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 Powhatans lived in eastern Virginia, where they famously encountered English settlers in the Jamestown colony. Here is a tribal map of Virginia showing the original location of the Powhatans and their neighbors in the state. Some Powhatan descendants still live in Virginia today.
Powhatan, confederacy of at least 30 Algonquian-speaking North American Indian tribes that once occupied most of what is now tidewater Virginia, the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, and possibly southern Maryland.
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.
Powhatan, also called Wahunsenacah or Wahunsenacawh, (died April 1618, Virginia [U.S.]), North American Indian leader, father of Pocahontas. He presided over the Powhatan empire at the time the English established the Jamestown Colony (1607).
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.
The Powhatan ate fresh vegetables in the summer and fall and fish, berries and stored nuts in the spring. Fishing was a spring and summer activity. When other food resources became low, they could gather oysters and clams.
The Monacan tribe is located in the Piedmont and Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. They were one of the enemies of the Powhatans.
The Powhatans depended on the rivers and the Bay to provide a means of traveling to other villages. They fished the waters for food and used the streams and creeks for drinking water. They did much of their fishing from canoes, which they called quintans.
It is estimated that the paramount chief Powhatan (Wahunsonacock) had as many as one hundred wives during his lifetime. While a man’s first marriage was expected to last for life, additional marriages were likely negotiated for shorter terms.
Although other types of clothing could be made, typically Powhatan men and women wore an apron of deerskin around the waist. Men wore fur cloaks, loose sleeves and leggings. Moccasins were worn on trips into the forest.