For very good reason, when people describe states filled with a rich and vibrant American Indian culture, the first discussed are states such as Arizona, New Mexico or Olkahoma. The Commonwealth of Virginia, however, is not often thought of in terms of its American Indian roots.The great news is that Virginia is a state rich with American Indian culture, history and places of interest – you just have to know where to look. With a total of 11 state recognized tribes in the Commonwealth, there is plenty to see and do.
Without further ado, here’s our list:
175 Lay Landing Road, King William, VA – Closed in Winter
Tuesdays-Saturdays 10-4 Adults 2.50 Children 1.25 (804) 843-4792
Located in King William on the Pamunkey Indian Reservation, this museum is a small and intimate museum. Original artifacts from the immediate area are what set this small museum apart because the history is literally from beneath your feet.
Additionally, visitors can watch pottery being made by the Pamunkey, using original techniques passed down from the generations to today.
23186 Main Street. Capron, VA (Route 58 between Courtland and Emporia)
Saturday’s 11-4 pm / Groups by appointment – Free admission (757) 653-7932
In May of 2012, The Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia, in partnership with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, opened their Community House with support of the town of Capron’s Mayor and regional members of Congress.
The center contains a museum with a multitude of Nottoway Indian artifacts. Educational programming will include presentations by lecturers, storytellers, craftsmen, visual artists, and performing artists from within the Tribe as well as from regional and national communities.
6700 Azalea Garden Road Norfolk, VA (757) 441-5830
Oct 16 – Mar: 9 – 5pm / Apr – Oct 15: 9 – 7pm – Tram and boat tours are offered Apr 1 – Oct 15
Adults $9 – Seniors and Military $8 – Youth (3-18) $7
The Norfolk Botanical Garden is a nationally recognized, 155-acre created by African-American workers in 1938 through a grant from the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
Today, the garden has the largest collections of azaleas, camellias and roses on the east coast. From an American Indian perspective , the Norfolk Botanical Garden also hosts several events throughout the year honoring Native tradition – such as Native American Heritage Day on November 29th Native and the Eagle Festival (April 20, 2013) in which the Garden will be hosting Native drummers and singers in honor of the Bald Eagle Family that lives in the trees.
The events are held at the Eagle Tribute Plaza, dedicated in honor of the Eagle family that has lived in the garden since 2003. There are also walking tours specifically for and about the eagles.
Williamsburg, VA 23187-1776 – Various Prices for single ($39) or multi-day see website for details
Once thought of as a historical reenactment based solely on tri-cornered hats and civil-war cannons, Colonial Williamsburg has been embracing the Native contribution to American history. In the Colonial Williamsburg American Indian Initiative, tourists can sit and watch a reenactment of a public history program called “So Far from Scioto,” played by an all-Native cast.
The performance chronicles the story of how Shawnee emissaries brought to Williamsburg in 1774 are abandoned and must figure a way to survive against the odds. The American Indian Initiative plans to continue the program through the fall.
Additional programs include major involvement with the Cherokee Tribe in July and participation in 2012 from award-winning actor Wes Studi.
1368 Colonial Pkwy Jamestown, VA 23081 (757) 229-9776
8:30-4:30 gate – close at dusk Adults $10 – 15 and under Free
For those willing to continue their journey a little more into the colonial roots of Virginia are in for another dose of Native culture as demonstrated through museums and walkthrough re-enactments of the colonial and American Indian mixture of history.
Though the colonial aspect is far greater than the American Indian influence – there are still amazing hidden gems to be found in the museums that contain actual native artifacts from up to 14,000 years ago – descriptions of 8 of the 11 native tribes of Virginia and a Nottoway Indian Painting commissioned by the famous historical artist Keith Rocco.
Additionally, there are group tours called Jamestown Rediscovery tours that allow visitors to walk the same earth that once was allegedly inhabited by Explorer Captain John Smith, Queen Elizabeth II and of course – Pocahontas.
Virginia Indian Pow wows
There are plenty of fantastic pow wows put on by the Virginia Tribal Nations. In order to find times and places visit the tribal website.
Park entry fee $3 – (757) 412-2300
Originally created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s, First Landing State Park is Virginia’s most visited state park. In 1997, the park changed its name from Seashore State Park to its current name to reflect the park’s history as the place where members of the Virginia company that went on to settle Jamestown first hit land.
It has 19 miles of trails on 2,888 acres, including several traditionally built structures called Yihakan’s that make up a traditional Indian village on Cape Henry Trail (built by Nansemond tribal member Lee Lockamy). There’s also a small museum with artifacts and animals, a six-mile bike trail, beautiful scenery and sporadic wildlife. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
Of special note: In 1997, Former Nansemond Chief Oliver Perry persuaded state officials in Richmond Virginia to return 64 sets of Native remains (believed to be Chesapeake Indians) to be buried at First Landing State park – close to their original discovery. A state marker and memorial marks the spot today.
Other Great Points of Interest
A recreated village the size and layout of an actual archeological evacuation known as the Brown-Johnston site with artifacts from the actual site and various exhibits focused on the Eastern Woodland Indians
An American Indian collection of over 1,600 objects from more than 93 Native American tribes.
Currently there is an exhibition entitled Native American Art: The Robert and Nancy Nooter Collection with objects from over 50 tribal nations.