News & Politics

What You Should Know About the Original Washingtonians

Native American delegation to Washington DC in March, 1867. Originally published in Harper's Weekly. Photo via Library of Congress.

So who were the original Washingtonians? When the English came to Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, the indigenous Powhatan–who had been there for generations–took pity on the Englishmen, who suffered disease and were unskilled in working this hemisphere’s land. The tribe gave the visitors food and allowed them to share their land.

The following century would see the Powhatan and nearby Piscataway tribes decimated by disease, displacement and conflict. The 11,000 person large Powhatan population was reduced by 92% and the Piscataway went from 8,200 to a mere 300.

The Chesapeake Bay region was one of the first places English settlers made contact on modern-U.S. soil. The map below shows that the indigenous community closest to DC–established in 1790, 180 years after this population map–was the Piscataway. With the exception of the Pamunkey and Mattaponi in Virginia, all indigenous tribes in the area lost their land to encroaching English colonizers.

On this Columbus Day, remember your predecessors: you can learn more about the O.G. Washingtonians at the National Museum of the American Indian.

Map showing Chesapeake Native Peoples circa 1610. Photo via the National Museum of the American Indian.
Map showing Chesapeake Native Peoples circa 1610. Photo via the National Museum of the American Indian.

 

Don’t Miss Another Big Story—Get Our Weekend Newsletter

Our most popular stories of the week, sent every Saturday.

Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.
Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.

SIGN UP
We engage readers directly in their mailboxes with topics like Health, Things to Do, Best Brunches, Design & Shopping, and Real Estate. Get the latest from our editors today.
Get The Best Of Washingtonian In Your Inbox!