The Wicocomico, Wiccocomoco, Wighcocomoco, or Wicomico /waɪkɛ'kɑːməkɛ/ were an Algonquian-speaking tribe who lived in Northumberland County, Virginia, at the head and slightly north of the Little Wicomico River. They were a fringe group in Powhatan's Confederacy. In the mid-seventeenth century, the colonial court of Virginia ordered them to merge with a smaller tribe; the group was known as Wicocomico when assigned a reservation of 4,400 acres (18 km2) near Dividing Creek, south of the Great Wicomico River.

After losing the last of their reservation land in the early 1700s, the tribe disappeared from the historical record and was considered extinct. Since the late twentieth century, descendants have organized, documented history and genealogy, and are seeking recognition.

Total population
Extinct as a tribe
Regions with significant populations
Northumberland County, Virginia
Native religion
Related ethnic groups
Pocomoke people


The Wicocomico people were encountered by Captain John Smith in 1608 as he explored Virginia.[1] He notes a village of about 130 men on the South side of the mouth of the Patawomeke (Potomac) River.

The Northumberland County Court began interfering in the governance of the local tribes by the mid-1600s. Sometime between 1652 and 1655, the Court directed the Wicocomico and Chicacoan (or Sekakawons) tribes to merge and relocate slightly south of the Great Wicomico River. They were given 50 acres per fighting man, for a total of 4,400 acres (18 km2) near Dividing Creek.[2] The Lower Cuttatawomen probably merged with them between 1656 and 1659. The merged tribes' adopted the name of "Wicocomico" as that group were the most numerous. The Court appointed Machywap (formerly King of the Chicacoan) as the weroance of the combined tribes, as he was considered a friend of the English and easy to manage. By 1659, the Wicocomico had deposed Machywap, possibly by force, and replaced him with Pekwem as their weroance.

There were constant problems with the colonists' encroachment on their lands. From 1660 to 1673, the Wicocomico frequently challenged colonists in court over land disputes. Although most disputes were settled in favor of the Wicocomico, by 1719 they retained only 1,700 acres (6.9 km2) of their original 4,400-acre (18 km2) reservation. In 1705, Robert Beverley, Jr. wrote "In Northumberland, Wiccocomoco, has but three men living, which yet keep up their Kingdom, and retain their Fashion; they live by themselves, separate from all other Indians, and from the English."[3] After June 1719 and the death of William Taptico, the last Wicocomico weroance, the English took the lands. The remnants of the Wicocomico dispersed, and the tribe has been considered extinct. In 1730, the Tobacco Inspection Act of 1730 declared that one of the public tobacco warehouses should be "At Wiccocomico, at Robert Jones's; and at Coan, at the warehouses in Northumberland, under one inspection." [4]

Since the late 20th century, according to their website, descendants of Chief Taptico have worked to document their genealogy and history, as well as to re-organize as a tribe known as the Wicocomico Indian Nation. They have not received state or federal recognition, although they are preparing required documentation for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.[5]


  1. ^ Smith, John (1907). The generall historie of Virginia, New England & the Summer isles. J. MacLehose and sons. Reprinted from the 1624 edition.
  2. ^ Rountree, Helen (1996). Pocahontas's People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia through Four Centuries. Univ. of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 9780806128498.
  3. ^ Beverley, Robert (1855). The History of Virginia. Univ. of Michigan. Reprinted from the 1722 edition.
  4. ^ "Tobacco Inspection Act of 1730", Encyclopedia of Virginia
  5. ^ Wicocomico History, Wicocomico Indian Nation

Further reading

Algonquian peoples

The Algonquian are one of the most populous and widespread North American native language groups. Today, thousands of individuals identify with various Algonquian peoples. Historically, the peoples were prominent along the Atlantic Coast and into the interior along the Saint Lawrence River and around the Great Lakes. This grouping consists of the peoples who speak Algonquian languages.

Before Europeans came into contact, most Algonquian settlements lived by hunting and fishing, although quite a few supplemented their diet by cultivating corn, beans and squash (the "Three Sisters"). The Ojibwe cultivated wild rice.The Algonquians of New England (who spoke Eastern Algonquian) practiced a seasonal economy. The basic social unit was the village: a few hundred people related by a clan kinship structure. Villages were temporary and mobile. The people moved to locations of greatest natural food supply, often breaking into smaller units or gathering as the circumstances required. This custom resulted in a certain degree of cross-tribal mobility, especially in troubled times.

In warm weather, they constructed portable wigwams, a type of hut usually with buckskin doors. In the winter, they erected the more substantial longhouses, in which more than one clan could reside. They cached food supplies in more permanent, semi-subterranean structures.

In the spring, when the fish were spawning, they left the winter camps to build villages at coastal locations and waterfalls. In March, they caught smelt in nets and weirs, moving about in birch bark canoes. In April, they netted alewife, sturgeon and salmon. In May, they caught cod with hook and line in the ocean; and trout, smelt, striped bass and flounder in the estuaries and streams. Putting out to sea, the men hunted whales, porpoises, walruses and seals.dubious The women and children gathered scallops, mussels, clams and crabs, all the basis of menus in New England today.

From April through October, natives hunted migratory birds and their eggs: Canada geese, brant, mourning doves and others. In July and August they gathered strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and nuts. In September, they split into small groups and moved up the streams to the forest. There, the men hunted beaver, caribou, moose and white-tailed deer.

