Chesapeake people

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Total population
Extinct as a tribe
Regions with significant populations
Virginia, South Hampton Roads
Related ethnic groups

The Chesepian or Chesapeake were a Native American tribe who inhabited the area now known as South Hampton Roads in the U.S. state of Virginia. They occupied an area which is now the Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach areas. To their west were the members of the Nansemond tribe.

The main village of the Chesepian was called Skicoke, located in the present independent city of Norfolk. The exact location of Skicoak is unknown. It may have been near the junction of the Eastern and Southern Branches of the Elizabeth River in downtown Norfolk. Other evidence suggests it was located in the Pine Beach area of Sewell's Point. At that location, a large Native American burial mound was discovered close to the 20th-century community named Algonquin Village.

The Chesepian also had two other towns (or villages), Apasus and Chesepioc, both near the Chesapeake Bay in what is now the independent city of Virginia Beach. Of these, Chesepioc was known to have been located in the present Great Neck area. Archaeologists and other persons have found numerous Native American artifacts, such as arrowheads, stone axes, pottery and beads in Great Neck Point. Several buried remains of the indigenous people have been found in this area as well.

Although they were eastern-Algonquian-speaking, as were the thousands of members of the Powhatan Confederacy, the archaeological evidence suggests that the original Chesepian people belonged to another group, the Carolina Algonquian.

According to William Strachey's The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia (1618), the Chesepian were wiped out by the Powhatan, the paramount head of the Virginia Peninsula-based Powhatan Confederacy, some time before the arrival of the English at Jamestown in 1607. The Chesepian were eliminated because Powhatan's priests had warned him that "from the Chesapeake Bay a nation should arise, which should dissolve and give end to his empire".[1][2]

Though historians of the period express little doubt that the Powhatans eradicated the Chesapeake tribe, Strachey's belief that these rumored prophesies indicated the Christian God's intervention on behalf of the Jamestown Colony against "The Devil's Empire" appears, in hindsight, rather eccentric.[3]


  1. ^ William Strachey (1846). The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia, approx. 1618. London: Hakluyt Society edition. p. 101.
    [It is] not long since that his priests told him how that from the Chesapeack Bay a nation should arise which should dissolve and give end to his empire, for which, not many yeares since (perplext with this divelish oracle, and divers understanding thereof), according to the ancyent and gentile customs, he destroyed and put to sword all such who might lye under any doubtful construccion of the said prophesie, as all the inhabitants, the weroance and his subjects of that province, and so remaine all the Chessiopeians at this daye, and for this cause, extinct.
  2. ^ James Horn. A Land As God Made It – Jamestown and the Birth of America. Basic Books (2005), pp. 145–146.
  3. ^ William Strachey (1846). The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia, approx. 1618. London: Hakluyt Society edition. p. 101.
    Judge all men whether these maye not be the forerunners of an alteration of the devill's empire here? I hope they be, nay, I dare prognosticate that they usher great accidents, and that we shall effect them; the Divine power assist us in this worke, which, begun for heavenly ends, may have as heavenly period.


  • Helen C. Rountree. The Powhatan Indians of Virginia: Their Traditional Culture. Norman, Univ. of Oklahoma Press (1989).
  • Helen C. Rountree. Pocahontas's People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia through Four Centuries. Norman, Univ. of Oklahoma Press (1990).
  • Shi, David, E. America: A Narrative History (6th edition), (2004) W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.