Powhatan Nation, East Algonquian

PowhatanIndianhouse

Chief Powhatan Wahunsonacock father of Pocahontas; his brother was Chief Opechancanough (Opequon)

Powhatan = waterfall ; king chief ; weroances, or chiefs ; wisakon = bitter medicine spirits ; Quiocosins – holy temples

Powhatan Priest – Uttamatomakkin ; high priest – Mamanatowick ; kwiocosuk – shamans

kwiokos = shamanic minor deity spirits in powerful humans (priests) and other animals

Kwiokosuk = all gods as represented by a council of priests

Great Goddess of the Four Winds – aided spirits to go west in the air after death

Okeus = human war, Justice, Vengeance, & Punishment / Kiwasa

Okeus frowning effigies made of black painted skins stuffed with moss, with hanging chains, pearls, and copper jewelry

Ahone (Rawottonemd) – Great Rabbit Creator Deity, made animals, but humans he kept in a bag for awhile, until later letting them out.

 

Powhatan Chiefdom subtribes: Powhatan, Arrohateck, Appamattuck, Pamunkey, Mattaponi, Kecoughtan, and Chiskiack; including bands from Youghtanund, Rappahannocks, Moraughtacund, Weyanoak, Paspahegh, Quiyoughcohannock, Warraskoyack, Chickahominy, Nansemond, immigrant African slaves, and white servants. Some Accawmacke paid tribute from the other side of the Chesapeake Bay. Some Powhatan migrated to the Lenape, in Delaware.

 

Powhatan were polytheists that allowed individuals to choose which gods to emphasize, one denies what another affirms, their pantheon was flexible; with no rigid ritual calendar, but gave offerings for harvests and victories. They regularly bathed in rivers, made circles of tobacco, and worshiped the sun with emphatic noise and gestures. Powhatan made painted carved wood post totems and, and straw stuffed totems, for guarding temples and drawing strength from: dragons (horned serpents), wolves, foxes, bears, cougars, crows, giants. Ordinary Powhatans read omens, used totems, and communicated with spirits directly and daily, medicine priests healed using herbs first and then spirit ceremonies.

 

Powhatan lived in both wigwams and Iroquois-style longhouses. Some Powhatan villages were encircled with vertical log wall palisades. Powhatans wore knee-length fringed skirts and breech-cloths, with leggings, mantles, moccasins, and feather cloaks in Winter. They decorated themselves with bead jewelry, feathers, body paint and tattoos. They wore their hair long, but often had variations like cutting one side, cutting a crest, and binding. They made beads, baskets, dugout canoes by hollowing out large trees, wampum out of white and purple shell beads, and used dogs as pack animals. Powhatan warriors used tomahawks, clubs, shields, bows, and spears. Wampum belts often represented a story. Powhatan women grew corn, squash and beans. Powhatan men hunted for deer, turkeys, and small game; and fished on the shores. Powhatan foods included soup, cornbread, and stews.

 

There were over 10,000 Powhatans in Virginia when the English settled Jamestown in 1607. By 1646, the Powhatan had been largely destroyed by war and foreign diseases. Recently Virginia has recognized eight Powhatan descended tribes with at least 3,000 remaining members. Mattaponi and Pamunkey still retain their reservations from the 17th century and are located in King William County, Virginia. Along with African Americans in Virginia, Native Americans have suffered years of cultural warfare and racism that continues today.

 

There was significant overlap between Algonquian and Iroquois languages, culture, and territory. The Erie Iroquois (Eriechronon) were once a powerful tribe that spread from Lake Erie, down south towards the Cherokee and Tuscarora (Iroquois relatives), and the East-Coast Algonquian. They once lived in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia; but were decimated by war with the neighboring tribes. Erie survivors and their encroached territories were absorbed by other Iroquois tribes (Seneca & Susquehannock). Erielhonan were called the “Cat” or the “Raccoon” people because of their “long tail” which they wore. They lived in long houses in villages enclosed in palisades. Both their ornamental “long tails”, and their architecture were specifically shared by the Powhatan. The Powhatan clearly inherited or adopted those styles from the Erie. The Erie had already dwindled in that region by the 1600s, diminished in national power, and are now lost to history, except for these few details.

Pocahantas

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