November 1, 2013
McDonnell Conserves Werowocomoco, Chief Powhatan's 1607 Seat of Power
Condensed by Native Village
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.
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. "
Village © Gina Boltz
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