In December, when the snows began, the people created larger winter camps in sheltered locations, where they built or reconstructed longhouses. February and March were lean times. The tribes in southern New England and other northern latitudes had to rely on cached food. Northerners developed a practice of going hungry for several days at a time. Historians hypothesize that this practice kept the population down, according to Liebig's law of the minimum. Northerners were food gatherers only.The southern Algonquians of New England relied predominantly on slash and burn agriculture. They cleared fields by burning for one or two years of cultivation, after which the village moved to another location. This is the reason the English found the region relatively cleared and ready for planting. By using various kinds of native corn (maize), beans and squash, southern New England natives were able to improve their diet to such a degree that their population increased and they reached a density of 287 people per 100 square miles as opposed to 41 in the north.Even with mobile crop rotation, southern villages were necessarily less mobile than northern ones. The natives continued their seasonal occupation but tended to move into fixed villages near their lands. They adjusted to the change partially by developing a gender-oriented division of labor. The women cultivated crops, and the men fished and hunted.

Scholars estimate that, by the year 1600, the indigenous population of New England had reached 70,000–100,000.

Classification of indigenous peoples of the Americas

Classification of indigenous peoples of the Americas is based upon cultural regions, geography, and linguistics. Anthropologists have named various cultural regions, with fluid boundaries, that are generally agreed upon with some variation. These cultural regions are broadly based upon the locations of indigenous peoples of the Americas from early European and African contact beginning in the late 15th century. When indigenous peoples have been forcibly removed by nation-states, they retain their original geographic classification. Some groups span multiple cultural regions.

Indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands

Indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands include Native American tribes and First Nation bands residing in or originating from a cultural area encompassing the northeastern and Midwest United States and southeastern Canada. It is part of a broader grouping known as the Eastern Woodlands. The Northeastern Woodlands is divided into three major areas: the Coastal, Saint Lawrence Lowlands, and Great Lakes-Riverine zones.The Coastal area includes the Atlantic Provinces in Canada, the Atlantic seaboard of the United States, south until North Carolina. The Saint Lawrence Lowlands area includes parts of Southern Ontario, upstate New York, much of the Saint Lawrence River area, and Susquehanna Valley. The Great Lakes-Riverine area includes the remaining inland areas of the northeast, home to Central Algonquian and Siouan speakers.The Great Lakes region are sometimes considered a distinct cultural region, due to the large concentration of tribes in the area. The Northeastern Woodlands region is bound by the Subarctic to the north, the Great Plains to the west, and the Southeastern Woodlands to the south.

List of unrecognized tribes in the United States

Unrecognized tribes in the United States are organizations of people who claim to be historically, culturally or genetically related to historic Native American Indian tribes but who are not officially recognized as indigenous nations by the United States federal government, which has a direct relationship with sovereign nations, or by individual states under their separate legislative processes, or by recognized indigenous nations.

The following groups claim to be Native American Indians/Aboriginal First Nations by ethnicity, but have no federal recognition through the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Federal Acknowledgment (OFA), United States Department of the Interior Office of the Solicitor (SOL), nor are recognized by any state government in the United States nor any recognized indigenous nations.

Native American tribes in Virginia

The Native American tribes in Virginia are the indigenous tribes who currently live or have historically lived in what is now the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States of America.

All of the Commonwealth of Virginia used to be Virginia Indian territory. Indigenous peoples have occupied the region for at least 12,000 years. Their population has been estimated to have been about 50,000 at the time of European colonization. At contact, Virginian tribes spoke languages belonging to three major language families: roughly, Algonquian along the coast, Iroquoian in the southern Tidewater region, and Siouan above the Fall Line. About 30 Algonquian tribes were allied in the powerful Powhatan paramount chiefdom along the coast, which was estimated to include 15,000 people at the time of English colonization.As of January 29, 2018, Virginia has seven federally recognized tribes, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, Rappahannock, Nansemond and Monacan. The latter six gained recognition through passage of federal legislation. The Commonwealth of Virginia has recognized these seven and another four tribes, most since the late 20th century. Only two of the tribes, the Pamunkey and Mattaponi, have retained reservation lands assigned by colonial treaties with the English colonists made in the 17th century. The state established an official recognition process by legislation.

Federal legislation to provide recognition to six of Virginia's non-reservation tribes was developed and pushed over a period of 19 years. Hearings established that the tribes would have been able to meet the federal criteria for continuity and retention of identity as tribes, but they were disadvantaged by lacking reservations and, mostly, by state governmental actions that altered records of Indian identification and continuity. In addition, some records were destroyed during the American Civil War and earlier conflicts. From the 1920s, state officials arbitrarily changed vital records of birth and marriage while implementing the Racial Integrity Act of 1924; they removed identification as Indian and reclassified people as either white or non-white (i.e. colored), according to the state's "one-drop rule" (most members of Virginia tribes are multiracial, including European and/or African ancestry), without regard for how people identified. This resulted in Indian individuals and families to lose documentation of their ethnic identities. In 2015 the Pamunkey were officially recognized as an Indian tribe by the federal government.Following nearly two decades of work, federal legislation to recognize the six tribes was passed on January 29, 2018.

Northumberland County, Virginia

Northumberland County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 12,330. Its county seat is Heathsville. The county is located on the Northern Neck and is part of the Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace AVA winemaking appellation.

Thomas Greene (governor)

Thomas Greene of Bobbing, Kent, 2nd Proprietary Governor of Maryland (1610, Bobbing, Kent, England – shortly before 20 January 1652 St. Mary's County, Maryland) was an early settler of the Maryland colony and second Provincial Governor of the colony from 1647 to 1648.


The name Wicomico may refer to the following:

The Wicocomico or Wicomico people, an Algonquian-speaking Native American tribe, part of whom lived in the Tidewater region of Virginia

Wicomico River (disambiguation), several rivers tributary to the Chesapeake Bay watershed

Wicomico County, Maryland

USS Wicomico (YT-26), formerly USS Choctaw, a yard tug in the United States Navy

Wicomico High School

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