From The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles (1624), from The Second Book


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Of the naturall Inhabitants of VIRGINIA.

The numbers

Seaven hundred men were the most were seene together when they thought to haue surprised Captaine Smith. A description of the people. The Barbers.

The constitution.

The disposition.

The possessions.

Their attire.

Their ornaments.


The land is not populous, for the men be few; their far greater number is of women and children. Within 60 myles of Iames Towne, there are about some 5000 people, but of able men it for their warres scarce 1500. To nourish so many together they haue yet no meanes, because they make so small a benefit of their land, be it never so fertile. Six or seauen hundred haue beene the most hath beene seene together, when they gathered themselues to haue surprised mee at Pamavnkee, having but fifteene to withstand the worst of their fury. As small as the proportion of ground that hath yet beene discovered is in comparison of that yet vnknowne: the people differ very much in stature, especially in language, as before is expressed. Some being very great as the Sasquesahanicks; others very little, as the Wighcocomocaes: but generally tall and straight, of a comely proportion, and of a colour browne when they are of any age, but they are borne white. Their hayre is generally blacke, but few haue any beards. The men weare halfe their beards shaven, the other halfe long; for Barbers they vse their women, who with two shels will grate away the hayre, of any fashion they please. The women are cut in many fashions, agreeable to their yeares, but ever some part remaineth long. They are very strong, of an able body and full of agilitie, able to endure to lie in the woods vnder a tree by the fire, in the worst of winter, or in the weedes and grasse, in Ambuscado in the Sommer. They are inconstant in every thing, but what feare constraineth them to keepe. Craftie, timerous, quicke of apprehension, and very ingenuous. Some are of disposition fearefull, some bold, most cautelous, all Savage. Generally covetous of Copper, Beads, and such like trash. They are soone moued to anger, and so malicious, that they seldome forget an iniury: they seldome steale one from another, least their coniurers should reveale it, and so they be pursued and punished. That they are thus feared is certaine, but that any can reueale their offences by coniuration I am doubtfull. Their women are carefull not to be suspected of dishonestie without the leaue of their husoands. Each houshold knoweth their owne lands, and gardens, and most liue of their owne labours. For their apparell, they are sometime covered with the skinnes of wilde beasts, which in Winter are dressed with the hayre, but in Sommer without. The better sort vse large mantels of Deare skins, not much differing in fashion from the Irish mantels. Some imbrodered with white beads, some with Copper, other painted after their manner. But the common sort haue scarce to cover their nakednesse, but with grasse, the leaues of trees, or such like. We haue seene some vse mantels made of Turky feathers, so prettily wrought & woven with threads that nothing could be discerned but the feathers. That was exceeding warme and very handsome. But the women are alwayes covered about their middles with a skin, and very shamefast to be seene bare. They adorne themselues most with copper beads and paintings. Their women, some haue their legs, hands, breasts and face cunningly imbrodered with divers workes, as beasts, serpents, artificially wrought into their flesh with blacke spots. In each eare commonly they haue 3 great holes, where at they hang chaines, bracelets, or copper. Some of their men weare in those holes, a small greene and yellow coloured snake, neare halfe a yard in length, which crawling and lapping her selfe about his necke oftentimes familiarly would kisse his lips. Others weare a dead Rat tyed by the taile. Some on their heads weare the wing of a bird, or some large feather with a Rattell. Those Rattels are somewhat like the chape of a Rapier, but lesse, which they take from the taile of a snake. Many haue the whole skinne of a Hawke or some strange foule, stuffed with the wings abroad. Others a broad peece of Copper, and some the hand of their enemy dryed. Their heads and shoulders are painted red with the roote Pocone brayed to powder, mixed with oyle, this they hold in sommer to preserue them from the heate, and in winter from the cold. Many other formes of paintings they vse, but he is the most gallant that is the most monstrous to behold.


Their buildings.


