Powhatan, b.

Powhatan (b. Wahunsonacock)

(?1550–1618) Pamunkey Powhatan chief; born near present-day Richmond, Va. He inherited the chieftainship of the so-called Powhatan Confederacy from his father, but he greatly extended his "empire" until, by the arrival of the English (1607), it was an alliance of roughly 30 tribes, over 100 villages, or 9,000 people. The first Native American leader known to have contact with English settlers in North America, he was reputed to be ruthless in dealing with his fellow Indians, and in the early years of the English in Virginia, he proved to be inhospitable if not downright hostile. He was the chief, who, according to John Smith's account, was about to execute John Smith until his daughter Pocahontas interceded. After Pocahontas married the English planter John Rolfe in 1614, Powhatan made peace with the colonists, but soon after his death both the peace and his Confederacy disintegrated.