What is: The Pamunkey Reservation and Railroad Tracks

What was: The 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation created an 6-mile wide, 18,000-acre exclusive Native American zone by prohibiting colonists from living within three miles of the settlement on Pamunkey Neck.

In 1693, the colonial government allowed the Pamunkey to sell 5,000 acres of their land. That helped them pay debts and relieved some pressure to extinguish the reservation completely.

Starting in 1836, the Pamunkey were threatened by an effort to terminate their reservation for various reasons and on numerous occasions. It could have led to sale of the lands and dispersal of the tribe.

Over time, more slices of land were transferred out of Pamunkey control, leaving the tribe with an inadequate land base for subsistence by hunting and gathering. Today, the Pamunkey Reservation consists of 1,200 acres. That is 7% of the land originally granted by the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation.

The railroad tracks that run through the reservation are a reminder of the effects of modernity and how the indigenous peoples have been disrespected.  The tracks were first laid in 1855, across 22 acres of the Pamunkey reservation, without permission from the Pamunkey and with no compensation to the Pamunkey for this unsolicited and unwanted use of their land.

In 1975 the Pamunkey began a suit against the Southern Railroad Company which in 1979 resulted in reparations of $100,000 being paid to the Pamunkey for the location of these tracks. The terms of their settlement also required that the railroad continue regular rent payments for use of that land in the future, and determined that if the railroad should at any point discontinue use of the tracks, the land will be returned to Pamunkey.

What is: The entrance to a waterfront parking lot, Yorktown, Virginia

What was: We mostly know of Yorktown as being the location of the last major conflict in the Revolutionary War. However, in the 18th Century Yorktown’s waterfront was a major harbor — the center of commerce. In 1691, Yorktown was made the official port for the Colony of Virginia. Wharves, tobacco warehouses, ship chandleries, grogshops lined the waterfront.  Up the hill was the main street where the Customs office and merchants lined the street. A diverse array of merchants and sailors, planters and inspectors, travelers and laborers made it a busy place.

From 1619 to 1774 more than 390 vessels brought captured Africans (on average carrying 125 captives/vessel) to Virginia delivering to major trade ports like the one here, as well as to plantations directly along the York, James and Rappahannock Rivers. Between 1698 and 1750 over 80 percent of captured Africans (about 31,000) were disembarked in the York River district.

In front of you is what was known as “The Great Valley,” one of the few natural openings in the marl cliffs of Yorktown.  It was used as the main roadway to connect the harbor to the main street, about a city block up the hill.  The slaves would be herded up the hill to the slave market on Main Street. Source: Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project.

What is: Pottery School, Pamunkey Indian Reservation, King William County, Virginia.  Home of the Pamunkey Potter’s Guild since the early 1930s.

What was: Pottery production for Virginia’s indigenous peoples began roughly three millennia prior to contact with Europeans. From its beginning to approximately five decades after European contact, the ceramics of Virginia’s coastal plains consisted of small to large wide-mouthed jars with conoidal bodies and rounded bases. Ceramics were produced and used on a household basis for a multitude of purposes including cooking and storage. The period of initial European contact resulted in the first marked shift in European influence on Pamunkey pottery production in which pottery shifted from production for consumption to production for exchange.

During the nineteenth century, the Pamunkey potters had a thriving peddlers’ trade throughout the Peninsula area. Many believed that this activity was ruined by the construction of the York and Richmond Railroad in 1854 and the traumatic events surrounding the Civil War and resulting disruption of life in King William county area. Reconstruction, would, of course, take a further toll. By the beginning of the 20th century, only a handful of potters remained, but all the senior members of the community could recall a day when their grandparents made a living, at least in part, from peddling their stewing pots, milk pans, and other pottery vessels throughout the country.

Today, the Pamunkey Reservation consists of 1,200 acres. That is 7% of the land originally granted by the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation.

Among one of the most important sacred sites to Native Americans. The tribal village would have been along the shore, with the community leaders, temples and civic buildings further at the back of the site.
What is: Werowocomoco. It is today United States Government Property. No Trespassing. In 2016, Werowocomoco was permanently protected by the National Park Service and is administered by the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
What was: Werowocomoco (wayr-uh-wah-koh-muh-koh) is believed to have been a place of leadership and spiritual importance to American Indians as early as circa AD 1200.  The village served as the headquarters of Chief Powhatan, a Virginia Algonquian political and spiritual leader when the English founded Jamestown in 1607. The name Werowocomoco comes from the Powhatan werowans, meaning “leader” in English; and komakah, “settlement”.
When Englishman Captain John Smith explored the Bay in 1608, he documented hundreds of American Indian communities. Today, sites on his map are archeological treasures and sacred sites for tribal citizens. At Werowocomoco, Powhatan, the leader of many Algonquian tribes, lived and subsequently met on several occasions with Captain John Smith in 1607 in the earliest recorded meetings between a Native leader and the English. On one visit in 1609, the English forced Powhatan to bow so they could crown him as a ruler in Virginia.
The Native Americans were increasingly unwilling to trade and wary of English intentions. Attempts at cooperation steadily led to conflict, and Powhatan moved his headquarters farther inland. Werowocomoco soon fell silent. The land at Werowocomoco was cultivated for crops and timber from the early days of colonial Virginia, either by a single family or small cluster of neighbors. There is no indication that they maintained any direct association of the land with Werowocomoco or its importance to native and colonial history.
Nothing above ground remains of the Indian community that lived here. The rural landscape is largely intact. However, clues to the past still lie in the earth. Fields and forests at the site surround a private, single-family home, situated at the end of a long gravel road with a view of Purtan Bay and the York River beyond. Indians moved away from Werowocomoco in 1609. In the centuries that followed, Indian heritage was both neglected and suppressed. Source: National Parks Service.