Famous Powhatan

Famous Powhatan Chiefs and Leaders

The Powhatan (also spelled Powatan) are a Native American people formerly from Virginia. It may also refer to a historic leader of those tribes, commonly referred to as Powhatan.

It is estimated that there were about 14,000–21,000 Powhatan people in eastern Virginia when the English settled Jamestown in 1607. They were also known as Virginia Algonquians, as they spoke an eastern-Algonquian language known as Powhatan or Virginia Algonquian.

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, a mamanatowick (paramount chief) named Wahunsunacawh (a.k.a. Powhatan), created a powerful organization by affiliating 30 tributary peoples, whose territory was much of eastern Virginia. They called this area Tsenacommacah (“densely inhabited Land”).

The name “Powhatan” (also transcribed by Strachey as Paqwachowng) is the name of the native village or town of Wahunsunacawh. The title “Chief” or “King” Powhatan, used by the English is believed to have been derived from the name of this site.

Powhatan is the name Europeans gave these tribes, but that more acurately referred to the principal village or paramount chief, not the actual tribes collectively.

Various tribes each held some individual powers locally, and each had a chief known as a weroance (male) or, more rarely, a weroansqua (female), meaning “commander.” Wahunsunacawh came to be known by the English as “Powhatan.” Each of the tribes within this organization also had its own weroance (chief), but all paid tribute to Powhatan.

Betty or “Mrs Betty” is believed to have been the name of the niece of Cockacoeske who succeeded her as Weroansqua or chief of the Pamunkey tribe.

Captain John West,son of Queen Ann. The weroance of Nansemond.

Cockacoeskie (also spelled Cockacoeske) (ca. 1640 – ca. 1686) Daughter of Totopotomoi, followed him as paramount chief.

Necotowance, (c. 1600-1649), followed Opechancanough as paramount chief.

Opechancanough, (1554–1646), younger brother of Powhatan. Paramount chief after 2nd brother Opitchapam.

Opitchapam, younger brother of Powhatan, briefly became Paramount Chief after Powhatan died.

Pocahantas, (1595-)daughter of Powhatan, wife of Englishman John Rolph who supposedly saved the life of John Smith.

Powhatan (Wahunsonacock) – Powhatan was a paramount chief who ruled  the Powhatan Confederacy. Powhatan had twenty children.

Queen Ann, appears in Virginia records between 1706 and 1715 as ruler of the Pamunkey tribe and disappears from the record after that. Ann continued her predecessors’ efforts to keep peace with English colonists. It has been suggested that Queen Ann and Queen Betty may have been the same person. Queen Ann had a son, whom she sent to the Indian school at the College of William and Mary in 1711. Ann is believed to have died around 1723.

Thomas Rolfe – Son of Pocahontas and John Rolfe

Totopotomoi (Totopotomoy)  (c. 1615–1656), followed Necotowance as paramount chief.

Famous Powhatan Women

Pochontas Profile for Kids Pocahontas, Pamunkey(1595?-1617) Queen Anne, Pamunkey(ca. 1650-ca. 1725)

Powhatan Tribes Today:

Many of the Powhatan tribes no longer existed by 1722. In the 21st century, eight Indian tribes are officially recognized by Virginia as having ancestral ties to the Powhatan confederation, but the Monacan Tribe were one of the former enemies of the Powhatans.

The others are:
Chickahominy Tribe (S)

Eastern Chickahominy Tribe (S)

Mattaponi Tribe (S)

Upper Mattaponi Tribe (S)

Nansemond Indian Tribal Association (S)

Pamunkey Tribe (S) (the tribe of the hereditary paramount chiefs)

Rappahannock Tribe (S)

The Powhatan Renape Nation has been recognized by the state of New Jersey.


Article Index:

Don Luis a.k.a. Opechancanough

Opechancanough or Opchanacanough (1543?-1644) was a tribal chief of the Powhatan Confederacy of what is now Virginia in the United States, and its leader from 1618 until his death in 1644. His name meant “He whose Soul is White” in the Algonquin language.