Eastern Chickahominy Tribe


The Chickahominy Tribe Eastern Division is a state- and federally recognized Indian tribe located about twenty-five miles east of Richmond in New Kent County. Early in the twenty-first century its population numbered about 132 people, with 67 of those living in Virginia and the rest residing in other parts of the United States.

Map of Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom

The Eastern Chickahominy share an early history with the Chickahominy Indians, who, despite their similar language and culture, lived independently of the Algonquian-speaking Indians of Tsenacomoco. In 1614, following the First Anglo-Powhatan War (1609–1614), they become tributary allies of the Virginia colonists, and in 1646, following the Third Anglo-Powhatan War (1644–1646), joined other Virginia Indians living in the Pamunkey Neck area of present-day King William County. By 1820, families with present-day Chickahominy surnames had begun to settle in Charles City County. In 1870, a state census reported a group of Indians living in New Kent County; these are likely the ancestors of the present-day Eastern Chickahominy Indians.

Chickahominy Indians in the Windsor Shades–Boulevard area of New Kent County established a school in 1910. In 1920–1921, they formally organized themselves as a separate tribal government, with E. P. Bradby the first chief. Some have argued that the distance between the New Kent and Charles City tribal centers—amounting to twenty miles round trip—occasioned the split, while others have cited church issues and a disagreement over the creation of a reservation (the western faction opposed a reservation, while the eastern faction supported it). In September 1922 the Tsena Commocko Indian Baptist Church was organized. In 1925, Virginia issued the tribe a certificate of incorporation.

Like other Virginia Indians, the Eastern Chickahominy struggled to preserve their identity and culture early in the twentieth century. The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 and subsequent legislation banned interracial marriage in Virginia and asked for voluntary racial identifications on birth and marriage certificates. “White” was defined as having no trace of African ancestry, while all other people, including Indians, were defined as “colored.” To accommodate elite Virginians who claimed Pocahontas and John Rolfe as ancestors, the law allowed for those who had “one-sixteenth or less of the blood of the American Indian and have no other non-Caucasic blood [to] be deemed to be white persons.” The law essentially erased Virginia Indians as a category of people.

By late in the century, however, the tribes had reasserted their identity. On March 25, 1983, Virginia Joint Resolution 54 officially recognized the Eastern Chickahominy Tribe. The tribe was federally recognized on January 29, 2018.

November 9—15, 1607
John Smith makes three successful trading voyages up the Chickahominy River.
April 1614
At the conclusion of the First Anglo-Powhatan War, the Chickahominy Indians negotiate a peace treaty with the English independent of the Powhatans.
By early in the year, Opechancanough has persuaded the Chickahominy Indians to renege on the terms of their peace treaty with the English and he soon incorporates them into the Tsenacomoco political alliance.
October 1646
The General Assembly confirms the Treaty of Peace with Necotowance. The treaty ends the Third Anglo-Powhatan War and creates Native tributaries.
May 29, 1677
Cockacoeske signs the Treaty of Middle Plantation, and at her request several tribes are reunited under her authority. But having been free of Powhatan domination since 1646, the Chickahominy and Rappahannock refuse to become subservient to her or to pay tribute.
After this year, Virginia Indians are forced to relocate from the Pamunkey Neck area of present-day King William County, where they have lived since the peace treaty of 1677.
By this year, families with present-day Chickahominy surnames have begun to settle in Charles City County.
A state census reports a group of Indians living in New Kent County. These are likely the ancestors of the present-day Eastern Chickahominy Indians.
Chickahominy Indians in the Windsor Shades—Boulevard area of New Kent County establish a school.
Chickahominy Indians in the Windsor Shades—Boulevard area of New Kent County formally organize themselves as the Chickahominy Indians Eastern Division.
September 1922
The Tsena Commocko Indian Baptist Church is organized in the Windsor Shades—Boulevard area of New Kent County, the home of the Chickahominy Tribe Eastern Division.
Virginia issues the Chickahominy Tribe Eastern Division a certificate of incorporation.
March 25, 1983
Virginia Joint Resolution 54 extends official state recognition to the Chickahominy Tribe, the Eastern Chickahominy Tribe, the United Rappahannock Tribe, and the Upper Mattaponi Tribe. It also acknowledged the recognition of the Pamunkey Tribe and Mattaponi Tribe, which the commonwealth had recognized since the colonial era.
January 29, 2018
The Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act is signed into law, granting official federal recognition to the Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Monacan, Nansemond, Rappahannock, and Upper Mattaponi tribes.
  • Adkins, Elaine and Ray. Chickahominy Indians Eastern Division: A Brief Ethnohistory. Bloomington, Indiana: Xlibris, 2007.
  • Egloff, Keith, and Deborah Woodward. First People: The Early Indians of Virginia. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006.
  • Wood, Karenne, ed. The Virginia Indian Heritage Trail. Charlottesville: Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 2008.
APA Citation:
Encyclopedia Virginia staff. Eastern Chickahominy Tribe. (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/eastern-chickahominy-tribe.
MLA Citation:
Encyclopedia Virginia staff. "Eastern Chickahominy Tribe" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 21 May. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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