The Powhatan are the Indians that lived near and surrounding Jamestown. Those same Indians claim to have killed the surviving Lost Colonists about 1607, the Colonistshaving joined with a Chesapeake Tribe after being left on Roanoke Island in 1587. Of course, we don’t know if they actually did, or they simply told the Jamestown settlers that story to invoke fear.
James Mooney (1861-1921), was an ethnographer who lived for many years among the Cherokee, documented the Tidewater, Southeastern and Great Plains tribes. For his time, he was considered the foremost expert on Native Americans. Had it not been for his perspective and his work, much of what is known today would not have been preserved. We own James Mooney a very large debt of gratitude.
You can read more about his life at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Mooney
Several of his texts have been digitized and are available online.
Most of his articles were published in the bulletins of the US Bureau of Ethnology. The Powhatan Confederacy bulletin is available online and free.
The map below, from his article, shows the range of the Powhatan Confederacy. The yellow circles indicate the location of the bands existing at the time he wrote the article which was published in 1907.
One of the things I had always wondered is why the Powhatan Confederacy fell apart after the death of Powhatan in 1618 and then the death of his brother Opchanacanough who was killed by the European settlers in 1646. Many other tribal groups have survived the deaths of many Chiefs, the Iroquois to the North and the Tuscarora to the South being prime examples in the same time period.
Mooney addresses this, although is an indirect manner, but when I read what he said, I realized he was right, and it made sense. Powhatan ruled by complete authority, intimidation and fear – by attacking others, even villages of his own tribe and within his confederation, while the Iroquois and Tuscarora (also Iroquoian) rule by consensus.
At the end of Mooney’s paper, which was published in 1907, he provided a “current” update on several tribes, or as he calls them, remnant tribes, that were part of the Powhatan Confederacy, specifically, the Pamunkey, the Mattapony, the Chickahominy, the Nansemond and a few other small bands. The smaller bands have no names are mostly family groups. All reside in Virginia.
One group of about 40 people resides on the Mattapony River in King William County and consists of family names of Adams and Holmes. Another is found on the Rappahannock River in Essex Co. with the surname of Nelson. A third is found at the head of the Pocoson River in York County sporting the family name of Wise. A fourth is on the York River in Gloucester County and descends from the Sampson family. Lastly, a few mixed-bloods were living on the Eastern Shore, near Accomac Courthouse (Drummondtown) in Accomac County, with no family names listed and a few families with the Miles surname near Fisher’s Inlet in southern Northampton County.
Hat tip to Elaine for sending me the link to this document!