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Preservation Virginia > Jamestown Rediscovery > Exhibit > Jamestown Fort: Rediscovered > The People > Chief Powhatan

Chief Powhatan

Chief Powhatan Chief Powhatan was the supreme ruler of most of the indigenous tribes in the Chesapeake Bay area from north of the Mattaponi River, a tributary of the York River, to the lands south of the James River. Chief Powhatan was the highest authority the colonists faced when dealing with the tribe. He died in April 1618.

Captain John Smith wrote of Chief Powhatan:

He is of parsonage a tall well proportioned man . . . his head somwhat gray. . . . His age neare 60; of a very able and hardybody to endure any labour. What he commandeth they dare not disobey in the least thing. It is strange to see with what great feare and adoration all these people doe obay this Powhatan. For at his feet, they present whatsoever he commandeth, and at the least frowne of his browe, their greatest spirits will tremble with feare: and no marvell, for he is very terrible and tyrannous in punishing such as offend him.

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