The Powhatan (also spelled Powatan) are a Native American people in Virginia. It may also refer to the leader of those tribes, commonly referred to as Powtitianna. It is estimated that there were about 14,000–21,000 Powhatan people in eastern Virginia when the English settled Jamestown in 1607. They were also known as Virginia Algonquians, as they spoke an eastern-Algonquian language known as Powhatan or Virginia Algonquian.
In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, a mamanatowick (paramount chief) named Wahunsunacawh (a.k.a. Powhatan), created a powerful organization by affiliating 30 tributary peoples, whose territory was much of eastern Virginia. They called this area Tsenacommacah ("densely inhabited Land"). Wahunsunacawh came to be known by the English as "Powhatan". Each of the tribes within this organization had its own weroance (chief), but all paid tribute to Powhatan.
After Powhatan's death in 1618, hostilities with colonists escalated under the chiefdom of his brother, Opechancanough, who sought in vain to drive off the encroaching English. His large-scale attacks in 1622 and 1644 met strong reprisals by the English, resulting in the near elimination of the tribe. By 1646, what is called the Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom by modern historians had been decimated. More important than the ongoing conflicts with the English settlements was the high rate of deaths the Powhatan suffered due to new infectious diseases carried to North America by Europeans, such as measles and smallpox. The Native Americans did not have any immunity to these, which had been endemic in Europe and Asia for centuries. The wholesale deaths greatly weakened and hollowed out the Native American societies.
By the mid-17th century, the leaders of the colony were desperate for labor to develop the land. Almost half of the English and European immigrants arrived as indentured servants. As settlement continued, the colonists imported growing numbers of enslavedAfricans for labor. By 1700, the colonies had about 6,000 black slaves, one-twelfth of the population. It was common for black slaves to escape and join the surrounding Powhatan; some white servants were also noted to have joined the Indians. Africans and whites worked and lived together; some natives also intermarried with them. After Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, the colony enslaved Indians for control. In 1691, the House of Burgesses abolished Indian slavery; however, many Powhatan were held in servitude well into the 18th century.
In the 21st century, eight Indian tribes are officially recognized by Virginia as having ancestral ties to the Powhatan confederation. The Pamunkey and Mattaponi are the only two peoples who have retained reservation lands from the 17th century. The Powhatan Renape Nation has been recognized by the state of New Jersey. The competing cultures of the Powhatan and English settlers were united through unions and marriages of members, of which the most well known was that of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Their son Thomas Rolfe was the ancestor of many Virginians; many of the First Families of Virginia have both English and Virginia Indian ancestry.
The name "Powhatan" (also transcribed by Strachey as Paqwachowng) is the name of the native village or town of Wahunsunacawh. The title "Chief" or "King" Powhatan, used by the English is believed to have been derived from the name of this site. Although the specific site of his home village is unknown, in modern times the Powhatan Hill neighborhood in the East End portion of the modern-day city of Richmond, Virginia is thought by many to be in the general vicinity of the original village. Tree Hill Farm, which is situated in nearby Henrico County a short distance to the east, is also considered as the possible site.
"Powhatan" was also the name used by the natives to refer to the river where the town sat at the head of navigation. The English colonists chose to name it for their own leader, King James I. The English colonists named many features in the early years of the Virginia Colony in honor of the king, as well as for his three children, Elizabeth, Henry, and Charles.
Various tribes each held some individual powers locally, and each had a chief known as a weroance (male) or, more rarely, a weroansqua (female), meaning "commander".
As early as the era of John Smith, the individual tribes of this grouping were clearly recognized by the English as falling under the greater authority of the centralized power led by the chiefdom of Powhatan (c. June 17, 1545 – c. 1618), whose proper name was Wahunsenacawh or (in 17th century English spelling) Wahunsunacock.
At the time of the 1607 English Settlement at Jamestown, he ruled primarily from Werowocomoco, which was located on the northern shore of the York River. This site of Werowocomoco was rediscovered in the early 21st century; it was central to the tribes of the confederacy. The improvements discovered at the site during archaeological research have confirmed that Powhatan had a paramount chiefdom over the other tribes in the power hierarchy. Anthropologist Robert L. Carneiro in his The Chiefdom: Precursor of the State. The Transition to Statehood in the New World (1981), deeply explores the political structure of the chiefdom and confederacy.
Powhatan (and his several successors) ruled what is called a complex chiefdom, referred to by scholars as the Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom. Research work continues at Werowocomoco and elsewhere that deepens understanding of the Powhatan world.
In his Notes on the State of Virginia (1781–82), Thomas Jefferson estimated that the Powhatan Confederacy occupied about 8,000 square miles (20,000 km2) of territory, with a population of about 8,000 people, of whom 2400 were warriors. Later scholars estimated the total population of the paramountcy as 15,000.
English settlers in the land of the Powhatan
'John Smith taking the King of Pamunkey prisoner', a fanciful image of Opechancanough from Smith's General History of Virginia (1624). The image of Opechancanough is based on a 1585 painting of another native warrior by John White
The Powhatan Confederacy was where the English made their first permanent settlement in North America. Conflicts began immediately between the Powhatan people and the English; the English colonists fired shots as soon as they arrived (due to a bad experience they had with the Spanish prior to their arrival). Within two weeks of the English arrival at Jamestown, deaths had occurred.
The settlers had hoped for friendly relations and had planned to trade with the Virginia Indians for food. Captain Christopher Newport led the first English exploration party up the James River in 1607, when he met Parahunt, weroance of the Powhatan proper. The English initially mistook him for the paramount Powhatan (mamanatowick), his father Wahunsunacawh, who ruled the confederacy.
