Powhatan Indian Chiefs and Leaders


Chanco. A Powhatan Indian of Virginia who gave timely warning to the English of the intended massacre by Opechancanough, in Mar., 1622, thus pre serving a number of lives. Drake, Bk. Inds., 361, 1880.



Opechancanough. A Powhatan chief, born about 1545, died in 1644. He captured Capt. John Smith shortly after the arrival of the latter in Virginia, and took him to his brother, the head-chief Powhatan (q. v.). Some time after his release, Smith, in order to change the temper of the Indians, who jeered at the starving Englishmen and refused to sell them food, went with a band of his men to Opechancanough’s camp under pretense of buying corn, seized the chief by the hair, and at the point of a pistol marched him off a prisoner. The Pamunkey brought boat-loads of provisions to ransom their chief, who thereafter entertained more respect and deeper hatred for the English. While Powhatan lived Opechancanough was held in restraint, but after his brother’s death in 1618 he became the dominant leader of the nation, although his other brother, Opitchapan, was the nominal head-chief.

He plotted the destruction of the colony so secretly that only one Indian, the Christian Chanco, revealed the conspiracy, but too late to save the people of Jamestown, who at a sudden signal were massacred, Mar. 22, 1622, by the natives deemed to be entirely friendly.

In the period of intermittent hostilities that followed, duplicity and treachery marked the actions of both whites and Indians. In the last year of his life, Opechancanough, taking advantage of the dissensions of the English, planned their extermination. The aged chief was borne into battle on a litter when the Powhatan, on Apr. 18, 1644, fell upon the settlements and massacred 300 persons, then as suddenly desisted and fled far from the colony, frightened perhaps by some omen. Opechancanough was taken prisoner to Jamestown, where one of his guards treacherously shot him, inflicting a wound of which he subsequently died.


Powhatan. The ruling chief and practically the founder of the Powhatan confederacy (q. v.) in Virginia at the period of the first English settlement. His proper name was Wahunsonacock, but he was commonly known as Powhatan from one of his- favorite residences at the falls of James r. (Richmond). According to Smith, of some 30 cognate tribes subject to his rule in 1607, all but six were his own conquests. At the time of the coming of the English, Powhatan is represented to have been about 60 years of age, of dignified bearing, and reserved and stern disposition. His first attitude toward the whites was friendly although suspicious, but he soon became embittered by the exactions of the newcomers. On the treacherous seizure of his favorite daughter, Pocahontas (q. v.), in 1613, he became openly hostile, but was happily converted for the time through her marriage to Rolfe. He died in 1618, leaving the succession to his brother, Opitchapan, who however was soon superseded by a younger brother, the noted Opechancanough.

Negahnquet, Albert

Negahnquet, Albert. A Potawatomi, the first full-blood Indian of the United States to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest. Born near St Marys, Kansas, in 1864, he moved with his parents to the Potawatomi Reservation. (now Pottawatomie County, Okla.), where he entered the Catholic mission school conducted by the Benedictine monks at Sacred Heart Mission, making rapid progress in his studies and gaining the friendship of his teachers by his tractable character. Later he entered the College of the Propaganda Fide in Rome, and was there ordained a priest in 1903. The same year he returned to America and has since engaged in active religious work among the Indians.

Chiefs, Powhatan,

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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5 thoughts on “Powhatan Indian Chiefs and Leaders”

  1. I learned that I have a lineage back to Pocahontas recently. I am interested therefore in our commonalities. Please let me know where I can learn of these articles of familiarity.

    Thank you,

  2. I learned through another resource that I have genetic connections with Pocahontas, my great-grandmother on my father’s side was one of the distant blood-relatives, so you see where that puts me in the “claims”-office(or porch)ha!
    but I just thought it would be interesting to contact you and let you know. If you are interested, over Thanksgiving Holiday, I can have my father copy the material, for further investigation on both our parts.

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