Their buildings and habitations are for the most part by the rivers, or not farre distant from some fresh spring. Their houses are built like our Arbors, of small young springs bowed and tyed, and so close covered with Mats, or the barkes of trees very handsomely, that notwithstanding either winde, raine, or weather, they are as warme as stooues, but very smoaky, yet at the toppe of the house there is a hole made for the smoake to goe into right over the fire.


Their lodgings.

Their gardens


Against the fire they lie on little hurdles of Reeds covered with a Mat, borne from the ground a foote and more by a hurdle of wood. On these round about the house they lie heads and points one by th’other against the fire, some covered with Mats, some with skins, and some starke naked lie on the ground, from 6 to 20 in a house. Their houses are in the midst of their fields or gardens, which are small plots of ground. Some 20 acres, some 40. some 100. some 200. some more, some lesse. In some places from 2 to 50 of those houses together, or but a little separated by groues of trees. Neare their habitations is little small wood or old trees on the ground by reason of their burning of them for fire. So that a man may gallop a horse amongst these woods any way, but where the creekes or Rivers shall hinder.


How they vse their children.


Men, women, and children haue their severall names according to the severall humor of their Parents. Their women (they say) are easily delivered of childe, yet doe they loue children very dearely. To make them hardie, in the coldest mornings they them wash in the rivers, and by painting and oyntments so tanne their skinnes, that after a yeare or two, no weather will hurt them.


The industrie of their women.


The men bestow their times in fishing, hunting, warres, and such man-like exercises, scorning to be seene in any woman-like exercise, which is the cause that the women be very painefull, and the men often idle. The women and children doe the rest of the worke. They make mats, baskets, pots, morters, pound their corne, make their bread, prepare their victuals, plant their corne, gather their corne, beare all kind of burdens, and such like.


How they strike fire.

The order of dyet.


Their fire they kindle presently by chafing a dry pointed sticke in a hole of a little square peece of wood, that firing it selfe, will so fire mosse, leaues, or any such like dry thing, that will quickly burne. In March and Aprill they liue much vpon their fishing wires; and feed on fish, Turkies, and Squirrels. In May and Iune they plant their fields, and liue most of Acornes, Walnuts, and fish. But to amend their dyet, some disperse themselues in small companies, and liue vpon fish, beasts, crabs, oysters, land Tortoises, strawberries, mulberries, and such like. In Iune, Iuly, and August, they feed vpon the rootes of Tocknough berries, fish, and greene wheat. It is strange to see how their bodies alter with their dyet, even as the deere & wilde beasts they seeme fat and leane, strong and weake. Powhatan their great King, and some others that are provident, rost their fish and flesh vpon hurdles as before is expressed, and keepe it till scarce times.


How they make their bowes and arrowes.

Their kniues.


For fishing, hunting, and warres they vse much their bow and arrowes. They bring their bowes to the forme of ours by the scraping of a shell. Their arrowes are made some of straight young sprigs, which they head with bone, some 2 or 3 ynches long. These they vse to shoot at Squirrels on trees Another sort of arrowes they vse made of Reeds. These are peeced with wood, headed with splinters of christall, or some sharpe stone, the spurres of a Turkey, or the bill of some bird. For his knife he hath the splinter of a Reed to cut his feathers in forme. With this knife also, he will ioynt a Deere, or any beast, shape his shooes, buskins, mantels, &c. To make the noch of his arrow he hath the tooth of a Beaver, set in a sticke, wherewith he grateth it by degrees. His arrow head he quickly maketh with a little bone, which he ever weareth at his bracert, of any splint of a stone, or glasse in the forme of a heart, and these they glew to the end of their arrowes. With the sinewes of Deere, and the tops of Deeres hornes boyled to a ielly, they make a glew that will not dissolue in cold water.


Their Targets and Swords.