On a hunting and trade mission on the Chickahominy River in December 1607, Captain John Smith, later president of the colony, was captured by Opechancanough, the younger brother of Wahunsunacawh. Smith became the first Englishman to meet the paramount chief Powhatan. According to Smith's account, Pocahontas, the Powhatan's daughter, prevented her father from executing Smith.
Some researchers have asserted that a mock execution of Smith was a ritual intended to adopt Smith into the tribe, but other modern writers dispute this interpretation. They point out that nothing is known of 17th-century Powhatan adoption ceremonies. They note that an execution ritual is different from known rites of passage. Other historians, such as Helen Rountree, have questioned whether there was any risk of execution. They note that Smith failed to mention it in his 1608 and 1612 accounts, and only added it to his 1624 memoir, after Pocahontas had become famous.
In 1608, Captain Newport realized that Powhatan's friendship was crucial to the survival of the small Jamestown colony. In the summer of that year, he tried to "crown" the paramount Chief, with a ceremonial crown, to make him an English "vassal." They also gave Powhatan many European gifts, such as a pitcher, feather mattress, bed frame, and clothes. The coronation went badly because they asked Powhatan to kneel to receive the crown, which he refused to do. As a powerful leader, Powhatan followed two rules: "he who keeps his head higher than others ranks higher," and "he who puts other people in a vulnerable position, without altering his own stance, ranks higher." To finish the "coronation", several English had to lean on Powhatan's shoulders to get him low enough to place the crown on his head, as he was a tall man. Afterwards, the English might have thought that Powhatan had submitted to King James, whereas Powhatan likely thought nothing of the sort.
After John Smith became president of the colony, he sent a force under Captain Martin to occupy an island in Nansemond territory and drive the inhabitants away. At the same time, he sent another force with Francis West to build a fort at the James River falls. He purchased the nearby fortified Powhatan village (present site of Richmond, Virginia) from Parahunt for some copper and an English servant named Henry Spelman, who wrote a rare firsthand account of the Powhatan ways of life. Smith then renamed the village "Nonsuch", and tried to get West's men to live in it. Both these attempts at settling beyond Jamestown soon failed, due to Powhatan resistance. Smith left Virginia for England in October 1609, never to return, because of an injury sustained in a gunpowder accident. Soon afterward, the English established a second fort, Fort Algernon, in Kecoughtan territory.
Red line shows boundary between the Virginia Colony and Tributary Indian tribes, as established by the Treaty of 1646. Red dot on river shows Jamestown, capital of Virginia Colony.
In November 1609, Captain John Ratcliffe was invited to Orapakes, Powhatan's new capital. After he had sailed up the Pamunkey River to trade there, a fight broke out between the colonists and the Powhatan. All of the English ashore were killed, including Ratcliffe, who was tortured by the women of the tribe. Those aboard the pinnace escaped and told the tale at Jamestown.
During that next year, the tribe attacked and killed many Jamestown residents. The residents fought back, but only killed twenty. However, arrival at Jamestown of a new Governor, Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, (Lord Delaware) in June 1610 signalled the beginning of the First Anglo-Powhatan War. A brief period of peace came only after the capture of Pocahontas, her baptism, and her marriage to tobacco planter John Rolfe in 1614. Within a few years both Powhatan and Pocahontas were dead. Powhatan died in Virginia, but Pocahontas died while in England. Meanwhile, the English settlers continued to encroach on Powhatan territory.
After Wahunsunacawh's death, his younger brother, Opitchapam, briefly became chief, followed by their younger brother Opechancanough. In 1622 (Indian massacre of 1622) and 1644 he attacked the English to force them from Powhatan territories. Both these attempts were met with strong reprisals from the English, ultimately resulting in the near destruction of the tribe. The Second Anglo–Powhatan War that followed the 1644 incident ended in 1646, after Royal Governor of Virginia William Berkeley's forces captured Opechancanough, thought to be between 90 and 100 years old. While a prisoner, Opechancanough was killed, shot in the back by a soldier assigned to guard him. He was succeeded as Weroance by Necotowance, and later by Totopotomoi and by his daughter Cockacoeske.
The Treaty of 1646 marked the effective dissolution of the united confederacy, as white colonists were granted an exclusive enclave between the York and Blackwater Rivers. This physically separated the Nansemonds, Weyanokes and Appomattox, who retreated southward, from the other Powhatan tribes then occupying the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck. While the southern frontier demarcated in 1646 was respected for the remainder of the 17th century, the House of Burgesses lifted the northern one on September 1, 1649. Waves of new immigrants quickly flooded the peninsular region, then known as Chickacoan, and restricted the dwindling tribes to lesser tracts of land that became some of the earliest Indian reservations.
In 1665, the House of Burgesses passed stringent laws requiring the Powhatan to accept chiefs appointed by the governor. After the Treaty of Albany in 1684, the Powhatan Confederacy all but vanished.
