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The Americas

North American Native Tribes


Conoy & Piscataway (North American Tribes)
Incorporating the Acquintanacsuak, Cecomocomoco, Chaptico, Mattapanient, Moyaone, Moyawance, Nacotchtank, Nanjemoy, Pamacocack, Patuxenet, Potapaco, & Secowocomoco

Generally speaking, the European settlers in North America coined the phrase 'Indian' or 'Red Indian' to describe the North American tribes they found while they were settling what is now the USA. To the north of this vast collection of varying regions and climates were the native settlements of what is now Canada, while to the south were the various peoples of modern Mexico, most especially the Aztecs. Despite the regional dominance of the Powhatan confederacy, there were still many Algonquian-speaking tribes who were not subsumed by it, remaining largely independent.

CompendiumAs usual in this particular area of study, there is more than one version of the word 'Algonquian'. Here, this version is used to describe the language itself and its speakers. Another version, Algonquin, is used to describe the people themselves, while another variant of the word was Algonkin (which also denotes an individual tribe which inhabited the Ottowa River region to the west). As with many of the tribes of the Powhatan confederacy, the many other, independent Algonquian-speaking tribes often had names which were synonymous with their local river or settlement. (More information about the Algonquin is available via the compendium link, right.)

Those independent Algonquian tribes of the eastern shore region included the Nanticoke and their major - and fully independent - sub-tribe, the Conoy or Piscataway, northerly neighbours of the Powhatan with an illustrious history of their own. The Conoy were located on the Potomac River and the western shore of the Chesapeake (in the modern counties of Charles, Prince George's (around the southern region), and probably parts of St Mary's (to the west), all in southern Maryland). They numbered around two thousand heads in AD 1600 (according to Mooney), but by 1765 their numbers had fallen dramatically to around a hundred and fifty.

The name 'Conoy' derives from the Kanawha River, their original home. The Piscataway were also referred to as the Conoy proper, Pascatowies, Paschatoway, Pazaticans, Pascoticons, Paskattaway, Pascatacon, Piscattaway, and Puscattawy. The occupied the southern part of Prince George's County and also took their name from a waterway - the Piscataway creek, which is a tidal arm of the Potomac for its final four kilometres (two and-a-half miles). Several Patuxent River settlements would also seem to have been commanded by them. In fact, a story provided to the English in 1660 would seem to suggest that they were once the dominant tribe in the region (see the timeline, below). The Moyaone were a Piscataway band which was located around modern Accokeek in Prince George's County. Once the government seat of the Piscataway with a population of nearly a thousand people, the village itself was abandoned prior to European settlement. It is believed that the population was absorbed into neighbouring Piscataway tribes. The Nanjemoy Piscataway band lived between Mallows Bay and Nanjemoy Creek in Charles County.

Various sub-groups made up the Piscataway numbers, such as the Acquintanacsuak, Mattapanient, Moyawance, Nacotchtank (also known as the Anacostian, Anaquashtank, and Nacostine Pamacocack), Pamacocack, Patuxenet (originally recorded as the Pawtuxunt), Potapaco (Portobacks, or Potobagos), and the Secowocomoco. The Acquintanacsuak occupied the western bank of the Patuxent River in St Mary's County, Maryland. The Mattapanient were on the Patuxent River in St Mary's County, the Moyawance on the western bank of the Potomac River, above the Conoy proper, and the Nacotchtank about the mouth of Mattawoman Creek. The Patuxenet maintained dwellings in Calvert, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties, before being absorbed by the Chaptico during the 1690s. The Potapaco maintained three villages along the Port Tobacco River in Charles County. The Secowocomoco were alongside the Wicomico River in St Mary's and Charles counties. The Chaptico were also known as the Cecomocomoco. They resided in southern Maryland in the area around St Mary's City.

It would appear that the Piscataway name for their paramount chief was tayac, he being overlord to a loose confederacy of the smaller tribes mentioned above, all of which were outside Powhatan control. One tayac mentioned for the Piscataway was Kittamaquund, elsewhere noted as the weroance of the Doeg. However, the rank of tayac would equate to that of paramount chief (such as the Powhatan chief), whereas a weroance was seen as a lesser figure - a village chief within a region - the equivalent of an emperor and a 'mere' king, respectively. Matrilineal inheritance of these positions seems to have been the norm, at least until the death of Kittamaquund in 1641. Other leading positions in Piscataway society were war chiefs, priests, shamans, and great men (as well as weroances), who advised the tayac.

