Famous Pamunkey

By 1607, more than 30 tribes were tributaries of the Algonquian Powhatan Confederacy, of which the Pamunkey were the largest and one of the most powerful. 

Today, about 200 tribal members remain, many of whom live at least part-time on their 1,200-acre (4.9 km2) reservation in Virginia. 

The Commonwealth of Virginia has always recognized the Pamunkey tribe, with formal relations dating back to the treaties of 1646 and 1677.

However, since the United States did not exist at the time of those treaties, no formal relations existed between the Pamunkey and the federal government. In 1982, the Pamunkey began the process of applying for federal recognition.

Their formal application met with opposition from MGM Casinos, which feared potential competition with its planned casino in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and from members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who noted that the tribe had historically forbidden intermarriage between its members and black people.

The interracial marriage ban, which had long been unenforced and was formally rescinded in 2012, was a relic of the tribe’s attempt to circumvent Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which recognized only “White” and “Colored” people.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs initially said that the Pamunkey had met its requirements for federal recognition in January 2014, but the final decision was repeatedly delayed until July 2, 2015, when the BIA granted them formal recognition.

In February 2016 the Pamunkey received a court victory over a challenge to their right to exist as a political entity, and they now have Federal recognition as an Indian tribe.

Famous Pamunkey

Cockacoeske (weroansqua), who succeeded her husband after he was killed fighting for the English, was an ally of Berkeley against Bacon. To the English, she was known as “Queen of the Pamunkey”. She is known for having signed the Articles of Peace (Treaty of Middle Plantation) in 1677, after Bacon’s Rebellion ended. As a result of the treaty, she gained authority over the Rappahannock and Chickahominy tribes, which had not formerly been under the paramount chiefdom of the Pamunkey.

Chief Necotowance, successor to Chief Opechancanough.

Chief Opechancanough, Powhatan’s maternal brother and successor.

Pocahontas (Matoaka), daughter of Powhatan.

Chief Powhatan, paramount chief of the Pamunkey.

Thomas Rolfe, b 1615 was the only child of Pocahontas and John Rolfe.