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Brooke Shaffer

Author, Ski Patroller, and Pasta-Eater Extraordinaire

10 Fun (and not so fun) Facts About Native Americans in West Virginia

With the release of Free Time today, I thought it would be nice to get back into the swing of things and post a 10 Fun Facts bit.

  1. Some of the most famous tribes to occupy the land today known as West Virginia include the Cherokee, Iroquois, and Shawnee.  Other, lesser-known tribes include Manahoac, Saponi, Nottaway, Occaneechi, and Monacan.
  2. Few of these tribes were centralized in West Virginia, and the region seemed to be more of a large borderlands or no-man's-land between the various tribes.
  3. In the 2010 census, there were 3,787 self-identified Native Americans or Alaska Natives living in West Virginia.
  4. Most West Virginians who have Native ancestry attribute it to the Cherokee, though this may be more from familiarity with the large tribe than concrete proof.
  5. Today there are no reservations and no federal- or state-recognized tribes living in West Virginia.
  6. However, the the Appalachian American Indians of West Virginia (AAIWV) is a state-recognized "inter-tribal" tribe dedicated to preserving the ongoing history and culture of the Native peoples in the region.  There are approximately 2,500 members representing 43 different tribes.
  7. Other native organizations include the West Virginia Native American Coalition; the People of the Earth Organization of South Charleston; the Native American Indian Federation of Huntington; the Native American History Council; and the Organization for Native American Interests at West Virginia University.
  8. Most of the Native inhabitants of the region were wiped out by disease before Europeans ever arrived, and there are few recorded battles.
  9. The Kanawha tribe (for whom Kanawha River and County are named) ceased to exist sometime around 1774, believed to have been devastated by war and disease, with survivors seeking refuge in other Iroquois bands.
  10. There are mounds located in the Kanawha Valley (modern-day Charleston area) which belonged to the Hopewell people, who are believed to have been the predecessors to many of the Appalachian peoples.

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