Speech by Powhatan, as Recorded by John Smith, 1609

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Speech by Powhatan, as Recorded by John Smith, 1609


Chief Powhatan, Powhatan, John Smith, Native American, Indian


Powhatan was the paramount chief of 30 Algonquian speaking tribes of Virginia Indians that made up the Powhatan Confederacy. In the early part of the sixteenth century he maintained a somewhat civil alliance with the settlers of Jamestown. His famous daughter Pocahontas, according to Smith, plead with Powhatan to spare his life. Chief Powhatan in most accounts sought to create a peaceful alliance with colonists although both sides fell victim to mistrust. His speech, recorded by Smith, is most likely a product of their contact in January of 1609. Smith and other colonists were building Powhatan an English style home in exchange for food and supplies. Smith held Chief Powhatan at gunpoint after being abducted but was later released. It is possible his speech was part of this exchange, but could have been given at any time around this encounter as relations began to erode between settlers and Natives.


Chief Powhatan


University of Memphis




Written record provided by Smith, John
The Smithsonian Institution


The Smithsonian Institution



Chief Powhatan, “Speech by Powhatan, as Recorded by John Smith, 1609,” Early North America, accessed October 13, 2019, https://hist4620.omeka.net/items/show/8.

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