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The Americas

North American Native Tribes


Youghtanund / Manskin (Powhatan Confederacy) (North American Tribes)

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. The Youghtanund were located on the eastern seaboard in what is now the states of Delaware and Maryland (eastern section). Situated along the western border of the Powhatan confederacy, they were neighboured by the Mattaponi and the much larger Naticoke to the north, the Pamunkey to the east, the Powhatan (proper) to the south, and the Ozinie to the west.

CompendiumFor much of its recorded existence the tribe was firmly a constituent part of the Powhatan confederacy, which was formed in the second half of the sixteenth century. Wa-Hun-Sen-A-Cawh (Wahunsonacock), otherwise known as Powhatan, took over the then-small Powhatan confederacy after his father's death. He quickly expanded it, creating a union rather than focusing merely on subjugating the other regional tribes. At its height the confederacy consisted of at least thirty-two tribes. (More information about the Powhatan confederacy is available via the compendium link, right.)

The Youghtanund (sometimes shown in contemporary records as Youghtamund) are one of the more mysterious tribes of the confederacy. Apart from their inclusion as one of the confederacy's six founding constituent members, very little has been discovered about them. According to some sources, the Youghtanund, Manskin, and Pamunkey were sister tribes, perhaps little more than villages with extremely close affiliations. They are listed by several early cartographers as living on 'the Island Field' - Guttins Island. As a tribe, the Youghtanund apparently disappear from maps precisely when the Manskin appear on subsequent maps, just across the river.

Following the conclusion of the Second Anglo-Powhatan War in 1644/1645, the Youghtanund and Manskin identity became lost, as there was now no physical location or remaining peoples to which the names could be attached. The warriors were transported to Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay, home to the Pokomoke tribe. Most subsequent maps (between 1650-1750) show the Manskin near or on Island Field. The Youghtanund are not mentioned on any map that shows the Manskin. Likewise, on later maps which show the Youghtanund, no mention is made of the Manskin. When viewed chronologically, one is forced to conclude that the Youghtanund are assimilated into the Manskin and cross the river to settle at Manskin Lodge, just up river from Pampatike on a slight peninsula called Manskin Neck.

The sub-rulers or sub-kings of the Powhatan confederacy of the Virginia coast and Chesapeake Bay region were known as weroances (the plural form, or weroance, singular), an Algonquian word meaning leader or commander. Operating under the authority of a paramount chief called Powhatan, a weroansqua was the female equivalent. Spellings of both titles vary greatly thanks to the lack of standardised spelling of the time. Each tribe of the Powhatan confederacy was led by its own weroance, and like any titled lord in Europe's nobility he would carry the tribe's name as his title. Pochins, weroance of the Kecoughtan, would be referred to as Weroance Kecoughtan, or simply 'Kecoughtan'. Most foreign writers who came across a weroance did so only on a special occasion, because a foreigner's presence was special, as would be any notable visitor from outside the tribe. However, John Smith noted that there were few differences between weroances and their subjects.

(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 Colonial America to 1763 (Almanacs of American Life), Thomas L Purvis & Richard Balkin, from The Indian Tribes of North America, John R Swanton, 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 Access Genealogy.)

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.

Upon his death his son, the young Chief 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.

c.1550 - 1607

By the end of the sixteenth century, Wahunsenacawh (more accurately known as Wa-Hun-Sen-A-Cawh, 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. The tribes in this region are linked by a common language, Eastern Algonquian.

Map of the Powhatan confederacy AD 1600
The Powhatan confederacy (the pale orange area) was formed towards the end of the sixteenth century, and under its second paramount chief it rapidly expanded to cover territory which is now divided between the states of Delaware and Maryland (click or tap on map to view full sized)

FeaturePowhatan is mamanatowick, the chief of chiefs, and he lives amongst the Pamunkey people, but his power and authority varies from one part of the confederacy to another. Peoples who are distant from his centre at Werowocomoco on the north bank of the York River are more politically independent than those who are located within the core territory. The various tribes pay tribute to him, and he rules by the threat of force but also by marriage alliances and persuasion. Several sub-chiefs, or weroances, govern specific regions or tribes under his authority and in his name. Some of these, as might be expected in any ruling elite, are relatives of his, although inheritance in Powhatan society is matrilineal.

fl 1600s?


Weroance of the Youghtanund.

