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"Paramount" chiefs and "Sub-chiefs" of Powhatan Empire
Posted by: Vickie Elam White (ID *****3184) Date: January 23, 2006 at 13:03:01
  of 1081

OK, I'm really trying to understand this, so please bear with me!

I read the following:

"Historical accounts note several methods by which Powhatan [Wahunsonacock] consolidated his hold over his dominions. Of particular significance was his use of a three-tiered government. Below the paramount chief were the district chiefs, and below them were chiefs of individual villages."

Source: Helen C. Rountree and E. Randolph Turner III, "On the Fringe of the Southeast: The Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom in Virginia", publ. in __ The Forgotten Centuries: Indians and Europeans in the American South 1521-1704 __, ed. by C. Hudson and C. Tesser (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994), pg. 364

So, my question concerns Openchancanough and his successors. It seems as if some accounts I read say that his successors became "paramount" chiefs of the Empire when they were actually successors to the sub-chieftan positions.

I've read that when Jamestown was founded, Openchancanough was "chief" of the Pamunkey and thus a sub-chief under his brother Powhatan. Then he succeeded his brother Opitchipan to become "paramount" chief of the Empire himself in 1618-1619. It appears as if that opened up a spot for a new "chief" of the Pamunkey. Is that where Nectowance comes in? But, since he signed the 1646 treaty with the English, it seems as though Nectowance may have been a "paramount" chief of the Empire rather than a sub-chief. So, if Nectowance moved up from sub-chief to "paramount" chief, then he must have been either a uterine-brother of Openchancanough (and thus Powhatan) or the son of Openchancanough's (and Powhatan's) uterine-sister. Right?

If I'm right so far, I'll continue.

I've read differing accounts about who was the "chief" of the Pamunkey after Nectowance - either after his "promotion" to "paramount" chief in 1644 or after his death ca 1649. Some say Totopotomoi succeeded Nectowance but some say his wife Cockacoeske (known as "Queen Betty") did. Some say Totopotomoi succeeded first, then after his death in 1656, she succeeded Totopotomoi.

Then, there was Cockacoeske's long reign until her death ca 1686, after which her niece "Queen Anne" succeeded her. By this time, the Empire was no more and the title was simple "chief" of the Pamunkey, correct?

If the above makes sense, and someone can correct any mistakes, then maybe I can figure out some bloodlines. That is, assuming the rules for matrilineal descent for the "paramount" chief position applied also to the "sub-chief" positions. Did it?

I appreciate any and all help!



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