Tribes of the Paramount Chiefdom and their territories
The number of tribes listed and the number of warriors are based on estimates or reports which mostly go back to Captain John Smith (1580 - 1631) and William Strachey(1572 - 1621). Usually only the number of the warriors of the individual tribes is known, the stem number will therefore be determined with a ratio of 1: 3, 1: 3,3 or last 1: 4, the studies of Christian Feest are decisive. The last-mentioned figures refer to the first mention as well as the last mention of the respective tribes - e.g. 1585/1627 for the Chesapeake (Source: Handbook of North American Indians).
tribal name meaning is disputed: it may mean ″at a big river″, ″great water ″ or it might have just referred to a village location at the bay's mouth. The Chesapeake lived in the region of the Hampton Roads along the Rivers Powhatan River (later: James River), Nansemond River and Elizabeth River to the Chesapeake Bay, their territory encompassed the cities Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Their capital Skicoke may have been near the junction of the Eastern and Southern Branches of the Elizabeth River in downtown Norfolk. Other evidence suggests it was located in the Pine Beach area of Sewell's Point. The Chesapeake also had two other towns (or villages), Apasus and Chesepioc, both near the Chesapeake Bay in what is now the independent city of Virginia Beach. Of these, Chesepioc was known to have been located in the present Great Neck Point. West of them lived the Nansemond tribe; originally not a member of the Chiefdom, archaeological evidence suggests that the original the Chesapeake people belonged to another Algonquian group - the Carolina Algonquian or Pamlico. According to William Strachey they were destroyed as a nation before 1607 on the basis of a vision by the Powhatan, their villages were resettled, by members of other Powhatan tribes; their then installed chief was Keyghanghton, about 100 warriors (335 tribal members). (1585 / 1627) - now extinct as a tribe.
they called their land along both sides of the Nansemond RiverChuckatuck and encompassed the areas of the cities of Suffolk and Chesapeake, four villages are known by name (the main village or capital Nansemond, then Mattanock, Teracosick and Mentoughquemec), on Dumpling Island were their temples and the seat of the Weroance, the English burned the sanctuary and the settlement in 1609; their leading chief was Weyhohomo, further leaders were Ampuetough, Weyingopo and Tirchtough; about 200 warriors (665 tribal members - according to Smith; Strachey) - according to their descendants they numbered about 300 warriors (or 1,200 tribal members). (1585 - today one of the state-recognized tribes of Virginia).
lived along the Lower Appomattox River in the area of Tri-Cities of Virginia with Petersburg as its head of navigation in adjoining counties of Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, and Prince George in south-central Virginia; their leading chief (Werowance) was Coquonasum with his seat in the tribal town Wighwhippoc on the northside of Wighwhippoc Creek (now: Swift Creek), his sister Opossunoquonuske (Opussoquionuske) (called by the English: ″Queen of Appamattuck/Hattica″) was female chief (Weroansqua) of the maintown Mattica/Hattica near the mouth of the Appomattox River; 60 warriors (or 200 tribal members - according to Smith) or 20 warriors / 100 warriors (or 65 / 335 tribal members according to Strachey). (1607 / 1705) - now extinct as a tribe.
lived in six villages east of the Powhatan tribe on both sides of the James River in Henrico County, Virginia, their main village was at the James River in todays Henrico, Virginia; their chief was Ashuaquid; about 100 warriors (or 200 tribal members - according to Smith and Strachey) - Feest estimated at least 300 tribal members. (1607 / 1611) - now extinct as a tribe.
lived in the Hampton Roads, they had only one settlement, its location is disputed - it is assumed at present day Kecoughtan, Virginia (later called: Elizabeth City) or downtown Hampton, Virginia or Newport News, Virginia, according to William Strachey, Chief Powhatan had slain the weroance at Kecoughtan in 1597, appointing his own young son Pochins as successor there, while resettling some of the tribe at the Piankatank River. Powhatan annihilated the inhabitants at Piankatank in 1608. (1607 / 1610) - now extinct as a tribe.
lived opposite the Quiyoughcohanock along the north bank oft the James River to the junction of the James and Chickahominy Rivers in todays Charles City and James City Counties, they maintained a number of settlements on both sides upriver the Chickahominy River - Namqosick and Cinquaoteck on the east bank of the Chickahominy as three villages not known by name - including their main village or capital - on the west bank, their villages were the closest to Jamestown, Virginia; their chief was Wowinchopunck (he could hold to his position even after submission of the tribe to Wahunsanocock/Powhatan); 40 warriors (or 135 tribal members - according to Smith und Strachey) - but Feest believes that these numbers are too low, quoting George Percy (1607: 139-140), who informed that the Paspahegh chieftain visited the British with "one hundred Sauages armed" and the next day "fortie of his men with a Deere." sent. (1607 / 1610) - now extinct as tribe.
Potchiack / Potchayick
lived along the James River in the area of Surry County, were formed and emerged as a new tribal polity at the beginning of the 17th century from scattered groups of Nansemond, Warraskoyack and Quiyoughcohannock; in 1669 about 30 warriors (or 100 tribal members - according to Hening). (1661 /1669) - now extinct as tribe.
Powhatan / Powatan
lived east of the Atlantic Seaboard fall line on both sides of the Powhatan (James) River and north of the Kingsland Creek, their capital Powhatan or Paqwachowng (literally ″village at the rapids″) was close to the waterfalls (called Paqwachowng) in the vicinity of Richmond, the capital of Virginia, besides, they inhabited at least three smaller, not known, villages (according to Smith), Archer (1607a: 86) adds another village on Mayo Island in James River opposite of their capital, which he called Pawatahs Towre (Powhatan Town); their chief was Parahunt, another son of Wahunsanocock (Powhatan); about 40 warriors (or 135 tribal members - according to Smith) or 50 warriors (and 165 tribal members - according to Strachey), according Feest up to 300 tribal members is likely due to the number of settlements. (1607 / 1670) - now extinct as tribe - maybe some are members of Powhatan Renape Nation of New Jersey, a state-recognized tribe of New Jersey.
