Native Village 
Youth and Education News

November 1, 2013

McDonnell Conserves Werowocomoco, Chief Powhatan's 1607 Seat of Power
Condensed by Native Village

John Smith's Map

"If Jamestown was the beginning of the English in North America, then Werowocomoco -- where Smith met with Powhatan at a time when the fate of Jamestown hung in the balance --was the beginning of the beginning.  This is a site of international significance."

Virginia:  Last June,  Virginia Indians gathered with Governor Bob McDonnell and others for a public dedication to conserve the site of Werowocomoco.

Werowocomoco is where Chief Powhatan, Captain John Smith and Pocahontas first met in December 1607.

"The preservation of Werowocomoco and today's dedication ceremony embodies the special relationship the Commonwealth has with Virginia's living Indian community," Governor McDonnell said. "Together, these efforts serve as tangible evidence of our ongoing commitment to that community and to its rich history and culture."

Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Douglas Domenech added. "But more significantly, it represents the protection of what is the most important Native American site along the Chesapeake and its tributaries."

Governor McDonnell recognized each chief from Virginia's seven Powhatan-descendant tribes, the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Nansemond, Pamunkey, Rappahannock and Upper Mattaponi.

A ceremonial conservation easement was also signed between property owners Bob and Lynn Ripley and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.  The DHR spearheaded efforts to conserve the nearly 58-acre Werowocomoco site. They will hold the easement on behalf of the the state.

Pamunkey Chief Kevin Brown presented strings of quahog wampum and copper beads to the Ripleys, Domenech and others as a gesture of gratitude for the partnership to preserve the site. He said Werowocomoco was the secular and spiritual seat of power of Paramount Chief Powhatan and the Powhatan Chiefdom when Jamestown was settled in 1607.

"Werowocomoco was basically our people's Washington, DC," Brown said. "It is a very sacred and historic site and we are very happy it is being put into an easement to protect it from development."

Secretary Domenech invited each chief to the podium to speak. Their words touched on Werowocomoco's spiritual, cultural, and historical significance. Native Americans have lived there as early as 1200 A.D.

The Werowocomoco site will remain the property of the Ripleys. Virginia's DHR holds the easement and will ensure the site's protection. They will also oversee the research by archaeologists  who are working closely with Virginia Indians. 

Researchers are saying that Werowocomoco is proving to be an extraordinary and unique site -- one that includes the footprint of the largest longhouse ever studied in Virginia. Such a longhouse befits the stature of a paramount chief and military leader such as Powhatan.

It also befits the stature of the town of Werowocomoco itself.

Copper medallion believed to portray chief Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas. Archaeologists discovered it at Historic Jamestown.

Werowocomoco lay at the heart of the Powhatan Chiefdom. The Chieftan was comprised of about 30 tribes and 15,000 people living in present-day Tidewater and coastal Virginia. Theirs was among the most complex Native societies in eastern North America when Jamestown was settled.

"Werowocomoco is deeply defining of Virginia Indian prehistory and history and that of Virginia and the nation," said Kathleen S. Kilpatrick, director of the Department of Historic Resources. "If Jamestown was the beginning of the English in North America, then Werowocomoco—where Smith met with Powhatan at a time when the fate of Jamestown hung in the balance—was the beginning of the beginning. This is a site of international significance. "

Powhatan Chiefdom

Virginia State Recognized Tribes

White: Powhatan-Descendant Tribes
Tribe Year Recognized Location
Mattaponi 17th century Banks of the Mattaponi River, King William Co.
Pamunkey 17th century Banks of the Pamunkey River, King William Co.
Chickahominy 1983 Charles City County
Eastern Chickahominy 1983 New Kent County
Rappahannock 1983 Indian Neck, King & Queen County
Upper Mattaponi 1983 King William County
Nansemond 1985 Cities of Suffolk and Chesapeake
Monacan Indian Nation 1989 Bear Mountain, Amherst County
Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) 2010 Courtland, Southampton County
Nottoway of Virginia 2010 Capron, Southampton County
Patawomeck 2010 Stafford County

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