(Information by Mick Baker, from primary sources by John Smith (1607), William Strachey (1616), The Virginia Census of 1669, and Robert Beverly (1705) with additional information from James Mooney (1907), from Helen C Rountree (information which forms the basis of the tribal locations map), from Everyday Life of the North American Indian, Jon Manchip White (1979), from The Encyclopaedia of North American Indian Tribes, Bill Yenne (1986), from The Native Tribes of North America - A Concise Encyclopaedia, Michael Johnson (1993), from the Atlas of Indians of North America, Gilbert Legay (1995), from The Powhatan Chiefdom: 1606, Old Dominion University Model United Nations Society, and from External Links: First Nations: Issues of Consequence, Lee Sultzman, and Legends of America, and Historic Jamestowne, and Colonial - A Study of Virginia Indians and Jamestown: The First Century, and Do we know of any specific individuals from pre-Columbian United States?, and 1699 Encounter With Piscataway Indians Was a First (Washington Post).)


According to the testimony of the Piscataway tribe as given in 1660, around the middle of the thirteenth century there comes a king from the eastern shore who rules over all of the natives who now inhabit the Algonquian-speaking lands of eastern Virginia, and also over the Patawomeck and Susquehannock. Nothing much is known about the eastern shores tribes at this time, but by around the early 1600s it is Debedeavon who is their leader, under the domination of the Powhatan confederacy.

Chesapeake Bay
Did a 'king' from the eastern shore really come to the Chesapeake Bay area in the mid-thirteenth century to rule over a number of tribes there, creating an 'empire' which endured for many generations?

FeatureFor all that he does to embrace and cover them all, they name him Uttapoingassinem. Dying without issue of his own, he appoints his brother to succeed him. The title subsequently descends through several other members of the family, all of whom remain unnamed. Is Uttapoingassinem's arrival and elevation a story of conquest, or simple superiority by one Algonquin tribe over the others? (The question is examined in more detail in the accompanying feature - see link, right.)

The emperors are known as jan jan wizous, which in the Algonquian language signifies a true ruler. Their title is translated into the native Algonquian as tayac, the northern Algonquian equivalent to powhatan, the next step up from weroance. Their people will not refer to them as tawzin, which is the style they give to the sons of their kings, princes who will never rule themselves as they are inferior to the sons of brothers or sisters (essentially a by-product of matrilineal succession). Dates are calculated back from Emperor Uttapoingassinem (II) in 1662.

c.1260 - 1300

Uttapoingassinem (I)

Great tayac of the united tribes from the 'Eastern Shore'.

fl c.1320s?


Brother and successor tayac (emperor).

fl c.1350s?


Unnamed brother.

fl c.1370s?


Unnamed brother.

fl c.1400s?


Unnamed nephew (sister's son).

fl c.1420s?


Unnamed descendant.

fl c.1440s?


Unnamed descendant.


By this stage the recognisable beginnings can be seen of the tribal system in the Americas, marking the transition from Early Cultures. One of the most notable highlights of this shift towards the familiar tribes of the Native Americans is the creation in this period of a constitution by the Iroquois confederacy.

fl c.1460s?


Unnamed descendant.

fl c.1480s?


Unnamed descendant.


Explorer John Cabot sets sail from Bristol in England to become the first European since the Vikings to make landfall in Newfoundland, arriving on 24 June. The later city of St John in Newfoundland is named after him, although the exact location of his landfall is disputed. The name is first recorded on a Portuguese map of 1519.

fl c.1500s?


Unnamed descendant.


The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon is the first post-medieval European to sight Florida in 1508, mistaking it for an island. (The undocumented voyage of Prince Madog of Gwynedd is placed at 1170, making him the first to reach the region.) Ponce de Leon returns on 27 March 1513 to make his first proper landing there. and by 1514 is confirmed by the Spanish crown as the first governor.

fl c.1530s?


Unnamed descendant.

c.1530s - 1550

The first chief of a new confederacy along the eastern seaboard is driven north to the Virginia area by Spanish colonists in Florida and surrounding regions. Once there, he takes over control of at least five other Indian tribes in Virginia to create the Powhatan confederacy.

Upon his death his son, a young Wahunsenacawh, inherits the duty of ruling over the six communities. He gradually expands his rule to cover more than thirty groups that includes a generous estimate of 15,000 people, although a more conservative calculation based on primary sources would indicate the total to be nearer 8,500.

Map of the Powhatan confederacy AD 1600
The Powhatan confederacy (the pale orange area) was formed of a large number of Algonquian-speaking tribes, but others (yellow) remained independent (click or tap on map to view full sized)

One potential issue with the creation of the Powhatan confederacy is the speed with which it is formed. Could this take place largely by the first two powhatans taking over the domination of many Algonquian-speaking tribes from the Piscataway emperor simply by showing greater strength and power?