For their warres also they vse Targets that are round and made of the barkes of trees, and a sword of wood at their backes, but oftentimes they vse for swords the horne of a Deere put through a peece of wood in forme of a Pickaxe. Some a long stone sharpned at both ends, vsed in the same manner. This they were wont to vse also for hatchets, but now by trucking they haue plentie of the same forme of yron. And those are their chiefe instruments and armes.


Their Boats.

How they spin.

Their fish-hookes.


Their fishing is much in Boats. These they make of one tree by burning and scratching away the coales with stones and shels, till they haue made it in forme of a Trough. Some of them are an elne deepe, and fortie or fiftie foote in length, and some will beare 40 men, but the most ordinary are smaller, and will beare 10, 20, or 30. according to their bignesse. In stead of Oares, they vse Paddles and stickes, with which they will row faster then our Barges. Betwixt their hands and thighes, their women vse to spin, the barkes of trees, Deere sinewes, or a kind of grasse they call Pemmenaw, of these they make a thread very even and readily. This thread serveth for many vses. As about their housing, apparell, as also they make nets for fishing, for the quantitie as formally braded as ours. They make also with it lines for angles. Their hookes are either a bone grated as they noch their arrowes in the forme of a crooked pinne or fish-hooke, or of the splinter of a bone tyed to the clift of a little sticke, and with the end of the line, they tie on the bait. They vse also long arrowes tyed in a line, where with they shoote at fish in the rivers. But they of Accewmack vse staues like vnto Iauelins headed with bone. With these they dart fish swimming in the water. They haue also many artificiall wires, in which they get abundance of fish.


How they hunt.


In their hunting and fishing they take extreame paines; yet it being their ordinary exercise from their infancy, they esteeme it a pleasure and are very proud to be expert therein. And by their continuall ranging, and travell, they know all the advantages and places most frequented with Deere, Beasts, Fish, Foule, Roots, and Berries. At their huntings they leaue their habitations, and reduce themselues into companies, as the Tartars doe, and goe to the most desert places with their families, where they spend their time in hunting and fowling vp towards the mountaines, by the heads of their rivers, where there is plentie of game. For betwixt the rivers the grounds are so narrowe, that little commeth here which they devoure not. It is a marvell they can so directly passe these deserts, some 3 or 4 dayes iourney without habitation. Their hunting houses are like vnto Arbours covered with Mats. These their women beare after them, with Corne, Acornes, Morters, and all bag and baggage they vse. When they come to the place of exercise, every man doth his best to shew his dexteritie, for by their excelling in those qualities, they get their wiues. Fortie yards will they shoot levell, or very neare the marke, and 120 is their best at Random. At their huntings in the deserts they are commonly two or three hundred together. Having found the Deere, they environ them with many fires, & betwixt the fires they place themselues. And some take their stands in the midsts. The Deere being thus feared by the fires, and their voyces, they chase them so long within that circle, that many times they kill 6, 8, 10, or 15 at a hunting. They vse also to driue them into some narrow poynt of land, when they find that advantage; and so force them into the river, where with their boats they haue Ambuscadoes to kill them. When they haue shot a Deere by land, they follow him like bloud-hounds by the bloud, and straine, and oftentimes so take them. Hares, Partridges, Turkies, or Egges, fat or leane, young or old, they devoure all they can catch in their power. In one of these huntings they found me in the discovery of the head of the river of Chickahamania, where they slew my men, and tooke me prisoner in a Bogmire, where I saw those exercises, and gathered these Observations.


One Salvage hunting alone.


One Salvage hunting alone, vseth the skinne of a Deere slit on the one side, and so put on his arme, through the neck, so that his hand comes to the head which is stuffed, and the hornes, head, eyes, eares, and every part as artificially counterfeited as they can devise. Thus shrowding his body in the skinne by stalking, he approacheth the Deere, creeping on the ground from one tree to another. If the Deere chance to find fault, or stand at gaze, he turneth the head with his hand to his best advantage to seeme like a Deere, also gazing and licking himselfe. So watching his best advantage to approach, having shot him, he chaseth him by his bloud and straine till he get him.