1607 - 1608

FeaturePomiscatuck is weroance of the Youghtamund, and a master explorer and navigator. He is one of the few Powhatan to travel beyond the Monacan lands. Captain John Smith encounters the Powhatan and catalogues the confederacy's many sub-tribes. He gives a count of Indian warriors as thirty Youghtanund, thirty Mattaponi, and three hundred Pamunkey. He says there are seven hundred under Opechancanough, brother of Wa-Hun-Sen-A-Cawh and weroance of the Pamunkey. Pedro de Zuniga's map of villages in 1608 shows the Manskin next to the Youghtanund on the south bank of Totopotamoi Creek (which de Zuniga labels 'Manskint'), upstream and across from Cattytaco (Catachiptico).

1610 - 1618

In 1610 the Susquehannock attack the Patawomeck villages in northern Virginia despite additional protection provided by the settlements of the British Colonies. Skirmishes between the English and natives for food also occur during an exceptionally dry spell of weather that lasts for seven years (according to dendrochronological samples taken for the region). This forms part of the First Anglo-Powhatan War (1609-1614).

1622 - 1624

The Province of Maine (the far north-eastern corner of the modern USA) is founded in 1622, its name perhaps originating from the French province of the same name in New France. But it is not all plain sailing for the settlers of the British Colonies. 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 which leaves a quarter of the colony's population dead (347 people, although the Patawomeck refuse to take part in the massace). They are led in this Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622-1644) by Opechancanough, now himself paramount chieftain of the Powhatan confederacy.

1644 - 1646

Following the death of Wa-Hun-Sen-A-Cawh in 1618, the Youghtanund are absorbed into the Manskin and then both Manskin and Pamunkey move their warriors to the Island Field (Guttin Isle) under Opechancanough's leadership. John Smith's 1607 figure of seven hundred warriors under Opechancanough may have been an exaggeration, as the only way he could have been anywhere near accurate would have been if these warriors had been Pamunkey. This warrior group are temporarily tagged as Manskin on maps because this is the tribe in closest proximity.

Jamestown Massacre of 1622
This portrayal of the surprise attack on the Jamestown Settlement and Citie of Henricus in 1622 show natives of the Powhatan confederacy massacring colonists who have been caught entirely unawares, carrying out the normal business of the day

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. This bookends the Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622-1644). The result is that the English completely crush the Powhatan and take control of eastern Virginia. The Powhatan survivors leave Virginia. Being distracted by this war the colonists have little time to concern themselves with the Susquehannock. Unchallenged, the Susquehannock extend their dominion south from the Susquehanna River to the Potomac River where they claim the area between these two points as hunting territory. They do not ask permission of those tribes that live in this area.

Menmend (seemingly not a location or tribe but possibly a weroance?) on the Island Field had been attacked and captured in 1645 during the last stages of the war. This had been in retaliation for a massacre of the previous year. Following this the Youghtanund and Manskin identity becomes lost, as there is now no physical location or remaining peoples to which the names can be attached. The warriors have been transported to Tangier Island in Chesapeake Bay, home to the Pokomoke tribe.

Most subsequent maps (between 1650-1750) still show the Manskin near or on Island Field. The Youghtanund are not mentioned on any map that shows the Manskin. Likewise, on later maps which show the Youghtanund, no mention is made of the Manskin. When viewed chronologically, one is forced to conclude that the Youghtanund are assimilated into the Manskin and cross the river to settle at Manskin Lodge, just up river from Pampatike on a slight peninsula called Manskin Neck.


The census of 1669 gives twenty Mattaponi and only fifty Pamunkey. A later confusion between Manskin and Manakin meant that the former name is systematically removed from all text (the Manakin (possibly Manokin?) are a Nanticoke band living in Manakin Town, in what becomes Princess Anne in Somerset County).


By this time there are only a handful of tiny Algonquian-speaking tribes remaining in the Virginia area, and one Iroquoian group. By the end of the century only four Algonquin reservations (Gingaskin, Mattaponi, Nansemond, and Pamunkey) and an Iroquoian one (Nottoway) remain. Some of the tribes that lose their reservations continue living together nearby, becoming ancestors of the modern 'citizen' tribes (especially the Chickahominy, Upper Mattaponi, and Rappahannock). The others have generally dispersed into the west and into other tribes. In the Piedmont, the tribes of the Sioux withdraw southwards, sometimes returning and then leaving again. Non-Indians pour freely into their territory.

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


Many former member tribes of the Powhatan confederacy are extinct by 1722, having drifted away or merged with other remnant groups. The Rappahannock had already lost their reservation shortly after 1700, while the Chickahominy had lost theirs in 1718. These groups and the Nansemond fade from public view in the USA. Only the Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and an Eastern Shore group keep reservations, although their land constantly shrinks in size. The Manskin are not mentioned in any records after 1750, having become extinct.

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