By the time the European colonists have arrived to document native politics, the 'emperor' has influence only over a few tribes on the northern edge of the Powhatan confederacy.

fl c.1550s?


Unnamed descendant.

c.1550 - 1607

By the end of the sixteenth century, Wa-Hun-Sen-A-Cawh (sometimes given as Wahunsenacawh, and better known as Powhatan) is the paramount chieftain of the Powhatan confederacy, which includes most of the indigenous tribes in the Chesapeake Bay region (but not all of them).

This includes the Patawomeck, which clearly draws them away from the northern Algonquin 'empire'. It doesn't sever all links with the Piscataway, however. The two maintain relations and seemingly form a conduit for diplomacy and trade between the 'empire' and the Powhatan confederacy.

fl c.1570s?


Unnamed descendant.

fl c.1590s?

Uwanna / Wannas

Descendant of previous emperors. Murdered by his brother.

fl 1600s - 1641

Uttapoingassinem Kittamaquund

Brother. Also Doeg weroance. No siblings or male offspring.


Kittamaquund is weroance of the Doeg (Tauxenent) and is the Powhatan confederacy's main diplomatic connection with the Piscataway tribe, the Doeg being the tribe furthest north of the chiefdom's members. Indeed, the Doeg are so close to the Piscataway that there is often doubt as to who commands the greatest loyalty - them or the Powhatans. On balance however, it is a bonus to have the close political relationship.

Indeed, Kittamaquund would seem to be the 'emperor' of three or more tribes in a union which greatly pre-dates the Powhatan confederacy (and perhaps even still reveals links with the Nanticoke). If the 'empire' of Uttapoingassinem still survives in any form then it seems to exist to the very north of the Powhatan confederacy, where the Piscataway, Doeg, and Conoy inhabit the eastern delta of the Susquehanna River. This also directly connects them to the Susquehannock on both sides of the river. Also known as Chitimachen, Kittamaquund is descended from one of the sisters of the first emperor, but his lack of any siblings or sons means that he can only nominate his daughter as his successor.

While the Doeg and Piscataway may or may not be part of the Powhatan confederacy they are at least not antagonistic towards it. The Susquehannock, on the other hand, are quite different. The Powhatan know the Susquehannock (whom they call cannibals) from painful experience. When the English first settle Virginia, they discover that the Powhatan have placed their villages well inland to protect them from Susquehannock war parties who range the coastline in canoes.


FeatureCaptain Smith returns to the Rappahannock in the summer of 1608, where he maps fourteen villages on the northern side of the river. Then he explores the northern edge of Chesapeake Bay, meeting the Susquehannock for the first time and also noting the warrior populations of Algonquin tribes on the Virginia side of the river: '160 Patawomeke (Patawomeck), and 40 Tauxenet (Doeg)', plus on the Maryland side of the river: '40 Secowocomoco, 20 Potopaco, 60 Pamacacack (Pamunkey), 80 Nacotchtank (Anacostin), and 100 at Moyawance (Moyaone)'. The last-mentioned village is the home of the Piscataway proper.

Captain John Smith trades with the Powhatan
John Smith is shown in this illustration trading with the native Americans who resided close to James Fort, although his explorations took him much further afield, across the northern edge of Chesapeake Bay and into Susquehannock territory (click or tap on image to view full sized)


When Pocahontas of the Powhatan visits the Patawomeck on behalf of her father, she is taken hostage by the weroance, Japasaws. He has been helping the English in their efforts to evade Powhatan's intention of starving them into submission. Japasaws trades her to an English sea captain named Samuel Argall, in exchange for a copper kettle! This results in a truce in the First Anglo-Powhatan War and Pocahontas becomes a pawn in the politics of the day.

1622 - 1624

The Jamestown Massacre devastates the Jamestown Settlement and the Citie of Henricus on Good Friday, 22 March 1622. Natives of the Powhatan confederacy launch a surprise attack on the British Colonies which leaves a quarter of the colony's population dead. They are led in this Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622-1644) by Opechancanough, younger brother of the great paramount chieftain Powhatan and now himself paramount chieftain of the Powhatan confederacy.

1624 - 1630

Handicapped by their inland location, the Iroquois still have to contend with the powerful Mahican confederacy in order to trade with New Netherland, and it takes four years of war between 1624-1628 before the Mohawk emerge as the pre-eminent trading partner of the Dutch in the Hudson Valley. In that time the settlers of the British Colonies defeat the Powhatan (in 1625), the only Algonquin confederacy that had been strong enough challenge the Susquehannock who are able to vastly extend their range of control.

