Helped Colonists By Making An Agreement With The Powhatan

By mid-century, the Powhatans were confined to the land north of the York River, with no access to their traditional hunting and fishing grounds. Small tribal groups merged with larger ones and lost their independent identity. Despite this, the Powhatan Indians overcame many obstacles, including years of discrimination, and learned to adapt to survive. Most importantly, they retained their cultural pride and an Indian presence in Virginia, which continues to this day with eight recognized tribes in Virginia. There are seven strains of Powhatan – Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Nansemond, Pamunkey, Rappahannock and Upper Mattaponi – and the Monacan Nation. After Wahunsonacock`s death in 1618, his brother Opechancanough became the ruler. Opechancanough worked to gain the trust of the settlers, including lowering land agreements and mutual defense. In reality, Opechancanough believed that the English had treated his people as a submissive nation—by cashing tribute payments in corn and, in some cases, reducing them to dependence, driving them away from their country. Opechancanough was patient and waited until the time came. In 1622, he led the first coordinated attack on several English plantations, killing more than 300 of the 1200 settlers. Jamestown was warned and escaped destruction.

This led to a decade of open warfare that culminated in a treaty in 1632. What followed was a decade of fragile peace. Captain John Smith was initially very successful in obtaining food, agricultural advice and geographical knowledge from the Powhatans. In fact, the fact that the colony survived was largely due to Smith`s ability to speak and negotiate with Indian tribes. However, early in 1609 his tactics became more aggressive, and his tenure at the colony did not last long, as a wound he had sustained in a gunpowder explosion led him to return to England in the autumn of 1609. After his departure, hostility between the English and the Powhatans increased. With the development of new settlements over the next four years, the English began to oust the Powhatans from their land along the rivers. Fighting between groups was common, with raids on each other`s country and kidnappings. After 1616, when more plantations were planted along the James River, relations continued to deteriorate, with both crops claiming use of the country. By the time English settlers arrived in the spring of 1607, the Virginia coast was inhabited by the Powhatan Indians, an Algonconian-speaking people.

The Powhatans consisted of about thirty tribal groups whose total population was about 14,000 under the control of Wahunsonacock, sometimes called “Powhatan”. And the English looked so harmless at first. Without the good nature of the Powhatan people, the English settlers would never have survived their early seasons in the New World. Good relations with these new inhabitants could help forge a strong alliance. Although Pocahontas was one of Powhatan`s favorite children, she probably had little influence on her father`s actions toward English settlers. . . .