Their Consultations.

Their enemies.


Their offer of subiection.


When they intend any warres, the Werowances vsually haue the advice of their their Priests and Coniurers, and their allies, and ancient friends, but chiefely the Priests determine their resolution. Every Werowance, or some lustie fellow, they appoint Captaine over every nation. They seldome make warre for lands or goods, but for women and children, and principally for revenge. They haue many enemies, namely, all their westernly Countries beyond the mountaines, and the heads of the rivers. Vpon the head of the Powhatans are the Monacans, whose chiefe habitation is at Rasauweak, vnto whom the Mowhemenchughes, the Massinnacacks, the Monahassanughs, the Monasickapanoughs, and other nations pay tributes. Vpon the head of the river of Toppahanock is a people called Mannahoacks. To these are contributers the Tauxanias, the Shackacomas, the Ontponeas, the Tegninateos, the Whonkenteaes, the Stegarakes, the Hassinnungaes, and divers others, all confederates with the Monacans, though many different in language, and be very barbarous, liuing for the most part of wild beasts and fruits. Beyond the mountaines from whence is the head of the river Patawomeke, the Salvages report inhabit their most mortall enemies, the Massawomckes, vpon a great salt water, which by all likelihood is either some part of Cannada, some great lake, or some inlet of some sea that falleth into the South sea. These Massawomekes are a great nation and very populous. For the heads of all those rivers, especially the Pattawomekes, the Pautuxuntes, the Sasquesahanocks, the Tockwoughes are continually tormented by them: of whose crueltie, they generally complained, and very importunate they were with me, and my company to free them from these tormentors. To this purpose they offered food, conduct, assistance, and continuall subiection. Which I concluded to effect. But the councell then present emulating my successe, would not thinke it fit to spare me fortie men to be hazzarded in those vnknowne regions, having passed (as before was spoken of) but with 12, and so was lost that opportunitie. Seaven boats full of these Massawomekes wee encountred at the head of the Bay; whose Targets, Baskets, Swords, Tobaccopipes, Platters, Bowes, and Arrowes, and every thing shewed, they much exceeded them of our parts, and their dexteritie in their small boats, made of the barkes of trees, sowed with barke and well luted with gumme, argueth that they are seated vpon some great water.


Against all these enemies the Powhatans are constrained sometimes to fight. Their chiefe attempts are by Stratagems, trecheries, or surprisals. Yet the Werowances women and children they put not to death, but keepe them Captiues. They haue a method in warre, and for our pleasures they shewed it vs, and it was in this manner performed at Mattapanient.


Their manner of Battell.


Having painted and disguised themselues in the fiercest manner they could devise. They divided themselues into two Companies, neare a hundred in a company. The one company called Monacans, the other Powhatans. Either army had their Captaine. These as enemies tooke their stands a musket shot one from another; ranked themselues 15 a breast, and each ranke from another 4 or 5 yards, not in fyle, but in the opening betwixt their fyles. So the Reare could shoot as conveniently as the Front. Having thus pitched the fields: from either part went a messenger with these conditions, that whosoever were vanquished, such as escape vpon their submission in two dayes after should liue, but their wiues and children should be prize for the Conquerours. The messengers were no sooner returned, but they approached in their orders; On each flanke a Serieant, and in the Reare an Officer for Lieutenant, all duly keeping their orders, yet leaping and singing after their accustomed tune, which they onely vse in Warres. Vpon the first flight of arrowes they gaue such horrible shouts and screeches, as so many infernall hell hounds could not haue made them more terrible. When they had spent their arrowes, they ioyned together prettily, charging and retyring, every ranke seconding other. As they got advantage they catched their enemies by the hayre of the head, and downe he came that was taken. His enemy with his wooden sword seemed to beat out his braines, and still they crept to the Reare, to maintaine the skirmish. The Monacans decreasing, the Powhatans charged them in the forme of a halfe Moone; they vnwilling to be inclosed, fled all in a troope to their Ambuscadoes, on whom they led them very cunningly. The Monacans disperse themselues among the fresh men, wherevpon the Powhatans retired, with all speed to their seconds; which the Monacans seeing, tooke that advantage to retire againe to their owne battell, and so each returned to their owne quarter. All their actions, voyces, and gestures, both in charging and retiring were so strained to the height of their qualitie and nature, that the strangenesse thereof made it seeme very delightfull.


