Powhatan Indian Tribe
Indian Tribes
Native American Indian Nations
Abenaki  Acoma  Algonquin  Anishinaabe  Apache
  Arapaho  Assiniboine  Athabascan  Aztec  Blackfeet  
Blackfoot  Caddo  Cayuga  Cheraw  Cherokee
  Cheyenne  Chickasaw  Chicora  Chinook  Chippewa
  Choctaw  Chumash  Coeur d'Alene
  Comanche  Costanoan  Cree  Creek (Muskogee)  Crow  
Dakota  Delaware  Dene  Edisto  Euchee  Flathead
  Gros Ventre  Gwitchan  Haida  Haudenosaunee  
Havasupai  Hidatsa  Ho-Chunk
  Hopi  Huron  Iowa  Iroquois  Kaw  Kawaiisu
  Kickapoo  Kiowa  
Lakota  Lenape  Lumbee  Maliseet  Mandan  Mattaponi
  Maya  Menominee  Metis  MicMac  Mojave  Mohawk  
Mohegan  Mohican  Monacan  Muscogee  Nanticokes
  Narragansett  Navajo  Nez Perce  
Nipmuc  Odawa  Ohlone  Ojibwe  Omaha  Oneida
Onondaga  Osage  Paiute  Pima  Ponca  Potawatomi  
Powhatan  Pueblo  Quapaw  Sac  Salish  Seminole
  Seneca  Shawnee  Shinnecock  Shoshone
Sioux  Tsalagi  
Tuscarora  Ute  Wea  Wichita  Winnebago  Wyandot
  Yavapai  Yokut  Zuni  
" I was born upon the prairie where the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures, and where everything drew free breath. I want to die there, and not within walls." - Ten Bears, Comanche Chief

Family Tree Search

Free Genealogy Search

Free People Search

  Cherokee Indians!

Register for our FREE Newsletter!
Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name
Subscribe    Un-Subscribe  
Received Newsletter Format: Plain Text HTML
This information will not be used for any other purpose
or made available to others for any reason what so ever.
Newsletter includes: American Indian Issues, Genealogy,
Website News, Updates, Etc.

 American Indian Tribes Map & Encyclopedia

Click here to visit Comanche Lodge!

The Powhatan (also spelled Powatan and Powhaten) were a very powerful confederacy of Native American tribes, speaking an Algonquian language, who lived in what is now Virginia at the time of the first English-Native encounters. Powhatan was also the original name of the town that Wahunsunacock (the Chief Powhatan) came from (present site of Richmond, Virginia), as well as the name of the river where it sat (today called the James River). When this chief created a powerful empire by conquering much of Virginia, he called his lands Tenakomakah and himself the Powhatan, actually a title corresponding to 'Emperor', but often assumed to be his given name. Beside the town of Powhatan, another capital of this confederacy was called Werowocomoco.

The original six constituent tribes in Wahunsunacock's Powhatan confederacy were: the Powhatans proper, the Arrohatecks, the Appamattucks, the Pamunkeys, the Mattaponis, and the Chiskiacks. He added the Kecoughtans to his fold by 1598. Another closely related tribe in the midst of these others, all speaking the same language, was the Chickahominy, who managed to preserve their autonomy from the confederacy.

In 1607, when English soldier and pioneer John Smith arrived, he was captured by Opchanacanough, the younger brother of Chief Powhatan. According to Smith's account (which in the late 1800s was considered to be fabricated, but is still believed by some to be mostly accurate—although several highly romanticized popular versions cloud the matter), Pocahontas, Powhatan's daughter, prevented her father from executing Smith. It is believed that this was a ritual intended to adopt Smith into the tribe.

After Smith left Virginia because of an injury sustained in a gunpowder accident, the nervous tribe attacked and killed many of the Jamestown residents. The residents fought back, but only killed twenty. When Smith came back, he made peace and the past was forgotten.

However, within a few years both the Chief and Pocahontas were dead from disease. The Chief died in Virginia, but Pocahontas died in England, having been captured and married to the tobacco planter John Rolfe. Meanwhile, the English continued to encroach on Powhatan territory. After Wahunsunacock's death, his younger brother Opitchapam became chief, followed by their younger brother Opechancanough, who in 1622 and 1644 attempted to force the English from their territories. These attempts invited strong reprisals from the English, ultimately resulting in the destruction of the tribe.

The Powhatan language is now extinct, although approximately 3,000 Powahatan people remain in Virginia. Some of them live today on two tiny reservations, Mattaponi and Pamunkey, found in King William County, Virginia. The principle sources for reconstructing the vocabulary of the language are the word lists provided by Smith and by William Strachey.

Powhatan County was named in honour Chief Powhatan and his tribe, although located about 60 miles to the west of lands ever under their control. In the independent City of Richmond, Powhatan Hill is believed by tradition to be located near the village Chief Powhatan was originally from, although the specific location of the site is unknown.