The Powhatan Indians were a group of Eastern Woodland Indians who occupied the coastal plain of Virginia. They were sometimes referred to as Algonquians because of the Algonquian language they spoke and because of their common culture. Some words we use today, such as moccasin and tomahawk, came from this language.
Who Was Powhatan? Born sometime in the 1540s or 1550s, Chief Powhatan became the leader of more than 30 tribes and controlled the area where English colonists formed the Jamestown settlement in 1607. He initially traded with the colonists before clashing with them.
Today there are eight Powhatan Indian-descended tribes recognized by the State of Virginia. These tribes are still working to obtain Federal recognition. Another band called the Powhatan Renape to have official headquarters in New Jersey. These people are also recognized by the state.
The Powhatan tribes (Renape of Virginia) were culturally intermediate between the southeast and northeast regions. Powhatan was also the main tribe and village of the roughly 30-tribe Powhatan Confederacy.
Many of the Powhatan tribes no longer existed by 1722. The only tribes to keep their reservations, even though their land was constantly shrinking in size, were the Pamunkey, Mattaponis, and; for a short time; an Eastern Shore group called Gingaskins.
The name Powhatan is a boy’s name of Native American origin meaning “powwow hill”. Powhatan is identified with the powerful chief and father of Pocahontas; not likely to be adopted by others.
The Powhatan people spoke a form of Eastern Algonquian, a family of languages used by various tribes along the Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Canada, and had no form of written communication.
Hence, Speck certified that the Powhatan Indians were racially pure. First, during the 1980s the Virginia Council on Indians (VCI) was established and eight tribes, seven of which were descendants of the former Powhatan Confederacy, received state recognition by a special act of the Virginia General Assembly.
Born around 1596, Pocahontas was the daughter of Wahunsenaca (also known as Powhatan), the powerful chief of the Powhatans, a Native American group that inhabited the Chesapeake Bay region. Little is known about her mother.
The Powhatans were comprised of 30-some tribal groups, with a total population of about 14,000, under the control of Wahunsonacock, sometimes called “Powhatan.”
How did the Powhatan people express their religious beliefs? Powhatan Indians worshipped a hierarchy of gods and spirits. They believed in two major gods, Ahone, the cre- ator and giver of good things, and Oke, the evil spirit, whom they tried to appease with offerings of tobacco, beads, furs and foods.
1. ” Princess ” may be a very poor translation for the daughter of a chief. Cherokee chiefs were not kings. They were chosen by the community, and there were always multiple chiefs, both peace chiefs and war chiefs, at the same time.