lived east of the Weanock on both sides of the James River in several villages, their capital Quiyoughcohannock was the spiritual center of the Powhatan Chiefdom, three villages are known by name: Quiyoughcohannock, Nantapoyac (perhaps Zuñiga's Manattapoyek), and Chawopo, which was led by the former Quiyoughcohannock tribal chief Chopoke /Choapock, there were also two other not known villages along Chippoak Creek (in the area of today Chippokes Plantation State Park), they were often mistakenly referred to as the "Tappahannock" after the capital of the northern Rappahanock; their chief Pepiscumah (Pipisco) was appointed by Wahunsonacock (Powhatan) - further known leaders were the Weroansqua (female chief) Oholasc and the Weroance Tatahcoope; estimates range from 25 warriors (or 85 tribal members - according to Smith), 60 warriors (or 200 tribal members - according to Strachey) up to about 300 and even more tribal members (according to Feest), some banded together with splinter groups of Warraskoyack and Nansemond to form a new tribe - the short-lived Potchiack. (1607 / 1627) - now extinct as tribe.
lived on both sides of James River on Weyanoke Peninsula or Weanoc Neck in Charles City County, Virginia upriver of the Quiyoughcohannock and Paspahegh and south of the Arrohateck and Appamatuck, to the north of their territory lived the Chickahominy people, while independent, the Chickahominy were at times allied to the Powhatan tribes; according to Smith their capital (Tindall's „Pomonke“) as well two not named villages on the north bank of the James River - Archer (1607a: 82) adds another village on the north bank -, south of the James River he tells of three more villages (the second of them is Tindall's „Wynough“, perhaps identical with Zuñiga's „Weanock“), Strachey (1953: 64) mentions an additional Weanock „province“ called Cecocomake near Powell's Creek in Prince George County. After 1623 the settlements Tanx (Little) Weanock north and Great Weanock south of the James River are mentioned and at least until 1627 there were still two Weanock villages; their chief was Kaquothocun; about 100 warriors (or 335 tribal members - according to Smith) or 150 warriors (or 500 tribal members - according to Strachey, which adds 50 warriors for Cecocomake, the Weanock-province). By the 18th century, they had fully integrated with the Nottoways, and were speaking their language, their former presence visible only in the surname "Wineoak". (1607 / 1707) - now extinct as tribe.
lived in several villages along the south bank of the York River in todays York County (formerly Charles River County) in the northern part of the Virginia Peninsula between the Paspehegh in the west and the Kecoughtan to the east, their capital also known as Kiskiack was about 15 miles (24 km) from Jamestown; their chief was Ottahotin; about 40-50 warriors (or 135-170 tribal members - according to Smith & Strachey). (1607 / 1677) - now extinct as tribe, remaining Kiskiack appear to have merged and intermarried with other groups, probably the Pamunkey, Chickahominy, or Rappahannock.
Cantauncack / Candaungack
lived along the north bank of the York River, between Carter and Cedarbush Creeks; their chief was Ohonnamo; about 100 warriors (or 335 tribal members - according to Strachey). (1608 / 1629) - now extinct as tribe.
Werowocomoco / Werowacomoco
were living along the York River upriver to the confluence of the Pamunkey and Mattaponi River - since the first capital of the Powhatan Confederation lay in their territory, this tribe was known by the same name as the capital - it was called Werowocomoco/Werowacomoco - the name ″Werowocomoco″ comes from the Powhatan werowans (weroance), meaning "leader" in English; and komakah (-comoco), "settlement" - literally: ″settlement of the leader or chief″, the capital of the Powhatan Chiefdom Werowocomoco itself lay on the north bank of the York River in Gloucester County near the city of Yorktown - here resided Wahunsonacock (Powhatan) until 1609 when he moved his capital to a new location named Orapaks/Orapax/Orapakes; about 40 warriors (or 135 tribal members - according to Smith & Strachey). (1607 / 1611) - now extinct as tribe.
Caposepock(e) / Kaposecocke / Kupkipcock
lived along the north bank of the Pamunkey River; their chief was Weyamat - presumably Kaposecocke was, however, only one of the largest villages within the mighty Pamunkey tribe and therefore tributary to the leading chief (Werowance) of the Pamunkey; however Strachey gives them about 400 warriors and 1,300 tribal members. (1608 / 1611) - now extinct as tribe.
Orapaks / Orapax / Orapakes
lebten zwischen dem Oberlauf des Chickahominy River und dem Pamunkey River im Norden direkt an der Westgrenze in unmittelbarer Nähe zu den feindlichen Östlichen Sioux-Stämmen, südlich von ihnen lebten die eigentl. Powhatan und nördlich die Youghtanund und direkt den Chickahominy flussabwärts hatten sie die mächtigen autonomen Chickahominy als Nachbarn, seit 1609 befand sich mit Orapaks/ Orapax/Orapakes die zweite Hauptstadt der Powhatan-Konföderation - Werowocomoco war auf Grund des Siedlungsdrucks durch die Kolonisten aufgegeben worden - in ihrem Gebiet, diese wurde auf Grund der besseren Verteidigung in einem Sumpfgebiet im westlichen New Kent County am Nordufer des Upper Chickahominy River errichtet, zwischen 1609 bis 1611/1614 residierte der Oberhäuptling Wahunsonacock (Powhatan) hier; ca. 50 Krieger bzw. 165 Stammesangehörige (lt. Strachey). (1607 / 1611).
Pamareke / Pamuncoroy / Pamakeroy
lebten entlang des Südufers des Pamunkey River - werden manchmal den Pamunkey zugerechnet; ihr Häuptling war Attasquintan; jedoch ca. 400 Krieger bzw. 1.300 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Strachey). (1608 / 1611).
engl. Aussprache: „Puh-MUN-kee“, lebten beiderseits des gleichnamigen Flusses oberhalb dessen Mündung in den York River in den heutigen King William und New Kent Counties, hatten mehrere Hauptdörfer, mit ca. 300 Kriegern bzw. 1000 Stammesmitglieder größter und mächtigster Stamm innerhalb der Konföderation (lt. Smith & Strachey), Wahunsonacock (Powhatan) und seine Tochter Matoaka (Pocahontas) gehörten diesem Stamm an. (1607 - heute einer der state-recognized tribes von Virginia sowie seit 2015 auch einer der federally-recognized tribes der USA).
