By Drew Lopenzina

Native American Heritage Month is a good time to remind ourselves that Old Dominion University stands upon traditional homelands of the Indigenous peoples who lived along the main waterways and tributaries of the Powhatan and Paumanuk Rivers (now called the James and the York). At the time of contact, the region upon which ODU was built was stewarded primarily by the Nansemond Indian Nation and the now defunct Chesepioc or Chesapeake tribe (for which our great bay is named), with the Kecoughtan to the northeast, the Nottoway to the south, the Pamunkey, Rappahannock, Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Mattaponi, and Upper Mattaponi directly to the northwest, and the Monacan Nation further west toward the Shenandoah River Valley. By acknowledging these Indigenous peoples as the traditional caretakers of this space called Tsenacomoco or "land of many villages," we honor and respect the connection of these tribes to the lands on which we gather--the lands upon which we must all work, live, cooperate, and prosper-and we remain mindful of our own institutional obligations, hoping to build a stronger partnership through meaningful and proactive resolutions with the Indigenous peoples of Virginia.

To learn more about the Nansemond Indian Nation see: and

For more on Virginia Indians see:…