Beyond Jamestown: Virginia Indians Yesterday & Today


The Virginia Discovery Museum is hosting the exhibit “Beyond Jamestown” (curated by Karenne Wood, director of the Virginia Indian Heritage Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities). The exhibit runs through May 11th and is well worth a visit for children of all ages.


While kids and their adult guests read about the vibrant heritage of Indians in Virginia, children can learn how to plant the “three sisters” (corns, beans, and squash, a nutritional assemblage that provided essential amino acids) and fish from a traditional dugout canoe.


It may be hard to see in the photos, but the fish and wooden crops have an ingenious velcro system so that kids can “catch” the fish in the net and “plant” the crops by attaching them to painted stalks.


Don’t forget to cook the food before consuming it! A lifesized longhouse or wigwam (from the Woodland period) was constructed so that kids could bring their hunted and gathered (from agricultural fields) meal and sit in front of an educational film about native peoples in Virginia. The large exhibit room also contains a reconstruction of a segregated school house (based on historic photos of the Monacan School in Amherst), activities designed to teach kids (and adults) about the past and present of Virginia Indians, and a series of installations about traditional crafts and technologies. The exhibit contains lots of valuable information about everyday life and traditions. The children I observed had to be pulled away from their fields and canoe when it was time to go. A teacher’s guide accompanies the exhibition and highlights correlations between the exhibit themes and the SOLs. With generous sponsorship from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Rose and Robert Capon, the admission fee is only $4. And don’t miss the historic carousel outside the museum. The exhibition was developed by the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. P.S. If you’re over 4 feet high, but the only thing you were taught about Indians involves “massacres,” “princesses and dramatic rescues,” or mascots for sports teams, this exhibit is well worth a visit.

To learn more about Virginia Indian families at the turn of the last century, visit the 3rd floor of Newcomb Hall (just east of UVa’s Emmett Street parking garage, on UVA grounds) to view a photographic exihibit (or click here for the website).