Paraconosko / Paraconos
Pamunkey River; ihr Häuptling war Attossomunck (ursprünglich ein Weroance der Tauxenent/Doeg); ca. 10 Krieger bzw. 35 Stammesangehörige. (1608 / 1611).
Potaunk / Pataunck / Potawuncack
lebten entlang des Südufer des Pamunkey River; ihr Häuptling war Essenataught; ca. 100 Krieger bzw. 335 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Strachey). (1608 / 1611).
Shamapent / Shamapa
lebten südlich des Pamunkey River; ihr Häuptling war Nansuapunck; ca. 100 Krieger bzw. 335 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Strachey). (1608 / 1611).
lebten entweder beiderseits des Mattaponi Rivers oder entlang des Nordufer des Pamunkey River; ihr Häuptling war Vropaack; ca. 40 Krieger bzw. 135 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Strachey). (1608 / 1611).
Youghtanund / Youghtamund
lebten nordwestlich der Pamunkey, entlang des Pamunkey River bis zum Zusammenfluss des North Anna und South Anna Rivers, die den Pamunkey River bilden; ihr Häuptling war Pomiscatuck; ca. 60 Krieger bzw. 200 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith) oder 70 Krieger bzw. 235 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Strachey). (1607 / 1611).
das Hauptdorf Cattachiptico befand sich an der Stelle der heutigen Pampatike Farm am Pamunkey River im heutigen King William County, weitere kleinere Dörfer befanden sich entlang des Totopotmoy Creek (Manskin Creek) sowie evtl. entlang des Mattaponi River, vermutlich gehörten diese Dörfer alle zu einem Unterstamm der Pamunkey - den Manaskint / Manskin, die zudem enge Bande zu den Youghtanund pflegten - während des Zweiten Powhatan-Krieges befand sich in Cattachiptico das Hauptquartier von Opechancanough; ihr Häuptling war Opopohcumunck (evtl. ist Opechancanough gemeint); ca. 300 Krieger bzw. 1.000 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Strachey). (1608 / 1611).
Menapacunt / Mummapacune / Mummapacun
lebten zwischen dem Nordufer des Pamunkey River bis zum Mattaponi River, ihr Stammesgebiet befand sich höchstwahrscheinlich flussaufwärts (und somit nordwestlich) der mächtigen Mattaponi und Pamunkey-Stämme; ihr Häuptling war Ottondeacommoc; ca. 100 Krieger bzw. 335 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Strachey). (1608 / 1611).
engl. Aussprache: „MATTA-puh-nye“, lebten entlang des Mittellaufs des Pamunkey und des Mattaponi Rivers bis zu deren Mündung in den York River in den heutigen King William und King and Queen Counties, ihr Hauptdorf wurde lt. Smith Mattapanient genannt, ein weiteres Dorf Cinquoteck befand sich im Gebiet des heutigen West Point (am Zusammenfluss von Pamunkey und Mattaponi); ihr Häuptling war Werowough; ca. 30 Krieger bzw. 100 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith) oder 140 Krieger bzw. 465 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Strachey) - dürfen nicht mit dem ebenfalls als Mattapanient bezeichneten kleinem Häuptlingstum entlang des Patuxent River im nördlichen Calvert und östlichen Prince George’s County von Maryland verwechselt werden, die unter der Suzeränität von den Patuxent oder den mächtigen Piscataway standen. (1607 - heute als Mattaponi und Upper Mattaponi zwei der state-recognized tribes von Virginia).
Payankatank / Piankatank
lebten in mehreren Dörfern - Smith nennt drei Dörfer - entlang des Piankatank River im heutigen Middlesex County, im Westen grenzte ihr Gebiet an das der Opiscopank/Opiscatumek, im Süden an das der Werowocomoco / Werowacomoco und im Norden lebten direkt auf der anderen Flussseite des Rappahannock River die Lower Cuttatawomen, lt. Strachey wurden diese 1608 von den Powhatan-Stämmen besiegt, 24 Krieger getötet und alle Frauen und Kinder in Gefangenschaft genommen, das Gebiet und die Dörfer wurden danach mit früheren Bewohnern von Kecoughtan neu besiedelt; Smith gibt zwei Zahlen: 1608 ca. 40 Krieger bzw. 135 Stammesmitglieder und 1624 ca. 50-60 Krieger bzw. 165-200 Stammesmitglieder, lt. Strachey ca. 40-50 Krieger bzw. 135-200 Stammesmitglieder - lt. Feest eventuell bis zu 300 Stammesmitglieder. (1608 / 1611).
engl. Aussprache: „Rap-uh-HAN-ick“, waren der dominante Stamm im Rappahannock River Valley, siedelten in 13 Dörfern beiderseits des nach ihnen benannten Flusses, ihr Hauptdorf war Topahanocke / Tappahannock, ihre Hauptjagdgründe befanden sich südlich des Flusses. Konnten sich auf Grund ihrer militärischen Stärke sowie der geographischen Distanz zum Zentrum der Powhatan-Konföderation eine teilweise Autonomie erhalten; ihr Häuptling war Taweeren; ca. 100 Krieger bzw. 335 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith & Strachey). (1608 - heute einer der state-recognized tribes von Virginia).
