Note: The following information is taken with permission from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources Web pages entitled, "First People: The Early Indians of Virginia" at http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/arch_NET/timeline/time_line.htm. The information from the Web pages is taken from the book First People: The Early Indians of Virginia, produced by the Department of Historic Resources, and published by the University Press of Virginia.
In the 1800s, the prevailing white culture in Virginia wanted to push the Indians off their homelands. Pressure was brought to remove each of the four remaining reservations and end the people's legal status as tribes. This policy meant dividing, with the Indians' consent, all of a reservation among each of its members and removing all state services to the tribe. The Gingaskin (Accomac) Reservation on the Eastern Shore was legally subdivided in 1813. Unable to withstand legal pressure and being very poor, the people sold their land. By 1850, all of the original Gingaskin Reservation was in white hands. The last parcel of the Nottoway Reservation was divided in 1878, although many families held onto their land into the 20th century. The Pamunkey and Mattaponi, the last two reservations, withstood attempts at termination. Though the people were poor, they maintained their tribal structure and treaties with the Commonwealth. Today, their reservations are two of the oldest in the nation, symbols of a people who refused to give up. Their example has been an incentive for the non-reservation Indian people, who, around the time of the Civil War, began to resurface as identified enclaves.
After the Civil War, the reservation tribes sought to rebuild their cultural identity and unity. They also sought to improve their image among the people of the Commonwealth. In the late 1800s, for example, the Pamunkey tribe staged plays for 30 years recounting the legend of Pocahontas and John Smith to remind white Virginia of the debt it owed the Powhatan people for keeping the original colony alive. The play also carried the message that Powhatan's descendants were still alive and not ashamed of their heritage. Following the cessation of these plays, the Mattaponi tribe continued to rebuild its cultural identity by going into the business community and into school systems teaching the history of the Powhatan culture. The Pamunkey were probably the least threatened of the Powhatan descendants in the 1870s. They had a reservation, state recognition, and a church. They also had a school, which consisted of a log building, like all the other houses on the reservation. The Mattaponi were considered part of the Pamunkey as their lands had originally been joined and were welcomed at the Pamunkey church and school.
During the 19th century, state laws restricted a Virginia Indian's ability to travel, testify in court, and inherit property. Divisions between white, black and Indian cultures resulted in rigid, three-way segregation in schools and churches.