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The Powhatan Confederation

By Jane Kosa

Pocahontas, the Powhatan princess who befriended the Jamestown colonists, married the Englishman John Rolfe in 1614, and is believed by many to have saved John Smith's life -- that is why the world knows the Powhatan Confederacy. Her father, Powhatan, almost alone, united the small scattered Algonquian tribes of present-day Virginia and Delaware into a thirty tribe group in the late 1500s. We know this group as the Powhatan Confederacy. The Confederacy included 128 Algonquian villages and 20,000+ people at its peak in the early 1600s.

Powhatan and his people welcomed the English settlers in 1607 and helped them survive the first winter here by teaching them how to grow corn and tobacco, providing them medicine, and helping them hunt. Read about how the relationship between the natives and new arrivals deteriorated and the eventual downfall of the Confederacy.

Our resource list, CRRL History: The Powhatan Confederacy, offers books and Web sites with a lot of information about Powhatan's people.