Opiscopank / Opiscatumek
(1608 / 1611).
Lower Cuttatawomen / Corrotoman
lebten im heutigen Lancaster County als direkte Nachbarn der Moraughtachund/Moratico im Nordwesten sowie der Wicocomoco/Wighcocomoco im Norden - ihr Gebiet grenzte im Süden an den Rappahannock River und im Osten an die Chesapeake Bay; 30 Krieger bzw. 100 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith & Strachey). (1608 / 1656).
Matchotic / Mattehatique
die manchmal als Lower Matchotic bezeichneten lebten zwischen dem Rappahannock River und dem Patawomeck (Potomac) River, nördlich von ihnen lebten die Pissaseck und südlich von ihnen lebten die Chicacoan (Seccawoni) - weiter flussaufwärts wird eine weitere Gruppe namens Upper Matchotic identifiziert; manchmal wird die Stammesbezeichnung Matchotic als Sammelbegriff für die Tauxenent (Doeg), Patawomeck (Potomac), Cuttatawomen, Pissasec und Onawmanient in den heutigen Northumberland, King George und Westmoreland Counties gebraucht. (1608 / 1659 oder 1669).
Moraughtachund / Moratico
lebten am Nordufer des Rappahannock südlich des mächtigen Rappahannock-Stammes sowie nördlich der Lower Cuttatawomen in den heutigen Lancaster und Richmond Counties; ihr Häuptling war Ottondeacommoc; 80 Krieger bzw. 270 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith & Strachey). (1608 / 1669).
Pissaseck / Pissasec
lebten vom Nordufer des Rappahannock bis zum Südufer des Potomac River, zwischen den Matchotic (Mattehatique) im Süden und den Potomac (Patawomeck) im Norden. (1608 / 1611).
Nantaughtacund /Nausatico / Nanzatico
lebten beiderseits des Rappahannock River in den heutigen Caroline, King George und Essex Counties oberhalb des mächtigen Rappahannock-Stammes und südlich der Potomac (Patawomeck); ab Mitte des 17.Jhd. verstand man unter der anglisierten Bezeichnung Nanzatico einen neuen Stamm aus versprengten Nantaughtacund, den Portobago/Portobacco aus Maryland, den Patawomeck, den Matchotic/Mattehatique, den Rappahannock sowie kleinerer Gruppen, die Städte Nanzemond, Warisquock und Ausaticon sind namentlich für diese Zeit bekannt, der gesamte Stamm (einschließlich mancher Flüchtlinge benachbarter Stämme - mit Außnahme der Portobago/Portobacco und Rappahannock) wurde 1705 von den Engländern nach einem von Stammesangehörigen begangenen Mord nach Antigua deportiert und hörte damit auf als Ethnie zu existieren; ihr Häuptling war Vropaack, ca. 150 Krieger bzw. 500 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith und Strachey). (1608 / 1705).
lebten entlang des Nordufers des Upper Rappahannock River im heutigen King George County, im Norden grenzte ihr Gebiet an das der Patawomeck/Potomac und direkt auf der anderen Flussseite im Süden wohnten die Nantaughtacund; ca. 20 Krieger bzw. 70 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith & Strachey). (1608 / 1611).
Wicocomoco / Wicocomico / Wighcocomoco / Wicomico
lebten an der Südspitze des Northern Neck entlang des Südufers des Potomac River in dessen Mündungsgebiet in die Chesapeake Bay, lt. Stephen Potter befand sich ihr Hauptdorf am Oberlauf und leicht nördlich des Little Wicomico River und ein weiteres Dorf namens Cinquck nahe der Mündung und südlich des Little Wicomico im Northumberland County; ihr Häuptling war Mosco; die Kolonialherren befahlen 1655 den Chicacoan sich mit den Wicocomoco zusammenzuschließen (zwischen 1656/1659 hatten sich die Lower Cuttatawomen ebenfalls diesen angeschlossen) und als gemeinsamer neuer Stamm unter Führung des von Engländern bestimmten Häuptlings Machywap sich in einer Reservation (ca. 18 km2 umfassend) nahe Dividing Creek südlich des Great Wicomico River niederzulassen; ca. 130 Krieger bzw. 435 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith und Strachey). (1608 / 1719).
lebten entlang des Coan River, einem Nebenfluss des Potomac River, im heutigen Northumberland County, ca. 30 Krieger bzw. 100 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith), andere Quellen ca. 435 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith und Strachey). (1608 / 1660).
lebten südlich der Upper Cuttatawomen in der Nominy Bay im heutigen Westmoreland County; ca. 100 Krieger bzw. 335 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith).
Patawomeck / Potomac / Potomack
lebten in mindestens zehn Dörfern entlang des Südufers des Patawomeck (Potomac) River; ca. 160 Krieger bzw. 540 Stammesmitglieder (1612) oder ca. 200 Krieger bzw. 670 Stammesmitglieder (1624 - beide Angaben lt. Smith), lt. Strachey ca. 160 Krieger bzw. 540 Stammesmitglieder. (1608 / 1668).
lebten in vier Dörfern nördlich der Patawomeck entlang des Südufers des Upper Patawomeck (Potomac) River oberhalb Aquia Creek in den heutigen Caroline, Prince William, Fairfax und King George Counties, ihr Hauptdorf Tauxenent befand sich auf „Doggs Island“ bzw. „Miompse / May-Umps“ (der heute als Mason Neck bekannten Halbinsel südlich von Washington, D.C.), weitere Dörfer waren Pamacocack (später anglisiert zu Quantico) entlang Quantico Creek, Yosococomico entlang Powell's Creek, Niopsco entlang Neabsco Creek sowie Namassingakent am Nordufer des Dogue Run, Assaomeck am Südufer des Hunting Creek und Namoraughquend nahe dem heutigen Roosevelt Island; ca. 40 Krieger bzw. 135 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith & Strachey), eine wahrscheinlich zu niedrige Bevölkerungszahl. (1607 / 1675).
