The Mattaponi were one of six tribes inherited by Chief Powhatan in the late 16th century. The tribe spoke an Algonquian language, like other members of the Powhatan Chiefdom. The paramount chiefdom of the Powhatan numbered more than 30 tribes by the time the English arrived and settled Jamestown in 1607.
In addition, a Mattaponi band had long been settled outside the reservation at an unincorporated hamlet called Adamstown, located on the upper reaches of the Mattaponi River. This has been identified as Indian land in records dating to the 17th century. In 1921, the Upper Mattaponi Tribe of Adamstown organized as an official group separate from the main Mattaponi population who resided on the reservation.
Official Tribal Name: Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe
Address: King William, VA
Official Website: http://www.uppermattaponi.org
Recognition Status: State Recognized March 25, 1983
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:
Common Name / Meaning of Common Name: Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe
Alternate names / Alternate spellings / Misspellings: Adamstown Band
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Region: Eastern Woodland
State(s) Today: Virginia
In 1608, Captain John Smith identified the village of Passaunkack at the location of the present day Upper Mattaponi. In 1676, the August Hermann Map shows several Indian houses along the Upper Mattaponi River directly at the location of the Upper Mattaponi people, identifying the region as Indian land. The oldest surviving King William County records dated 1885 list non-reservated Indians bearing the surname Adams living in a settlement known as Adamstown.
Confederacy: Powhatan Confederacy
In 1656-1657, the King and chiefs of the Mattaponi Tribe signed peace treaties with the Court of Rappahannock County and the justices of Old Rappahannock County. Tribal members were to be treated equally as Englishmen in court and civil rights.
During Bacon’s Rebellion, the Mattaponi were one of several innocent tribes attacked by colonial militia directed by Nathaniel Bacon. Continued tensions and raids by other local Virginia tribes gave Bacon and his followers a scapegoat in which to take out their frustrations.
Once the conflict ended, the Treaty of Middle Plantation was signed on May 29, 1677. Cockacoeske (weroansqua of the Pamunkey) signed the treaty on behalf of several tribes, including the Mattaponi. Known as “Queen of the Pamunkey” by the English, she had succeeded her husband, Totopotomoi, upon his death in 1656. He was killed while fighting on the side of the English. The treaty ushered in a time of peace between the Virginia tribes and the English.
More tribal leaders signed the treaty of 1677 than that of nearly 30 years before. It reconfirmed the annual tribute payments and added the Siouan and Iroquoian tribes as Tributary Indians of the colonial government. The government established more reservation lands for the tribes, but required them in turn to acknowledge they and their peoples were subjects of the King of England.
Even today, every November on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the tribe goes to the Virginia Governor’s mansion in Richmond. They present some pottery and a deer or turkey to the governor and then have a private audience with the governor.
The Upper Mattaponi Tribe were a band settled on the upper reaches of the Mattaponi River. They did not belong to the reservation, and were organized around a lead family of Adams. Their founder was likely James Adams, who acted as an interpreter between the Mattaponi and English from 1702 to 1727. The settlement in the 19th century was recorded as Adamstown.
In 1921 the group organized as the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, and have been recognized by the state of Virginia. In 1942 they built the Indian River View Church, the heart of their Baptist community. Next door is the Sharon Indian School. The original one-room school was built in 1917. Before then Mattaponi children were educated with the Pamunkey, with whom they were long linked by colonial and state governments. The school was replaced with an eight-room structure in 1952. It closed in the 1960s with the end of official state segregation. The state returned the school to the tribe’s jurisdiction and use in 1987. They now use it as a community center.
Land Area: 32 acres
Time Zone: Eastern
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Registered Population Today: 575 tribal members
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According to archaeologists, indigenous peoples of successive cultures have been living in the area now called Virginia for as long as 15,000 years. The historic tribes are believed to have formed in the 14th and 15th centuries.
Bands, Gens, and Clans
Related Tribes: Mattaponi Tribe
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In the News:
The Powhatan Indians of Virginia: Their Traditional Culture
Pocahontas People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries
Indian Issues: Federal Funding for Non-Federally Recognized Tribes