1639 - 1640

The Jesuit priest, Father Andrew White, visits Kittamaquund in June 1639. The tayac takes a liking to Father White, and invites the priest to live in his 'palace' with his family. Later that year, Kittamaquund becomes ill with a disease that native medicine men are unable to cure. Father White cures him with some English medicine powder and blood-letting. Kittamaquund is so grateful that he allows Father White to instruct him in Christianity. He also adopts the colonial style of clothing and learns to speak some English. Conversion comes in 1640, with Kittamaquund accepting the English name of Charles, as befits a king.

1641 - ?

Mary Kittamaquund

Dau. Rejected by the tribe in favour of Wahucasso.


Despite her acceptance by the British Colonies to whom Kittamaquund has controversially passed responsibility for selecting his replacement, the tribes refuse to accept Mary Kittamaquund's nomination as 'emperor' as it is contrary to their custom. Descent is by matrilineal succession, but that doesn't mean that females can actually rule. Instead they rely on brothers or sons of sisters being chosen. This practice they follow by selecting Wahucasso, a descendant of one of Uttapoingassinem's brothers, whom they proclaim emperor. This and subsequent history seems to relate only to the Piscataway, so has the rejection of Mary resulted in the dissolution of the empire?

Delaware Lenape Indians
This modern illustration depicts a Lenape longhouse with Unami and Unalachtigo Lenape (Delaware) preparing a catch of fish on North America's eastern coastline

FeatureTrading with all four European powers in North America means that the Susquehannock have to source a great deal of fur. They are skilled hunters and trappers, but the huge demand keeps them so busy hunting that they have little time left to continue their war of conquest against the Delaware and Chesapeake Algonquin tribes (mostly the Conoy, Nanticoke, and Powhatan living on Chesapeake Bay). Over-hunting and increased competition soon result in the Beaver Wars, otherwise known as the Iroquois Wars (see link, right).

1644 - 1646

The Second Battle of Virginia - sometimes referred to as the start of a Third Anglo-Powhatan War - takes place in 1644, with the native Powhatan confederacy still under Opechancanough. He leads a party of Powhatans in a violent assault on the British Colonies and as many as four hundred are killed. However, rather than press home their advantage, the natives retire. This bookends the Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622-1644). The result of this failure to press home the advantage is that the English completely crush the Powhatan and take control of eastern Virginia.

fl c.1650s?

Wahucasso / Weghucasso

Descended from one of Uttapoingassinem's brothers.

? - 1662

Uttapoingassinem (II)

Descended from an early ruler. Died. The last of the emperors.


In May an Iroquois force of one hundred and sixty warriors attacks Montreal in the French Colonies and captures seventeen colonists. Following other such raids, the French retaliate with a small military force made up of French, Huron, and Great Lakes Algonquin to counter the Iroquois raids - there are heavy casualties on both sides.


Uttapoingassinem (II) has been the choice of Wahucasso to succeed him but the new emperor had ruled at an extremely difficult time for the natives. The dominance to the immediate south of the Powhatan confederacy has been crushed by the settlers of the British Colonies, and native numbers are greatly diminished by warfare and disease. When Uttapoingassinem dies in 1662 he is the last of his line. The Susquehannock are already operating their own programme of expansion and dominance along the Susquehanna River, while the Algonquian-speaking tribes have already largely lost any dominance they once had along the eastern seaboard. The empire has crumbled and faded under the pressure from the new arrivals.

c.1662 - 1663


Son of Uwanna's sister. Proposed but rejected.


The death of Uttapoingassinem as the last of the emperors has unforeseen consequences. At this time there are two families which form rival factions from which the tayac is chosen. Wannspappin is proposed as the new chief, and it seems to take a while before he is rejected. Nattowasso had been proposed by a rival faction and he duly becomes tayac, but again only for a brief period.

c.1663 - 1666

Nattowasso / Weghucasso (II)

Son of Weghucasso. Acceded age 11. Died aged 14?


The Five Nations (otherwise known as the Iroquois league) launch attacks against those English who are settled along the Maryland frontier, killing some colonists. Governor Calvert declares war on the Five Nations, offering a reward of a hundred 'arms length' of Roanoke to any native or Englishman who captures or kills a 'Cinigoe' (Seneca, but also a universal term for any Five Nations tribesman). Troubles with the Five Nations continue sporadically for over a decade.

