The Powhatans didn’t live in tepees. They lived in small round houses called wigwams, or in larger Iroquois-style longhouses.
A Powhatan house was called a yehakin (not a wigwam) and was made from natural materials found in the surrounding environment. Its framework was made from saplings of native trees such as red maples, locusts and red cedar. The framework was then covered with either bark or mats made from marsh reeds.
Being near the Atlantic Ocean and major rivers, such as the Potomac River and the James River, provided the Powhatan with numerous resources. The area in which they lived was also filled with lush forests, which they used to make a variety of tools and dugout canoes.
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.
Savage and Poole became wealthy through the Virginia fur trade. Powhatan people also served as emissaries, either willingly or unwillingly living with the English. John Smith held two as prisoners in James Fort to show the English how to plant corn.
The people covered their houses with bark shingles stripped from trees, or with mats woven from cut marsh reeds. In warm weather these mats could be rolled up. Natural resources provided the Indians with what was needed for their survival. Most houses were only a single room.
The Powhatan Indian lands encompassed all of the tidewater Virginia area, from the south side of the James River north to the Potomac River, and parts of the Eastern Shore, an area they called Tsenacommacah. Its span was approximately 100 miles by 100 miles.
Today there are eight Powhatan Indian-descended tribes recognized by the State of Virginia. Another band called the Powhatan Renape to have official headquarters in New Jersey. These people are also recognized by the state. The Powhatan Indians all speak English today as their original language has long been lost.
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.
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.
They burned villages and corn crops (ironic, in that the English were often starving). Both sides committed atrocities against the other. Powhatan was finally forced into a truce of sorts. Colonists captured Powhatan’s favorite daughter, Pocahontas, who soon married John Rolfe.
The Pamunkey reservation is located in King William County on the Pamunkey River. It was one of the most powerful of the tribes. Chief Powhatan, and Pocahontas, lived among the Pamunkey. It is one of few tribes east of the Mississippi that has continually made pottery since aboriginal Times.
Prior to the settlement at Jamestown, Powhatan had inherited control of about a half-dozen tribes near the Fall Line of the James and Pamunkey Rivers. He then conquered 25 or so other Algonquian groups to establish his paramount chief status.
Where do the Wampanoag Indians live? The Wampanoag Indians were original natives of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It was Wampanoag people who befriended the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock and brought them corn and turkey for the famous first Thanksgiving.