CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Many have called the state of West Virginia their home, but before West Virginia was even a state, it was the home of various Native American tribes, some of whom still hold a presence in the area.

Paleo-Indians were the first to occupy the Mountain State, an occupation that is dated back to around 10,500 B.C. As their civilizations developed, they hunted deer and bear, fished in the river, gathered berries and nuts, and cultivated gourds, sunflowers, corn, beans and similar domesticated seed crops.

However, not long before foreign settlers moved into the area in the 17th century, the Native population had dwindled, with many of their local settlements being abandoned; though some remnants of their civilizations remained, like the burial mounds of Moundsville.

According to WV Encyclopedia, “The reasons are unclear, but probably included tribal conflict and the European diseases traveling ahead of European-American settlement.”

The tribes recorded as having a presence around Appalachia, include: 

  • Shawnee
  • Delaware
  • Cherokee
  • Seneca
  • Susquehannock
  • Mingo
  • Cayuga
  • Chickahominy
  • Choctaw
  • Haudenosaunee
  • Leni Lenape
  • Mohawk
  • Monacan
  • Nansemond
  • Oneida
  • Onondaga
  • Pamunkey
  • Poarch Creek
  • Rappahannock
  • Tuscarora
  • Upper Mattaponi

Other surrounding tribes would also occasionally move through the area throughout history, most notably members of the Iroquois Confederacy.

As with many places on the frontier, conflicts would break out between local Natives and encroaching settlers. Then in 1794, General Anthony Wayne defeated Native Americans at Fallen Timbers, leading to the Treaty of Greenville and “effectively removed all remaining Indian claims to western Virginia,” according to the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History.

Due to a lack of Native presence at the time of West Virginia’s settlement, the state has no federally recognized American Indian tribes or tribal lands. In fact, most Indians in West Virginia today either migrated from elsewhere or are descended from those that came before.

Some Native groups hold events to promote awareness and education, such as powwows, which are celebrations of Native culture that usually include authentic music, dancing, crafts and food.

Native American organizations in West Virginia include the Appalachian American Indians of West Virginia (or Appalachian Nation of Indians), the West Virginia Native American Coalition, the People of the Earth Organization, the Native American Indian Federation, the Native American History Council and the Organization for Native American Interests. The tribespeople these groups represent are diverse, including Lakota, Blackfoot, Apache, Navaho, Cree and Aztec.

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