Great Falls Historical Society, VA website

Dogue Indians—our local tribe

by Ruth Baja Williams

y the time Captain John Smith and a party of 14 men explored and mapped the lands bordering the Potomac River in 1608, the local American Indians had been a settled agricultural people for almost two thousand years. Smith and other early explorers recorded eleven different nations or Indian groups living along the lower Potomac River. Before setting out on his journey up the river, Smith had been warned by friendly Indians that Powhatan, the paramount chief and chief of the Algonquian Federation, had orders out to betray him, (according to George Brown in a 1991 newsletter of Historic Prince William). Proceeding with caution, Smith encountered the Chicacoans, Matchotics, and Patawomecks who were hostile toward him. It was with relief then to be welcomed with a friendly reception at Tauxenent on the Occoquan River. Tauxenent was the main village of the Dogue Indians. The werowance, chief, of the Dogue tribe gave the Englishmen a feast. Smith estimated the size of the tribe to be from 135 to 170, which included 40 bowmen.

The Dogues hunted and fished and planted corn, pumpkins, sunflowers, squash, beans, and tobacco. They lived in longhouses, arbor-like structures of bent poles covered with bark or reed mats.

Tauxenent was on the north bank of the Occoquan River. George Brown speculates that it may have been on the hill where the Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre is now located. The Dogue Indians also dwelt in four hamlets, each ruled by a lesser werowance. The hamlet of Pamacocack was located on Quantico Creek. Namassingakent was situated on the north bank of Dogue Run, Assaomeck, on the south side of Hunting Creek, and Namoraughquend, near present-day Roosevelt Island.

Smith traveled only a short distance from the village of Tauxenent before coming to Great Falls. One of Smith's men reported seeing beaver, otters, bears, martins, minks, and an abundance of fish.

The Dogue's werowances were male, although their position was inherited through female lineage. The werowances had absolute power of life and death over tribal members. They were allowed to have as many wives as they could support. It is said that Powhatan had more than one hundred. Village hierarchy included an advisor; a priest who was in charge of the temple and gave advice on matters of war; and a shaman. Below these officials were the common Indians and at the bottom rung of this society were the war prisoners.

The Dogue Indians were members of the Algonquian Federation, but at the time of Smith's arrival at Tauxenent, the Dogue disliked Powhatan, possibly because Powhatan was demanding ever more tribute. Far from Powhatan's center of power, the Dogues may have viewed the English as a potential ally, and thus wished to win their friendship.

In the first half of the 17th century the area around the Potomac basin was seething with intertribal wars, rivalries and alliances made, then broken. Archeological digs show Algonquian settlements were palisaded, or protected by fences. Into this mix came the English. Intertribal wars evolved into Anglo-Indian wars and more specifically Anglo-Powhatan wars.

Whatever struggles were going on, there was no stopping the encroachment of the English settlers. Evidence of European-Indian contact was found at the Little Marsh Creek archeological excavation site: two chip flints and a gunflint. The gunflints suggest English presence during the second quarter of the seventeenth century. As European settlement spread, the Indians were forced off their lands and groups merged. The English corrupted the tribal name of Tauxenent first to Taux, then to Toags, Doeggs, Doegs and finally Dogue.

Stephen Potter, author of Commoners, Tribute, and Chiefs: The Development of Algonquian Culture in the Potomac Valley (University Press of Virginia, 1993) states that around 1650, the Dogues were still living in what is now Mason Neck. By 1654, some of the Dogues may have moved to lands along the Rappahannock.

The origins of the Dogue Indians are lost in the mists of ancient history. What is known is that the Dogue Indians belonged to the Algonquian language group. Historical linguists agree that Eastern Algonquian languages probably are not native to the Middle Atlantic. "...the putative homeland for Eastern and Central Algonquian languages is somewhere in the Great Lakes region..." (Potter).

The Dogues' heritage is evident in local place names: Occoquan, at the end of the water; Marumsco, at the island rock; Quantico, by the long stream; and the most common name of all, Potomac, trader.

This very informative article was courtesy of that very interesting publication,

"The North County Chronicle,"
      28 July 2004
Web site,


Great Falls Historical Society, VA website