Author: Beth Roach


Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia

The Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia is a state-recognized tribe whose ancestors lived in dispersed communities along the Nottoway River in present-day Dinwiddie, Isle of Wight, Nottoway, Sussex, and Southampton counties. In the twenty-first century, Nottoway tribal citizens continue to live in community in Southampton, Surry, and Sussex counties, as well as in the portions of Dinwiddie and Nottoway counties that adjoin the Nottoway River. Traditionally an Iroquoian-speaking people, the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia continues the Iroquoian practices of democratically elected government and rule by council. Their core cultural values include education, family, and maintaining a connection to the land. The Nottoway people first appear in the written record in 1650, when merchant and colonist Edward Bland encountered two Nottoway towns on the Nottoway River. They signed at least two treaties with the colonial government: the Treaty of Middle Plantation in 1677 and a standalone treaty with Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood in 1714. These treaties indicate the significant role that the Nottoway played in Virginia’s evolution; they also reveal how the colonial government reduced traditional Nottoway territory into two smaller tracts of reservation land, used those tribal lands as a buffer between colonial settlements and nontributary tribes, and attempted to assimilate Nottoway children into Anglo-Virginian culture through mandatory schooling. In the late eighteenth century, the House of Burgesses appointed trustees to manage tribal land sales and disburse the revenue from those sales. As land sales accelerated in the early nineteenth century the Nottoway community was particularly politically active, with Wané Roonseraw, also known as Edith or Edy Turner, emerging as a community leader and opponent of the trustee system. From 1830 to 1878, the Nottoway people applied for and received allotments of their remaining reservation land. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many Nottoway families remained close to one another, creating a community core in the Southampton area. They practiced deep culture, sharing certain cultural practices quietly across generations rather than performing them publicly. Hostile laws, forced assimilation, the passage of Jim Crow laws, and the practice of paper genocide influenced this practice. Some Nottoway citizens also settled in the larger mid-Atlantic region, as World War I (1914–1918), the Great Depression, and World War II (1939–1945) stimulated large migrations to the urban centers along the Eastern Seaboard. In the early twenty-first century, Nottoway descendants began to gather in Southampton County to discuss pursuing formal recognition by the Commonwealth. In 2010, the Commonwealth of Virginia extended state recognition to the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia.