The Pamunkey Tribe of the Powhatan Confederacy
Part of the Powhatan Confederacy Pages of the Native  Americans of Virginia Subject Title and Relevant to of the Jamestown Virginia Study  found in the  Virginia and Our Virginians Chapter  of  Volume I: Our American Immigrants [part of the Two Volume Within The Vines Historical Family Website]
Home ** Copyright & Terms of Use ** Email Webmistress


Both Wahunsonacock [called Powhatan by the English] & his half brother and succesor Opechancanough were Weroances [chiefs]  of the Pamunkey people, the Pamunkey being part of the Powhatan Confederacy. Both men  became Kings of the Powhatan Confederacy

The Pamunkey tribe resided in what is now  King William Co., Va [map]. See Also Powhatan Confederacy Page for physical description, dress [by contemporaries at time of contact] and further cultural information regarding the Pamunkey & Powhatan Confederacy Indians

Page Contents:
1. About the Pamunkey
2. The Result of Contact and later numbers

1. About The Pamunkey Tribe of the Powhatan Confederacy
  • The Pamunkey were the strongest part of the Powhatan Confederacy at the time of the English arrival.
  •  Spanish  contact with the Natives of the region predated  the English by many years. See Openchancanough's dedicated page
  • Swanton informs Powhatan is "Said by Gerard to signify 'falls in a current of water,' and applied originally to one tribe but extended by the  English to its chief Wahunsonacock [Powhatan]  and through him to the body of tribes which came under his sway. Also called:  Sachdagugh-roonnw, Iroquois name.".4
  • Population. Swanton  writes " The Powhatan population was estimated by Mooney (1928) as 9,000 in 1600; Smith (1884) allows them 2,400 warriors; in 1669 a census gave 528 warriors or about 2,000 population, the Wicocomoco being then the largest tribe. In 1705 the Pamunkey by themselves numbered 150 souls. Jefferson in 1785 represented the two tribes which he mentions as having but 15 men; Mooney, however, believed that there must have been a population of something like 1,000 because of the number of mixed-bloods still surviving. The census of 1910 returned 115 Chickahominy and 85 Pamunkey. The United States Office of Indian Affairs Report for 1923 includes  still other bands, giving in all a population of 822, and Speck (1925) gives the names of 10 bands aggregating 2,118 in 1923. The census of 1930 returned only 203 Indians from Virginia but evidently missed nearly all except the Pamunkey. ".4
  • "The Pamunkeys were the most powerful tribe over whom Powhatan ruled ... When Powhatan died in 1618 his half brother Opechancanough, who was already chief of the Pamunkeys, became grand sachem of the whole realm.  Powhatan had tried appeasement with the English but Opechancanough had different ideas ... in 1622 [he] led his braves in the bloodiest uprising in the history of the colony.  His followers sacked James Town and to get rid of the savages the [Colonial Government] signed an agreement that no white man was to settle on the north side of the Pamunkey River.  To put this agreement into effect the House of Burgesses passed an act which imposed the death penalty on any white man who [settled there] ..." (T. E. Campbell, Op. Cit., 8)" cited at  Lancelot Davenport
2. The Result of Contact and later numbers
  • The first Indian Reservation involved  Indians of the Powhatan Confederacy
  • "As early as 1646 the Virginia General Assembly reported that the Indians were'so routed and dispersed that they are no longer a nation.' By 1677 all the Indians of eastern Virginia accepted the status of vassals of the English king. They paid tribute for the small reservations allowed to them. Their numbers  had plummeted from perhaps 20,000 to fewer than 3,000. After 1677 their numbers continued to dwindle and in 1705 the size of their reservations was halved. The Rappahannocks and Chickahominies lost their reservations  entirely by 1718. The Nansemonds sold their last remnant in 1792, by which time the only Indians officially recognized were a small group on the Eastern Shore and the Pamunkeys and Mattaponis on their reservations. Those who lived off reservations, or whose tribes no longer had one, were absorbed into the ranks of slaves or the lower parts of English society as squatters on poor land.

  • Until the mid-1700s Indians on reservations were able to live a semi-traditional  lifestyle, hunting deer for skins to trade rather than for food, and collecting bounties from the English for killing wolves, but by 1800 virtually all Virginian  Indians spoke only English, dressed like their white neighbors, and had  become Christians, their native religion having become extinct."  from the Virginia Historical Society Webpages "Contact and Conflict" 9
  • The Pamunkey Tribe Pages inform of the Reservation:  "The Pamunkey Indian Reservation, on the Pamunkey river and adjacent to King William County, Virginia [map], contains approximately 1,200 acres of land, 500 acres of which is wetlands with numerous creeks. Thirty-four families reside on the reservation and many Tribal members live in nearby Richmond, Newport News, other parts of the States and all over the United States."6

Sources for This Page: