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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
This is the thread to discuss the Powhatan Confederacy.

Wars and Battles, Colonial Virginia

The relationship between the Jamestown settlers and the indigenous people of Virginia was strained from the start. Much of the initial ill will was rooted in the the colonists' belief that the Indians would welcome them and willingly supply food.

From the white perspective, it seemed that a mutually beneficial arrangement could be made by exchanging European tools and Christianity for sustenance. That bargain made little sense to the natives, however.

The settlers failed to realize that the Indians lived very close to the subsistence level by hunting and gathering little more than their immediate needs required. Additional pressure on their food supply raised a real possibility of starvation.

Tensions were heightened when the colonists allowed their livestock to wander into Indian cornfields, and especially when the whites used their superior firepower to extort food contributions from the tribes.

The primary native leader in the area was known to the settlers as Powhatan, but properly as Wahunsonacook. He headed a loose confederation of about 30 Algonquian tribes from a village north of Jamestown on the York River. Powhatan was at first fascinated by English tools, but that interest was soon dampened by threats to native lands and food supplies.

Relations improved for a number of years following 1614, when John Rolfe married Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas. However, her death in 1617 and Powhatan’s own demise the following year enabled the more aggressive Opechancanough to exert control over the confederacy.

The new chief feigned an interest in Christianity and issued invitations to settlers to move farther onto native lands. In March 1622, the Indians launched a surprise attack on the dispersed white settlements. Nearly 350 whites were killed — nearly one-third of the population. Livestock was slaughtered and crops were burned. The Indian uprising of 1622 rang the death knell for the Virginia Company. With the colony in total disarray, the company declared bankruptcy. A number of tobacco planters had become wealthy, but the Virginia Company itself was never profitable. In 1624, Virginia was made a royal colony and would remain so until independence.

Warfare between the races continued for another decade, but no decisive battle was won by either side. The settlers gave up any pretense of coexisting with the Indians and embarked upon a policy of extermination. In 1632, the tribes were forced to make major land concessions in the western Chesapeake Bay area.

Resistance flared again in 1644, when more than 400 settlers were killed in the fighting. That conflict, however, was not a threat to the greatly enlarged colony's existence. The nearly 100-year-old Opechancanough was captured in 1646 and died, probably a victim of murder, in Jamestown.

Source: Wikipedia

message 2: by Bryan (last edited Mar 10, 2015 06:43AM) (new)

Bryan Craig The Powhatan: A Confederacy of Native American Tribes

The Powhatan A Confederacy of Native American Tribes by Tracey Boraas by Tracey Boraas (no photo)


Provides an overview of the past and present lives of the Powhatan people, tracing their customs, family life, history, culture, and relations with the United States government.

message 3: by Teri (new)

Teri (teriboop) Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough: Three Indian Lives Changed by Jamestown

Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough Three Indian Lives Changed by Jamestown by Helen C. Rountree by Helen C. Rountree (no photo)


Pocahontas may be the most famous Native American who ever lived, but during the settlement of Jamestown, and for two centuries afterward, the great chiefs Powhatan and Opechancanough were the subjects of considerably more interest and historical documentation than the young woman. It was Opechancanough who captured the foreign captain "Chawnzmit"--John Smith. Smith gave Opechancanough a compass, described to him a spherical earth that revolved around the sun, and wondered if his captor was a cannibal. Opechancanough, who was no cannibal and knew the world was flat, presented Smith to his elder brother, the paramount chief Powhatan. The chief, who took the name of his tribe as his throne name (his personal name was Wahunsenacawh), negotiated with Smith over a lavish feast and opened the town to him, leading Smith to meet, among others, Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas. Thinking he had made an ally, the chief finally released Smith. Within a few decades, and against their will, his people would be subjects of the British Crown.

Despite their roles as senior politicians in these watershed events, no biography of either Powhatan or Opechancanough exists. And while there are other "biographies" of Pocahontas, they have for the most part elaborated on her legend more than they have addressed the known facts of her remarkable life. As the 400th anniversary of Jamestown's founding approaches, nationally renowned scholar of Native Americans, Helen Rountree, provides in a single book the definitive biographies of these three important figures. In their lives we see the whole arc of Indian experience with the English settlers - from the wary initial encounters presided over by Powhatan, to the uneasy diplomacy characterized by the marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, to the warfare and eventual loss of native sovereignty that came during Opechancanough's reign.

Writing from an ethnohistorical perspective that looks as much to anthropology as the written records, Rountree draws a rich portrait of Powhatan life in which the land and the seasons governed life and the English were seen not as heroes but as Tassantassas (strangers), as invaders, even as squatters. The Powhatans were a nonliterate people, so we have had to rely until now on the white settlers for our conceptions of the Jamestown experiment. This important book at last reconstructs the other side of the story.

message 4: by Harold (new)

Harold Titus (haroldtitus) | 29 comments The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Their Traditional Culture by Helen C. Roundtree by Helen C. Roundtree (no photo) is an excellent account of Virginia coastal plain Algonquian life that should also be read by those interested in early Jamestown history.

message 5: by Teri (new)

Teri (teriboop) Thanks for the add, Harold! We appreciate your post. I'll be looking into that one myself.

message 6: by Teri (new)

Teri (teriboop) Powhatan's World and Colonial Virginia: A Conflict of Cultures

Powhatan's World and Colonial Virginia A Conflict of Cultures by Frederic W. Gleach by Frederic W. Gleach Frederic W. Gleach


Frederic W. Gleach offers the most balanced and complete accounting of the early years of the Jamestown colony to date. When English colonists established their first permanent settlement at Jamestown in 1607, they confronted a powerful and growing Native chiefdom consisting of over thirty tribes under one paramount chief, Powhatan. For the next half-century, a portion of the Middle Atlantic coastal plain became a charged and often violent meeting ground between two very different worlds.

message 7: by Jerome, Assisting Moderator - Upcoming Books and Releases (new)

Jerome Otte | 4401 comments Mod
An upcoming book:
Release date: November 2, 2021

A Brave and Cunning Prince: The Great Chief Opechancanough and the War for America

A Brave and Cunning Prince The Great Chief Opechancanough and the War for America by James Horn by James Horn (no photo)


In the mid-sixteenth century, Spanish explorers in the Chesapeake Bay kidnapped an Indian child and took him back to Spain and subsequently to Mexico. The boy converted to Catholicism and after nearly a decade was able to return to his land with a group of Jesuits to establish a mission. Shortly after arriving, he organized a war party that killed them.

In the years that followed, Opechancanough (as the English called him), helped establish the most powerful chiefdom in the mid-Atlantic region. When English settlers founded Virginia in 1607, he fought tirelessly to drive them away, leading to a series of wars that spanned the next forty years the first Anglo-Indian wars in America and came close to destroying the colony.

A Brave and Cunning Prince is the first book to chronicle the life of this remarkable chief, exploring his early experiences of European society and his long struggle to save his people from conquest.

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