022, (last checked January 22, 2022)

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