1665 - 1669

The Patawomeck are coming under increasing pressure from the settlers of the British Colonies to sell all their remaining land and accept imposed tribal weroances. Even worse, the settlers declare war on the Patawomeck, calling for 'their utter destruction if possible'. Most of the men are massacred. Most of the women and children, those who are not already living in English families are taken as slaves. Some surviving groups migrate into northern Virginia and then into Pennsylvania where they become known as the Conoy (not the Piscataway group, but a new one). The name is apparently coined by the Iroquois, perhaps because they are already familiar with Algonquian Conoy on their borders). A census of 1669 records no warriors amongst the Patawomeck Indians. The tribe has vanished from colonial records.

William Woodward painting of the Piscataway
In 1699, two gentleman planters, Burr Harrison and Giles Vandercastel, became the first settlers to explore the interior of what is now Loudoun County and the first to record a meeting with Loudoun's native Indians, the Piscataway (William Woodward oil on canvas, 2003)


Queen Cockacoeske of the Pamunkey signs the Middle Plantation Treaty, which brings another Anglo-Indian war to a close. By this treaty all of the tribes submit to the British Colonists, and are confirmed in their tribal lands, subject to an annual peppercorn rent of three arrows and a tribute of beaver skins. This treaty marks the end of the Indian period. The Indians along the coast lose their remaining land and are confined to small reservations.

The Patuxenet tribe eventually migrates southwards (during the late 1600s), settling along the Rappahannock River in Virginia, and becoming assimilated with other Algonquin tribes, primarily the Chaptico in the 1690s. It is believed that the Chaptico are themselves absorbed by neighbouring Piscataway bands during the early 1700s.


The Iroquois allow three hundred Susquehannock to return to the Susquehanna Valley in Pennsylvania. No longer a powerful people, they become known as the Conestoga (from the name of their village). The Iroquois keep a watchful eye on them and use their homeland as a kind of supervised reservation for the displaced Algonquin and Siouan tribes (including the Conoy, Delaware, Mahican, Munsee, Nanticoke, Saponi, Shawnee, Tutelo, and also the New England Algonquin), who are allowed to settle there as members of the 'covenant chain'. Quaker missionaries arrive and make many conversions amongst the Susquehannock.


In the eighteenth century some Piscataway, as well as other Algonquian groups which are migrating away from English settlements, relocate to the north of the Susquehanna River. These migrants are known as the Conoy and the Nanticoke. They are spread along the western edge of the Pennsylvania Colony, along with the Lenni-Lenape, Tutelo, Shawnee, and some Iroquois. The Piscataway are said to number only about a hundred and fifty people at this time. They ask for protection from the Iroquois league, but much of the surviving tribe migrates northwards in the late eighteenth century and are last noted in the historical record in 1793 at Detroit, following the American War of Independence.


By now, many members of the Piscataway are settling in Upper Canada, joining other Indian ex-allies of the British. Today, descendants of these northern migrants live on the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation reserve in Ontario, Canada. Some Piscataway probably move southwards toward the Virginia Colony. Some, it is believed, merge with the Meherrin. Numerous authorities claim that a small group of Piscataway families continue to live in their homeland. Although the larger tribe has been destroyed as an independent, sovereign entity, descendants of the Piscataway still survive.

Algonquin people fishing
Algonquian-speaking tribes in the Virginia area included the remnants of the Powhatan confederacy, but by 1700 their former military strength had been destroyed, leaving a diminishing number of them as increasingly marginalised foragers in a land of farmers


On 20 March, Governor E Lee Trinkle signs 'an Act to Preserve Racial Integrity', a law which aims to protect whiteness at the state level. It prohibits interracial marriage, defines a white person as someone who has no discernible non-white ancestry, and requires that birth and marriage certificates indicate people's race. Quite naturally this creates a major problem for anyone affected by this - including many of the powerful Virginian families who can trace their lineage back to the son of John Rolfe and Pocahontas of the Powhatan, and who had started what may be termed a new 'First Family of Virginia'. Between 1920 and 1950 those race-obsessed state officials who try to define a pure white race as one that 'does not contain a single drop of non-white blood', are fighting a losing battle if they try to exclude any of the elite Virginian families who claim such a heritage.


The Piscataway have long been denied the right of recognition. According to the authorities, they have failed to prove their descent from the original tribe. However, it is likely that this continued refusal has more to do with a perceived fear that the tribe would seek to open casinos if it were to be granted recognition. Finally, on 9 January 2012, the tribe achieves success when Governor Martin O'Malley issues executive orders recognising all three Piscataway groups as Native American tribes. For their part, the tribes agree not to engage in any plans to participate in gambling projects. The executive orders specifically state that the tribes are not granted any special 'gambling privileges'.

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