Parahunt, weroance of the Powhatan proper
in the early 1600s, was the son of the Powhatan paramount chief,
Wa-Hun-Sen-A-Cawh, the great Powhatan of history.
Unfortunately, Parahunt was fully cognisant of the
fact that he would not inherit the paramount chieftaincy himself.
That honour was saved for Wa-Hun-Sen-A-Cawh's brother, Opitchapam,
who would himself be usurped by their younger brother, Opechancanough.
Nonetheless, Parahunt was ambitious. Any chance of
gaining glory in battle he would seize. Most of his drive towards
militant glory he directed against the Monacan. Parahunt felt that
if war should break out between the two confederacies, he could make
a name for himself on the battlefield.
However, the real power lay with Powhatan and the
Powhatan inherited six tribes from his father,
whose own tribe we must assume was that of the Powhatan proper.
However, Powhatan, being such a charismatic and powerful leader,
soon suborned the largest tribe - the Pamunkey - to fit his plans.
Within a comparatively short time, Powhatan had
conquered some thirty or so tribes and brought them into the
confederacy with varying degrees of success (see the Chickahominy
and Rappahannock in particular). Possibly some of these tribes were
taken from an existing 'empire' that appeared to have been dominated
by the Piscataway.
However, unlike the Iroquois league which
was founded about the same time, Powhatan ruled through fear,
control, and his own personality rather than any desire for a
James Mooney (1907) has something to say on the
As an example of Powhatan's methods, we are
told how, in 1608, for some infraction of his authority, he made
a night attack on the Piankatank tribe, slaughtered all the men
who could not escape, and carried off the women as captives.
Some years before he had taken advantage of
the death of the chief of the Kecoughtan to invade their territory,
kill all who made resistance, and transport the rest bodily to his
own country, finally settling them at Piankatank, which he had
In the same way, on the strength of an ominous
prophecy, he had exterminated the entire Chesapeak tribe and
transplanted a colony of his own people in the desolated territory.
To make his position more secure, he placed his sons or brothers
as chiefs in several principal towns, while he himself ruled in his
Warriors of the Powhatan confederacy watch over their fellows
in this early illustration which also seems to show English
colonists and a stockaded settlement