Their Musicke.

Their entertainement.


For their Musicke they vse a thicke Cane, on which they pipe as on a Recorder. For their warres they haue a great deepe platter of wood. They cover the mouth thereof with a skin, at each corner they tie a walnut, which meeting on the backside neere the bottome, with a small rope they twitch them together till it be so tought and stiffe, that they may beat vpon it as vpon a drumme. But their chiefe instruments are Rattles made of small gourds, or Pumpeons shels. Of these they haue Base, Tenor, Countertenor, Meane, and Treble. These mingled with their voyces sometimes twenty or thirtie together, make such a terrible noise as would rather affright, then delight any man. If any great commander arriue at the habitation of a Werowance, they spread a Mat as the Turkes doe a Carpet for him to sit vpon. Vpon another right opposite they sit themselues. Then doe all with a tunable voice of shouting bid him welcome. After this doe two or more of their chiefest men make an Oration, testifying their loue. Which they doe with such vehemency, and so great passions, that they sweat till they drop, and are so out of breath they can scarce speake. So that a man would take them to be exceeding angry, or stark mad. Such victuall as they haue, they spend freely, and at night where his lodging is appointed, they set a woman fresh painted red with Pocones and oyle, to be his bed-fellow.


Their trade.


Their manner of trading is for copper, beads, and such like, for which they giue such commodities as they haue, as skins, foule, fish, flesh, and their Country Corne. But their victualls are their chiefest riches.


Their Phisicke.

Their Chirurgery.

Their charms to cure.


Every spring they make themselues sicke with drinking the iuyce of a roote they call Wighsacan, and water; whereof they powre so great a quantitie, that it purgeth them in a very violent manner; so that in three or foure dayes after, they scarce recover their former health. Sometimes they are troubled with dropsies, swellings, aches, and such like diseases; for cure whereof they build a Stoue in the forme of a Doue-house with mats, so close that a few coales therein covered with a pot, will make the patient sweat extreamely. For swellings also they vse small peeces of touchwood, in the forme of cloues, which pricking on the griefe they burne close to the flesh, and from thence draw the corruption with their mouth. With this roote Wighsacan they ordinarily heale greene wounds. But to scarrifie a swelling, or make incision, their best instruments are some splinted stone. Old vlcers, or putrified hurts are seldome seene cured amongst them. They haue many professed Phisicians, who with their charmes and Rattles, with an infernall rout of words and actions, will seeme to sucke their inward griefe from their navels, or their grieued places; but of our Chirurgians they were so conceited, that they beleeued any Plaister would heale any hurt.



But’tis not alwayes in Phisicians skill,

To heale the Patient that is sicke and ill:

For sometimes sicknesse on the Patients part,

Proues stronger farre then all Phisicians art.


Of their Religion.

Their God.

