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Video celebrates Virginia Indian Heritage Month

During November, Virginia’s students have learned about the still-evolving story of the area’s indigenous people through a video presentation.

The Virginia Department of Education unveiled the 25-minute video this month, which commemorates Virginia Indian Heritage Month and teaches school-age children about the currently recognized tribes.

Virginia recognizes 11 tribes: the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Cheroenhaka Nottoway, the Mattaponi, the Monacan, the Nansemond, the Nottoway, the Pamunkey, the Patawomeck, the Rappahannock and the Upper Mattaponi.

Two, the Mattaponi and Pamunkey, still have reservations in Virginia.

The video features a fifth-grader, Keenen Stewart of Charles City Elementary School and a member of the Chickahominy tribe, who answers questions about Virginia tribes from his classmates. The video also includes interviews with tribal leaders and members from each of the 11 tribes.

The video was made to commemorate Virginia Indian Heritage Month, which was created by a proclamation from Gov. Bob McDonnell on Nov. 8.

John Lightner, chief of the local Patawomeck tribe, has seen the video and said it is a good representation of what his tribe tries to teach the public on a regular basis.

“We need more recognition of Virginia tribes,” he said. “The Patawomecks alone have 1,300-plus members.”

The Patawomeck tribe, based in Stafford County, holds multiple living history events each year, where members tan hides, cook traditional foods over open fire, grind corn, build longhouses and display two canoes that were dug out by a tribesman in the traditional manner.

They also attend school events to talk about the history of the Patawomeck in the area.

Next year, for Stafford’s 350th anniversary celebrations, Lightner said the tribe will hold additional events.

The tribe is also active in preserving the Algonquin language, which was spoken by all of the tribes in what was known as the Powhatan alliance. Tribal members hold classes and offer online resources about the language.

Lightner said he also hopes students take away a working knowledge of Native American history in the commonwealth from the video and that they understand the number of tribes in the area.

“And I hope they realize that we are still here,” he said.


See the video and find resources on Virginia’s indigenous people at

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976