Topic: Powhatan

Powhatan Featherwork

We now come to what is perhaps the most interesting topic in the material life of the southern tribes, the woven feather technique. An art so ancient and so elaborate can hardly be expected to have persisted from colonial times down to the present day where the process of deculturation among the conquered tribes has gone so far. But surprising as it is, the Virginia Indians have not entirely forgotten, nor even lost, the art of weaving feathers into the foundation of textile fabrics. The antiquity of the woven-feather technique is attested by virtually all the authors of the...

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Powhatan Pottery

First let us look over the material from the Virginia tidewater area. Everywhere here from the southern boundary of Virginia by actual observation, north-ward even through the Delaware valley, the pot-sherds are almost identical in material, decoration and color. Holmes has appropriately called the ceramics of the tidewater “the Algonquian type.” On the Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Rappahannock, James, and Chickahominy rivers it is all the same, the rims, decorations, and ingredients being practically uniform within a certain range of variation.

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Powhatan Canoes

The means provided by the Powhatan tribes for transporting themselves about in their marshy wastes was the dugout canoe. This article describes these canoes, their method of manufacture, and provides pictures of them and their paddles.

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Powhatan Fishing Customs

The Powhatan tribes still adhere to some fishing practices worth mentioning. Until not long ago fish fences were employed. These were chiefly for sturgeon, but now this splendid fish is so scarce that whereas thirty years ago from three to six a day during July and August would be taken, now the record is three a season by six boats fishing the same period. Captain John Smith mentions 52 and 68 being taken ”at a draught.” 1Smith’s account of Virginia in Tyler, L. G., Narratives of Early Virginia, New York, 1907, p. 85. The Virginia explorers noted the great...

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Powhatan Hunting Customs

The marsh and swamp area of tidewater Virginia is extensive. For many miles both banks of the rivers are bordered by lowlands, which are inundated by the tides. In nearly all the rivers this occurs as far as 60 to 70 miles from Chesapeake Bay. Some of these tracts are marshy flats covered with a growth of dock, rushes, and cattails. Others are overgrown with virgin forests of cypress, swamp oak, swamp gum, maple, and red birch. In the picturesque vernacular of the region such are called “low grounds.” In some places the swamps extend continuously from one to...

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Opechancanough and Don Luis

Jamestown was founded in 1607 on land recently conquered by the Powhatan Confederacy. Movies about Pocahontas have given the impression that the “Powhatan Indians” were concentrated on the Chesapeake Bay.  They were not. The villages on the coastline of the Chesapeake were the vassals of the Pamunkey Indians, who forged the confederacy. 1Egloff, Keith and Deborah Woodward, First People: The Early Indians of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1992. The capital of the confederacy, Werowocomoco, was originally on the north side of the York River, not near Jamestown. Note that the town’s name ends with “moko” which is...

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The Rickohockens’ Role in Native American Slavery

During the Third Powhatan War (1644-1646) warriors of the Rickohocken tribe, living near the headwaters of the James River, formed an alliance with Powhatan. They massacred all whites that they encountered as they marched down the James Valley. Over 500 white settlers were killed by the Native alliance. The Rickohockens probably would have destroyed the capital in Jamestown had not they run out of arrows. The colonists counter-attacked with firearms and steel weapons. The Rickohockens sued for peace. In order to keep the Rickohockens from attacking the English colonists again, Royal Governor William Berkeley, began making trade contracts with them that included the purchase of Native American slaves and the sales of firearms. The Rickohockens initially raided Shawnee villages in what is now West Virginia to obtain slaves. Their territory steadily spread southwestward into northeastern Tennessee. French maps of the late 1600s and early 1700s document the movement of Muskogean and Yuchi villages southwestward along the Tennessee River in response to repeated Rickohocken attacks. The Rickohockens’ location near the southern end of the Shenandoah Valley meant that tribes living in the Valley were highly vulnerable to these raids. Unfortunately, there are no corresponding British maps that document ethnic changes in western Virginia. What is documented, though, is that the Native population outside the Rickohocken domain began to drop starkly. Around 1658, when Charles Stuart, the son of the decapitated...

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Matchotic Tribe

Matchotic (‘bad inlet.’-Hewitt). A group of tribes of the Powhatan confederacy occupying. the country between Potomac and Rappahannock rivers down to about the middle of Richmond county, Virginia, comprising the Tauxenent, Potomac, Cuttatawomen, Pissasec, and Onawmanient. They numbered perhaps 400 warriors in 1608, but 60 years later, according to Jefferson, had become reduced to 60 warriors. For Further Study Appomattoc Tribe...

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Appomattoc Tribe

Appomattoc Indians. A tribe of the Powhatan confederacy formerly living on lower Appomattox River, Virginia. They had 60 warriors in 1608, and were of some importance as late as 1671, but were extinct by 1722. Their principal village, which bore the same name was on the site of Bermuda Hundred, Prince George County, was burned by the English in 1611.  Appomatox was also one of the terms applied to the Matchotic, a later combination of remnants of the same...

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Chickahominy Tribe

Chickahominy Indians (from K’chick-ahän-min’-nough, ‘course-pounded corn people.’ ‘hominy people’ Tooker; or from Tshi-ke(jäme(n, a place name meaning ‘swept,’ “cleared,’ and implying a clearing—Gerard). A tribe of the Powhatan confederacy, formerly living on Chickahominy River, Virginia. It was one of the most important tribes in Virginia, numbering 250 warriors, or perhaps 900 souls, in 1608, and was not so directly under the control of Powhatan as the other tribes over which he ruled. In 1613 they entered into an alliance with the English and assumed the name of Tassautessus (sic), or “Englishmen.” In 1669 they were still estimated at 60 warriors, possibly 220 souls, but in 1722 were reported to number only about 80. Their last public notice occurs in this same year, when, in connection with the Pamunkey, they were named in the Albany conference with the Iroquois as among the Virginia tribes not to be molested by the latter. A mixed-blood band numbering about 220 still keeps up the name, but without regular tribal organization, on both sides of Chickahominy River in New Kent and Charles City County, Virginia, with William H. Adkins as chief in 1905. They are on close terms of association with the neighboring bands of Pamunkey and Mattapony. Consult Further: Chickahominy Tribe...

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