lebten auf der Südliche Delmarva-Halbinsel, zählten ca. 2000 Stammesmitglieder, hatten ihre eigene Konföderation unter der Führung von Debedeavon († 1657) als sie erstmalig 1608 mit Engländern in Kontakt kamen; diese nannten Debedeavon auch "the Laughing King"; jedoch nur ca. 80 Krieger bzw. 270 Stammesmitglieder (lt. Smith) - neuere archäologische/historische Untersuchungen und Vergleiche mit anderen Quellen machen eine weit größere Bevölkerungszahl wahrscheinlicher; wurden im späten 17.Jhd. von den Kolonisten meist als Gingaskins bezeichnet.
Accohannock / Accohanoc / Occohannock
lebten entlang des Accohannock Creek in den heutigen Counties von Accomack und Northampton nördlich der Accomac in Virginia; standen unter der Führung von Kiptoteke, dem Bruder von Debedeavon, und waren daher vermutlich politisch der Accomac-Konföderation tributpflichtig; ca. 40 Krieger bzw. 135 Stammesmitglieder.
John Smith's map of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries (1624 copy). The map details the location of numerous villages within the Powhatan Confederacy.
The capital village of "Powhatan" was believed to be in the present-day Powhatan Hill section of the eastern part of Richmond, Virginia, or perhaps nearby in a location which became part of Tree Hill Farm.
Werowocomoco was described by the English colonists as only 15 miles (24 km) as the crow flies from Jamestown, but also described as 25 miles (40 km) downstream from present-day West Point, measurements which conflict with each other. In 2003 archaeologists initiated excavations at a site in Gloucester County that have revealed an extensive indigenous settlement from about 1200 (the late Woodland period) through the early Contact period. Work since then has added to their belief that this is the location of Werowocomoco. The site is on a farm bordering on Purtain Bay of the York River, about 12 nautical miles (22 km) from Jamestown. The more than 50 acres (200,000 m2) residential settlement extends up to 1,000 feet (300 m) back from the river. In 2004, researchers excavated two curving ditches of 200 feet (60 m) at the far edge, which were constructed about 1400 CE. In addition to extensive artifacts from hundreds of years of indigenous settlement, researchers have found a variety of trade goods related to the brief interaction of Native Americans and English in the early years of Jamestown.
The Powhatan lived east of the fall line in Tidewater Virginia. They built their houses, called yehakins, by bending saplings and placing woven mats or bark over top of the saplings. They supported themselves primarily by growing crops, especially maize, but they also fished and hunted in the great forest in their area. Villages consisted of a number of related families organized in tribes led by a chief (weroance/werowance or weroansqua if female). They paid tribute to the paramount chief (mamanatowick), Powhatan.
According to research by the National Park Service, Powhatan "men were warriors and hunters, while women were gardeners and gatherers. The English described the men, who ran and walked extensively through the woods in pursuit of enemies or game, as tall and lean and possessed of handsome physiques. The women were shorter, and were strong because of the hours they spent tending crops, pounding corn into meal, gathering nuts, and performing other domestic chores. When the men undertook extended hunts, the women went ahead of them to construct hunting camps. The Powhatan domestic economy depended on the labor of both sexes." 
All of Virginia's natives practiced agriculture. They periodically moved their villages from site to site. Villagers cleared the fields by felling, girdling, or firing trees at the base and then using fire to reduce the slash and stumps. A village became unusable as soil productivity gradually declined and local fish and game were depleted. The inhabitants then moved on. With every change in location, the people used fire to clear new land. They left more cleared land behind. The natives also used fire to maintain extensive areas of open game habitat throughout the East, later called "barrens" by European colonists. The Powhatan also had rich fishing grounds. Bison had migrated to this area by the early 15th century.
As of 2014, the state of Virginia has recognized eight Powhatan Indian-descended tribes in Virginia. Collectively, the tribes currently have 3,000-3,500 enrolled tribal members. It is estimated, however, that 3 to 4 times that number are eligible for tribal membership. Two of these tribes, the Mattaponi and Pamunkey, still retain their reservations from the 17th century and are located in King William County, Virginia.
Since the 1990s, the Powhatan Indian tribes which have state recognition, along with other Virginia Indian tribes which have state recognition, have been seeking federal recognition. That recognition process has proved difficult as it has been hampered by the lack of official records to verify heritage and by the historical misclassification of family members in the 1930s and 1940s, largely a result of Virginia's state policy of race classification on official documents.
After Virginia passed stringent segregation laws in the early 20th century and ultimately the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 which mandated every person who had any African heritage be deemed black, Walter Plecker, the head of Vital Statistics office, directed all state and local registration offices to use only the terms "white" or "colored" to denote race on official documents and thereby eliminated all traceable records of Virginia Indians. All state documents, including birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, tax forms and land deeds, thus bear no record of Virginia Indians. Plecker oversaw the Vital Statistics office in the state for more than 30 years, beginning in the early 20th century, and took a personal interest in eliminating traces of Virginia Indians. Plecker surmised that there were no true Virginia Indians remaining as years of intermarriage has diluted the race. Over his years of service, he conducted a campaign to reclassify all bi-racial and multi-racial individuals as black, believing such persons were fraudulently attempting to claim their race to be Indian or white. The effect of his reclassification has been described by tribal members as "paper genocide".
