Native American Tribes in Virginia and Powhatan the Powhatan

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  • Topic: Virginia, Powhatan, Native American tribes in Virginia
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The Powhatan (also spelled Powatan and Powhaten), is the name of a Virginia Indian[1] tribe. It is also the name of a powerful group of tribes which they dominated. It is estimated that there were about 14,000-21,000 of these native Powhatan people in eastern Virginia when the English settled Jamestown in 1607.[2] They were also known as Virginia Algonquians, as they spoke an eastern-Algonquian language known as Powhatan. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, a mamanatowick (paramount chief)[3] named Wahunsunacawh created a powerful organization by affiliating 30 tributary peoples, whose territory was much of eastern Virginia, called Tsenacommacah ("densely-inhabited Land"),[4] Wahunsunacawh came to be known by the English as "Chief Powhatan." Each of the tribes within this organization had its own weroance (chief), but all paid tribute to Chief Powhatan.[5] After Chief Powhatan's death in 1618, hostilities with colonists escalated under the chiefdom of his brother, Opechancanough, who sought in vain to drive off the encroaching English. His large-scale attacks in 1622 and 1644 met strong reprisals by the English, resulting in the near elimination of the tribe. By 1646 what is called the Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom by modern historians had been largely destroyed. In addition to the ongoing conflicts with the ever-expanding English settlements and their inhabitants, the Powhatan suffered a high death rate due to infectious diseases, maladies introducted to North America by the Europeans to which the Native Americans of the United States had developed no natural immunities. By this time, the leaders of the colony were desperate for labor to develop the land. Almost half of the English and European immigrants arrived as indentured servants. As colonial expansion continued, the colonists imported growing numbers of enslaved Africans for labor. By 1700 the colonies had about 6,000 black slaves, one-twelfth of the population. It was common for black slaves to escape and join the surrounding Powhatan; white servants were also noted to have joined the Indians. Africans and whites worked and lived together; some natives also intermarried with them. After Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, the colony enslaved Indians for control. In 1691 the House of Burgesses abolished Indian slavery; however, many Powhatan were held in servitude well into the 18th century.[6] In the 21st century, eight Indian tribes are recognized by the state as having ties with the original Powhatan complex chiefdom.[7] The Pamunkey and Mattaponi are the only two peoples who have retained reservation lands from the 17th century.[5] The competing cultures of the Powhatan and English settlers were united temporarily through the marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Their son Thomas Rolfe was the ancestor of many Virginians; thus, many of the First Families of Virginia have both English and Virginia Indian[1] ancestry. History

[edit] Naming and terminology
The name "Powhatan" is believed to have originated as the name of the village or town that Wahunsunacawh came from. The official title Chief Powhatan used by the English is believed to have been derived from the name of this location. Although the specific situs of his home village is unknown, in modern times, the Powhatan Hill neighborhood in the East End portion of the modern-day city of Richmond, Virginia is thought by many to be in the general vicinity of the original village. Tree Hill Farm, which is situated in nearby Henrico County a short distance to the east, is also considered as the possible site. "Powhatan" was also the name used by the natives to refer to the river where the town sat at the head of navigation. The English colonists chose to name it instead for their own leader, King James I. Many features in the early years of the Virginia Colony were named in honor of the king, as well as his three children, Elizabeth, Henry, and Charles. Although portions of Virginia's longest river...
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