Before the English - panel one of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network exhibit

Image of panel one of the Chesapeake Bay exhibit entitled Before the English

“Before the arrival of the English there, the Indians had fish in such vast plenty that the boys and girls would take a pointed stick and strike at the lesser sort as they swam upon the flats.”


-Robert Beverley, 1705

 
Artist concept of 17th Century Indians fishing from a canoe
Detail of painting by NPS artist Sydney King

NPS image

 

People have lived in Virginia for millennia before 1607. Stone points found at a recent excavation on Jamestown Island are dated at over 10,000 years. When the English arrived, much of Tidewater Virginia was ruled by one man. Chief Powhatan controlled over 30 tribes and 160 villages. Settlers were impressed by the way his people used the waterways for transportation and as a food source.

 
17th Century Atlantic Coast Indians cooking fish
In this period illustration, Virginia Indians are processing their catch.

"The men bostow their time in fishing, hunting, wars, and such man-like exercies."

-William Strachey, 1609 - 1610

 
17th Century Atlantic Coast Indians making a canoe from a tree log
In a period illustration, Virginia Indians are making a canoe.

"They make them [canoes] with one tree by burning and scraping away the coals with stones and shells till they have made them in the form of a trough."

-William Strachey

 
17th Century Atlantic Coast Indians spearing
In a period illustration, Virginia Indians use nets to catch fish.

"...Ingeniou enough in their own works as may testify their weirs in which they take their fish, which are certain enclosures made of reeds and framed in the fashion of a labyrinth... ."

-William Strachey

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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