The Powhatan Indians are Native Americans who lived in Virginia centuries ago. These Indians are well known for having conflicts with English settlers of the Jamestown colony in the 1600s. Many people are also familiar with these Native Americans because of the tales told about Pocahontas, who was the daughter of Chief Powhatan. Today, some Powhatan Indians still call Virginia their home while others live in such places as New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The name Powhatan means waterfall or falls in a current of water. Long ago, this Indian confederacy claimed more than 30 different tribes. The most remembered leader of the Powhatan Indians was called Chief Powhatan, though his true name was Wahunsonacock. Interestingly, Chief Powhatan did not lead his people in the way many Native American chiefs did. He did not gather together with village chiefs to come to an agreement about tribal decisions. Instead, he had the authority to make decisions for the people, and the village chiefs were supposed to accept and implement his decisions.
Though many people are very familiar with the story of chief Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas, much of what they know is really inaccurate. Movies and children's books often depict Pocahontas as being involved in a romance with John Smith, but that is not true. She did eventually marry a European named John Rolfe, however. Additionally, many movies and books depict Pocahontas as being older than she really was when she met John Smith; in reality, she was either 10 or 11 years old. Interestingly, Pocahontas wasn't even her real name; it was a nickname that meant spoiled child while her real name was Matoaka, which can be translated to mean playful one.
While today's Powhatan Indians typically live in houses and apartments like most people, their homes were very different centuries ago. Rather than living in tepees as some Indians did, they lived in round houses referred to as wigwams while others lived in longhouses, which were long, narrow homes that were covered with bark.
Female Powhatan Indians typically dressed in fringed skirts while men wore breech cloths and donned leggings when the weather was colder. Members of both genders donned earrings, and deerskin moccasins were typically the chosen footwear. These Native Americans commonly wore headbands adorned with beads that had a feather protruding from the back instead of very long headdresses. They often had tattoos and would sometimes paint their bodies. Today's Powhatan Indians usually wear modern-style clothing, though some may also own traditional-style moccasins and headdresses.