The Native Americans have roots all over the country, but in places where those roots run particularly deep, it’s important that we both recognize and honor them. Virginia Beach happens to be one of those places, rich with well-documented Native American history.
Although the town has a long history, it all starts with the tribes that once lived and thrived in the area. Though there are no Native American reservations around the resort town we know today, there’s something to be said for remembering and respecting those who once lived on such beautiful land. Some of the culture and traditions (as well as the names) of those original tribes still influence the area to this day. For tourists just passing through, these things might go unnoticed – consider taking a look the next time you’re out and about, especially if you’re interested in the history of it.
The Chesepians were the native inhabitants of the area now known as the South Hampton Roads in Virginia, and were up to and for a short while after the first settlers came to a stop in Jamestown. They were divided into five provinces or kingdoms: Weapemiooc, Chawanook, Secotan, Pomouic and Newsiooc, each ruled by a king or chief. To their west were the members of the Nansemond tribe.
The main village of the Chesepians was called Skicoak, located in what is now known as Norfolk. They also had two other villages, Apasus and Chesepioc, both near the Chesapeake Bay in what is now Virginia Beach, making it important to the town’s history. Of these, it is known that Chesepioc was located in the present Great Neck area. Archaeologists have found numerous Native American artifacts, such as arrowheads, stone axes, pottery, beads, and skeletons in Great Neck Point, which is now a popular tourist attraction for those who visit VB.
The Native Americans in this area had a complicated political system. That particular area was dominated by the Virginia Peninsula-based Powhatan Confederacy. Although the Chesepians belonged to the same eastern-Algonquian speaking group as members of the Powhatan Confederacy across Hampton Roads, the archaeological evidence suggests that the original Chesepians belonged to another group, the Carolina Algonquian. Powhatan, whose real name was Wahunsunacock, was the most powerful chieftain in the Chesapeake Bay area, ruling and dictating over more than 30 Algonquin-speaking tribes. The Chesepians did not belong to Powhatan’s alliance, but instead defied him, putting them in an odd place in the history of Native American politics and tribes. Many wouldn’t dare to stand against him, considering the amount of power and sway he had.
By 1607, around the time the first permanent English settlement was founded, the Chesaspeakes had united to fight the Powhatan Confederacy and suffered heavy losses as a result. The last time the Chesaspeakes were mentioned in historical documents was in 1627. Their tribe, totally defeated by Powhatan, was wiped out completely by disease and influence by the first Jamestown settlers.