THE DISMISSED FOUNDER
Truth & Reconciliation
Above: An idealized image of Wahunsenacawh, the Second Powhatan,
a Founding Father and originator of Capitol Hill’s deliberative body from
which we derived the Powhatan Algonquian word and process, a caucus.
six-footer in his 60s, publicly known as Powhatan, in
spite of his fame, is an American enigma. This most dismissed
Amerindian statesman shares the anonymity awarded to today’s Native
American populations and their histories. Ironically, one of his many children
from over 100 ceremonial wives, a minor daughter, Pocahontas, is better
From North Carolina northward, Powhatan II's territory spanned large areas within the state of eastern Virginia. This expansion was less in southern Maryland and included at least the North and Southwest quadrants of District of Columbia, part of his ever expanding northern border on the Cohonkarutan or Potomac River. Yet, some writers today have belatedly sought to either diminish his influence over his domain or include petty kingdoms within his unique political category. His negotiating prowess among highly individualistic Native personas was misunderstood by the English who equated him with a European despot. Inter-ethnic marriage (via warfare?) and trade came with favored status. Pearls, mostly worn by the nobility, came from northern Iroquoian mussels while prized trade copper came from Iroquoians to the South. Siouans to the Piedmont west, were not similarly regarded by the Powhatans. Expansionist Iroquoian and Siouan competition was the norm that had spanned eons. The later demise of the Anacostia River’s Nacotchtank of DC after English contact is evidence of a more violent approach to acquiring trade goods. In this instance it was the highly prized Nochotank beaver pelts which became the envy of English (Jamestown), Algonquian (Patawomeck) and Iroquoian (Susquehannock) speakers.
Truth: Correcting and amending America’s history about its overlooked Amerindian founder.
Reconciliation: Reconcile America’s stepchild treatment towards its indigenous people
In National Native Heritage Month, our city in the District of Columbia needs a South African styled Truth & Reconciliation with its Indigenous descendants.
Wahunsenachaw’s territorial paramountcy
began in Tidewater
The vast Powhatan territorial influence
began at Tsenacomoco in a territory also called Attan Akamik, meaning “Our
Fertile Country.” Wahunsenacawh is popularly written about by his title,
“Powhatan” or “Dreamer.” He therefore, was Powhatan the Second (Powhatan II)
whose Paramountcy’s domain included five American historical capitals. First
was Tsenacocomoco, second was
Are our children adequately informed about the Amerindian Hemisphere in which they live?
My answer is, NO.
My experiences in the American educational system from the elementary to the
postgraduate levels have formed my view of its collective ignorance about our
hemisphere’s Amerindian histories and locale. Married for 54 years, right out of
Popular American history is
unabashedly Eurocentric. Except for the Egyptian styled obelisk, called
citizens, therefore, have scant information on the Amerindian core
upon which the foundation of the American culture was built. For example,
the Iroquoian “Great Laws of Peace,” a home-grown source
of the US Constitution, formed the foundation of
the Iroquoian Confederation’s influence on the US
Constitution through Benjamin Franklin and other
contributors from the 13 colonies, there was the
The Powhatans were the
"most complex societies, from a sociological perspective, then extant in
"In the past three decades, anthropologists and historians have become more critical of early colonial sources and less willing to follow their own predecessors’ naming practices without having very good reason to do so” (Rountree).
For the past 401 years, except for the
Powhatan Paramountcy, no other Native American political group in the
Metropolitan DC Area has captured the attention of historians. The importance
of this Native political force is evidenced by the many publications, treatise,
movies, internet & media coverage, locales, personalities, and wars
associated with the Powhatans. No other Amerindian polities in our DC
Metropolitan area have been so studied.
Not so, for her father who was the person responsible for allowing the eventual creation of the
least the three countries officially have a Land
Acknowledgement program. In the
DC based Land Acknowledgement video with Rose Powhatan (Pamunkey/Tauxenent)
done for the Sankofa Foundation’s commemoration of
the 55th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.
Go to YouTube if video doesn’t pay https://youtu.be/lbntMSQXGiE
Where did he get his political savvy? For these answers, one must look at what was reported by his people, his title and at least a physical cultural retention, funerary mound-building for Wahunsenacawh on the Pamunkey Reservation. Was his male lineage, as some believe, from as far south as the Maya whom we know were highly sophisticated pyramid builders as well as avid traders and long distant travelers? The 5,000-year Mound Builders of Ohio with temples on top, is a Mesoamerican creation similar to the spread of corn, which traveled along a similar northern route. Was his father's watercraft carried up from the south by a hurricane in a similar way that early North American dugout and skin canoes ended up on African and European (from Roman times) shores via Atlantic storms? Let us entertain this notion here.
Native American politics has continued to be quite involved and sometimes
contentious. This rewriting trend of traditional boundaries, is also seen
Woodlands Algonquian leader, Wahunsenachaw, in 1607 claimed at least thirty-odd
nations/tribes in his domain. This assertion was backed up by the identified
nations when later contacted by the English, especially in John Smith’s
account. Added to this easy intertribal access was the geographic layout of the
landscape, dotted by many streams and well travelled rivers which were not
necessarily tribal borders but highways.
The Amerindians of the Powhatan Paramountcy were surrounded by petty chiefdoms. The cohesive group called Powhatans held sway over an extensive 18,700 to 19,259 square mile territory from North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, to Washington, DC, which included over 32-34 Algonquian nations. Politically labeled as a kingdom by the English royalists, called a “chiefdom" by detractors, the werowance and weroansqua (male and female leaders) governed by a democratic deliberative styled caucus.
Wahunsenacawh was the son of the
first Powhatan, an arriving “dreamer” who began
Whatever is believed, the facts of our
Amerindian foundation is an indisputable historical reality not widely
promoted. This overlooked segment of our nation's history perpetuates the
unrealistic myth of a European based entitlement which is daily played out in
our National discourse.