Initially, the Virginia tribes' efforts to gain federal recognition encountered resistance due to federal legislators' concerns over whether gambling would be established on their lands if recognition were granted. Casinos are illegal in Virginia and concerns were expressed about tax effects. In March 2009, five of the state-recognized Powhatan Indian tribes and the other state-recognized Virginia Indian tribe introduced a bill to gain federal recognition through an act of Congress. The bill, "The Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act", included a section forbidding the tribes from opening casinos, even if casinos became legal in Virginia. The House Committee on Natural Resources recommended the bill be considered by the US House of Representatives at the end of April, and the House approved the bill on June 3, 2009. The bill was sent to the Senate's Committee on Indian Affairs, who recommended it be heard by the Senate as a whole in October. On December 23, 2009, the bill was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under general orders, which is where the bill is currently. The bill had a hold on it placed for "jurisdictional concerns," as Senator Tom Coburn (R-Ok) believes requests for tribal recognition should be processed through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Virginia tribes say that the disrupted record keeping under the racially discriminatory practices of Walter Plecker destroyed their ability to demonstrate historical continuity of identity. The bill died in the Senate.
In February 2011, the six Virginia tribes started the process again to try to gain federal recognition. They introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives and a companion bill in the Senate on the same day. As of April 2011, the bills are in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the Subcommittee Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, respectively.
The tribes of the Powhatan confederacy shared mutually intelligible Algonquian languages. The most common was likely Powhatan. Its use became dormant due to the widespread deaths and social disruption suffered by the peoples. Much of the vocabulary bank is forgotten. Attempts have been made to reconstruct the vocabulary of the language using sources such as word lists provided by Smith and by the 17th-century writer William Strachey.
The Powhatan Renape Nation are descendants of Powhatan peoples who migrated to present-day southern New Jersey, where they have been concentrated in the areas of Morrisville and Medford. They have been officially recognized as an American Indian tribe by that state since 1980. They have not been officially recognized by the U.S. government.
No cognate of Renape was ever recorded for Virginia Algonquian, although the form Renapoaks was recorded for Carolina Algonquian by Ralph Lane in 1586 (as a term used by the inhabitants of Roanoke Island for all those on the mainland).
The Powhatan Renape maintained a 237-acre (96 ha) reservation in Rancocas State Park from 1982 until 2011, when it was closed down due to lack of maintenance.
The Powhatan people are featured in the Disney animated film Pocahontas (1995). They also appeared in the straight-to-video sequel Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World (1998). Some of the current members of Powhatan-descended tribes complained about the Disney film. Roy Crazy Horse of the Powhatan Renape Nation said the Disney movie "distorts history beyond recognition."
An attempt at a more historically accurate representation was the drama The New World (2005), directed by Terrence Malick, which had actors speaking a reconstructed Powhatan language devised by the linguist Blair Rudes. The Powhatan people generally criticize the film for continuing the myth of a romance between Pocahontas and John Smith. Her English husband was John Rolfe, whom she married on April 5, 1614.
^The term Nottoway may derive from ″Nadawa″ or ″Nadowessioux″ (widely translated as "poisonous snake"), an Algonquian-language term which speakers used to refer to members of competing language families, specifically the Iroquoian- or Siouan-speaking tribes. Because the Algonquian occupied the coastal areas, they were the first tribes met by the English. The colonists often adopted use of such Algonquian ethnonyms, names for other tribes, not realizing at first that these differed from the tribes' autonyms or names for themselves. The Nottoway called themselves in their tongue Nottaway (Dar-sun-ke) Cheroenhaka - "People at the Fork of the Stream" (because they lived in the region of the Nottaway, Blackwater River, and Chowan River - all Blackwater rivers), but the meaning of the name Cheroenhaka is uncertain and still disputed.
^Die Angaben bzgl. der Anzahl der Krieger (und hiermit der Bevölkerung) für die zusätzlich von Strachey gelisteten Stämme - den Cantauncack, Menapacunt, Pataunck, Ochahannauke, Kaposecock(e), Pamareke, Shamapa, Orapaks, Chepeco und den Paraconos - übertreffen bei weitem die ansonsten bei Smith üblichen Bevölkerungszahlen für die Powhatan-Stämme. Lt. Feest scheinen daher Strachey's Bevölkerungszahlen für den York und Mattaponi River denen von Smith vorzuziehen (insbesondere bzgl. der mächtigen Mattaponi) - sind wahrscheinlich jedoch für die Stämme entlang des Pamunkey River zu hoch angegeben (alleine die jeweils genannten ca. 400 Krieger bzw. 1.300 Stammesmitglieder für die Pamareke und Kaposecock(e) sind fraglich - da beide oftmals als Untergruppen der mächtigen Pamunkey betrachtet werden - die lt. Smith & Strachey ja selbst nur ca. 300 Krieger bzw. 1.000 Stammesmitglieder zählten).
Gleach, Frederic W. (1997) Powhatan's World and Colonial Virginia: A Conflict of Cultures. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Gleach, Frederic W. (2006) "Pocahontas: An Exercise in Mythmaking and Marketing", In New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations, ed. by Sergei A. Kan and Pauline Turner Strong, pp. 433–455. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Karen Kupperman, Settling With the Indians: The Meeting of English and Indian Cultures in America, 1580–1640, 1980
A. Bryant Nichols Jr., Captain Christopher Newport: Admiral of Virginia, Sea Venture, 2007
James Rice, Nature and History in the Potomac Country: From Hunter-Gatherers to the Age of Jefferson, 2009.
Helen C. Rountree, Pocahontas's People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries, 1990