Natives in the Landscape

Native Settlements
Native towns were located along the edges of the rivers, adjacent to marshes, and near to high, level, well-drained fields. Because Native people practiced shifting cultivation – moving from old fields to new as the soil wore out – their villages tended over the years to move up and down the river’s edge.

© 2006 Charles City County

Natural Environment

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natural environmentIn 1607, the environment of Charles City County was much like it is today; a combination of mixed upland hardwood forest and low-lying swampy areas. The primary difference from today was a high, closed tree canopy created by old growth trees that shaded out vegetation beneath and made it possible for a man to run unimpeded through the woods. Freshwater creeks and rivers created marshes and swamps where bald cypress, black gum and Atlantic white cedar grew. The climate was humid, with a prolonged warm fall and a wet, cold winter. Rainfall averaged 45 inches a year, with mild drought conditions every three years, although during the time of European colonization there were a series of harsh droughts in the region. Freshwater marsh areas provided numerous plants, such as tuckahoe, that became dietary staples during poor harvest seasons. Low land game occupied the territory including white tail deer, bear, beaver, raccoon, possum, and squirrel. Diverse shellfish, such as oysters, clams, mussels, and fish, such as sturgeon, gar, bass, and catfish inhabited the James and Chickahominy River drainages.

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Learn about the Chickahominy tribe. Learn about the Paspahegh tribe. Learn about the Weyanock tribe.