Native Peoples

Language Groups

American Indians were the first people who lived in Virginia before the settlers came.

Christopher Columbus called the people he found in the lands he explored “Indians” because he thought he was in the Indies (near China).

Three Major Native American Language Groups in Virginia

  • Algonquian languages were spoken primarily in the Tidewater region; the Powhatan were part of this group

  • Siouan languages were spoken primarily in the Piedmont region; the Monacan were part of this group

  • Iroquoian languages were spoken in Southwestern Virginia; the Cherokee were a part of this group

American Indian Adaptations

American Indians were very connected to the environment and used nature to survive.

Climate in Virginia

  • The climate in Virginia is mild with seasons (spring, summer, fall, and winter)

  • Forests, which have many types of trees, cover most of Virginia

Environmental Connections

The kinds of food American Indians ate, the clothing they wore, and the shelters they had depended on the seasons.

  • Foods changed with the seasons:

      1. In winter, they hunted birds and other animals and lived on foods stored during the previous fall

      2. In spring, they hunted, fished, and picked berries

      3. In summer, they grew crops (beans, corn, squash)

      4. In fall, they harvested crops and hunted for foods to keep for the winter

  • Animal skins (deerskin) were used for clothing

  • Shelter was made from materials around them (wood, mud, straw, etc.)

American Indians' Legacy

Artifact: a human-made object from the past

Archaeology: the study of history using artifacts and other evidence

Werowocomoco: a large Indian town on the York River, used by Indian leaders such as Powhatan

Jamestown: the first permanent English settlement in North America

Archaeologists have discovered artifacts (such as arrowheads, pottery, and tools) that give them clues about the interactions of the Indians, English, and Africans in early Virginia.

American Indian people have lived in Virginia for thousands of years, and there are American Indian tribes located throughout Virginia today.

There are many ways that American Indians maintain their culture:

  • Music (drumming, singing)

  • Dance

  • Crafts (art, jewelry, pottery)

  • Clothing

  • Tribal museums

  • Powwows (public festivals that teach American Indians and visitors about American Indian culture)