Virginia has a diversity of people, people who came from different places and cultures dating back 15,000 or so years.
People who were native to the area when the Europeans arrived were not all the same. Virginia's "Indians" spoke different languages and lived different lifestyles. Be careful when you hear someone say "All the Indians..." or "Native Americans were..." The tribes were different and competitive with each other - that's why the Europeans discovered Native American villages with palisades.
In 1607, there may have been 13,000 Algonquian-speaking Native Americans within the Coastal Plain territory claimed by Powhatan, and 15,000 Siouan-speaking Monacans/Manahoacs in the Piedmont. The separation of the two groups dates back to 200 A.D., based on archeological studies that identify when the "shared ceramic tradition" east and west of the Fall Line diverged and different pottery types emerged. (Changes in ancient populations can be measured by changes in how they made pottery - though archeologists need to assess if the technology changes evolved from within the existing society, or if a group of strangers migrated into the territory.)1
In addition, there was an unknown number of Algonquians north of the Rappahannock River watershed outside of Powhatan's control, more Siouan-speaking tribes such as the Tutelo, Occaneechi, and Saponi, plus an unknown number of Iroquoian-speaking tribes in the Blackwater/Nottoway and Cherokees in southwestern Virginia. At the time the Europeans arrived, total Native American population may have been 50,000 people within the boundaries of what is now Virginia.2
The earliest European settlers in Virginia were not homogenous either. The first colonists from England came from different cultures within that country, and then from other nations. Some were poor men looking for a steady wage from the Virginia Company, willing to accept a term of service as an indentured laborer in order to have the opportunity to own land in Virginia. Others were "gentlemen," already-wealthy venture capitalists who adventured their person and risked their health in the new colony (as well as their wealth).
Conflict in early Jamestown resulted in execution of "spies" presumed to be Catholics. Despite resupply ships bringing new settlers, Virginia's immigrant population grew slowly after 1607. Some immigrants to America returned to England, such as John Smith in 1609, but most early colonists died from starvation or disease:3
Native American pottery from Little Falls, on Potomac River
Source: National Park Service
Starting in 1619, Africans became part of the cultural mix in Virginia. During the 1600's, the English colonists established a cultural and legal basis for discrimination based primarily upon skin color. Virginians created a system of slavery that required anyone born to a slave mother to spend their entire life as a slave, unless the master emancipated the slave and granted freedom. In urban areas, the percentage of "free people of color" grew, but rural areas remained highly suspicious of slave uprisings. Some communities maintained slave patrols to ensure there would be no unauthorized gathering of slaves at night.
The General Assembly serious considered abolishing slavery in its 1831 session, but could not resolve how to compensate slaveowners for the loss of their "property" and could not determine how to deal with freed slaves. One option was to export those freed slaves back to Africa, and Virginians were active in forming the country of Liberia. (Its capital, Monrovia, is named after James Monroe.) Later in 1831, Nat Turner's Rebellion in Southampton County resulted in the death of over 50 whites and triggered more-restrictive controls over slaves in Virginia and throughout the southern states.
In the 1700's, expansion of tobacco farming into the Piedmont required more and more laborers. Virginia imported slaves, but also expanded its cultural mix by encouraging settlement by groups of white Protestants from continental Europe.
Huguenots from France were recruited, but Virginia had even more success getting German immigrants to migrate south from Pennsylvania. Many of the Pennsylvania Deutsch (Dutch) had been Lutheran Protestants living in the Palatinate region in Europe. They fled the constant warfare between competing Catholic and Protestant rulers, immigrated to William Penn's colony where religious discrimination was minimized, but found land prices near crowded Philadephia were high.
Walking south, crossing the Potomac River, brought the new colonial immigrants into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Scotch-Irish immigrants who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Pennsylvania along with the Lutherans also moved into the Shenandoah Valley. The further the immigrants moved south on the Great Wagon Road (modern Route 11), the cheaper the land. Both Pennsylvania Dutch and Scotch-Irish settlers were welcomed by Virginia governors such as Governor Spottswood. They saw the expanding colonial population west of the Blue Ridge as a buffer against attacks on the frontier by the French in the Ohio River Valley and by Native Americans who had been displaced to the west.
the Great Wagon Road stretched from the Potomac River to Roanoke west of the Blue Ridge, then crossed through the mountains to connect to the Piedmont of North Carolina
Source: North Carolina Museum of History, Great Wagon Road
At the end of the 19th Century, mine owners in Appalachia initiated another round of recruiting workers from various places. The legal system failed to harmonize relationships between different ethnic groups, and extra-legal processes such as lynchings established the boundaries of settlement and behavior. Virginia has never been homogenous, and has never lacked cultural conflicts.
Today, those Virginians who are related to the early English colonists are proud to identify their genealogical links to the Randolphs, the Carters, the Lees. Some have a connection even to the original residents, the very original First Families of Virginia. Numerous First Families of Virginia (FFV's) who tke pride in their genealogies today can trace their ancestry back to Thomas Rolfe, son of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, and thus to Pocahontas and Powhatan and the "real" FFV's.
That connection to Pocahontas affected the implementation of de jure (legal) racial discrimination in the 1920's. Racially-biased Virginia officials tried to classify all Virginians with one drop of non-white blood as colored. Native Americans objected to being reclassified and forced to attend segregated schools with black students, and even today the discrimination of the 20th Century complicates efforts of tribes to receive Federal recognition.
Modern FFV's with a family connection to the most famous Native American from Virginia - Pocahontas - complicated those eforts to classify all Virginians with one drop of non-white blood as colored. In 1924, "An Act to Preserve Racial Integrity" established that white persons could have more than one drop of Native American blood, in order to accommodate the descendants of Pocahontas:4
Those wealthy and influential FFV's may not have celebrated cultural diversity and may not have supported desegregation, but they were proud of their one-drop connection to Pocahontas.
Pocahontas Saving the Life of Captain John Smith
(clearly not historically accurate - notice the teepees in the background)
Source: State Department, Telling America's Story