How they bury their Kings


THere is yet in Virginia no place discovered to be so Savage, in which they haue not a Religion, Deere, and Bow, and Arrowes. All things that are able to doe them hurt beyond their prevention, they adore with their kinde of divine worship; as the fire, water, lightning, thunder, our Ordnance, peeces, horses, &c. But their chiefe God they worship is the Devill. Him they call Okee, and serue him more of feare then loue. They say they haue conference with him, and fashion themselues as neare to his shape as they can imagine. In their Temples they haue his image euill favouredly carved, and then painted and adorned with chaines of copper, and beads, and covered with a skin, in such manner as the deformitie may well suit with such a God. By him is commonly the sepulcher of their Kings. Their bodies are first bowelled, then dried vpon hurdles till they be very dry, and so about the most of their ioynts and necke they hang bracelets, or chaines of copper, pearle, and such like, as they vse to weare, their inwards they stuffe with copper beads, hatchets, and such trash. Then lappe they them very carefully in white skins, and so rowle them in mats for their winding sheets. And in the Tombe which is an arch made of mats, they lay them orderly. What remaineth of this kinde of wealth their Kings haue, they set at their feet in baskets. These Temples and bodies are kept by their Priests.


Their ordinary burials.


For their ordinary burials, they dig a deepe hole in the earth with sharpe stakes, and the corpse being lapped in skins and mats with their iewels, they lay them vpon stickes in the ground, and so cover them with earth. The buriall ended, the women being painted all their faces with blacke cole and oyle, doe sit twenty-foure houres in the houses mourning and lamenting by turnes, with such yelling and howling, as may expresse their great passions.


Their Temples.


In every Territory of a Werowance is a Temple and a Priest, two or three or more. Their principall Temple or place of superstition is at Vttamussack, at Pamavnkee, neare vnto which is a house, Temple, or place of Powhatans.


Vpon the top of certaine red sandy hils in the woods, there are three great houses filled with images of their Kings, and Devils, and Tombes of their Predecessors. Those houses are neare sixtie foot in length built arbour-wise, after their building. This place they count so holy as that but the Priests & Kings dare come into them; nor the Salvages dare not goe vp the river in boats by it, but they solemnly cast some peece of copper, white beads, or Pocones into the river, for feare their Okee should be offended and revenged of them.



Thus, Feare was the first their Gods begot;

Till feare began, their Gods were not.


Their ornaments for their Priests.


In this place commonly are resident seauen Priests. The chiefe differed from the rest in his ornaments, but inferior Priests could hardly be knowne from the common people, but that they had not so many holes in their eares to hang their iewels at. The ornaments of the chiefe Priest were certaine attires for his head made thus. They tooke a dosen, or 16, or more snakes skins and stuffed them with mosse, and of Weesels and other Vermines skins a good many. All these they tie by their tailes, so as all their tailes meete in the toppe of their head like a great Tassell. Round about this Tassell is as it were a crowne of feathers, the skins hang round about his head, necke, and shoulders, and in a manner cover his face. The faces of all their Priests are painted as vgly as they can devise, in their hands they had every one his Rattle, some base, some smaller. Their devotion was most in songs, which the chiefe Priest beginneth and the rest followed him, sometimes he maketh invocations with broken sentences by starts and strange passions, and at every pause, the rest giue a short groane.


Thus seeke they in deepe foolishnesse,

To climbe the height of happinesse.

The times of solemnities.


It could not be perceiued that they keepe any day as more holy then other; But onely in some great distresse of want, feare of enemies, times of triumph and gathering together their fruits, the whole Country of men, women, and children come together to solemnities. The manner of their devotion is, sometimes to make a great fire, in the house or fields, and all to sing and dance about it with Rattles and shouts together, foure or fiue houres. Sometimes they set a man in the midst, and about him they dance and sing, he all the while clapping his hands, as if he would keepe time, and after their songs and dauncings ended they goe to heir Feasts.



Through God begetting feare,

Mans blinded minde did reare

A hell-god to the ghosts;

A heaven-god to the hoasts;

Yea God vnto the Seas:

Feare did create all these.


Their coniurations. Their Altars.


They haue also divers coniurations, one they made when I was their prisoner; of which hereafter you shall reade at large.


Sacrifices to the water.


They haue also certaine Altar stones they call Parocorances, but these stand from their Temples, some by their houses, others in the woods and wildernesses, where they haue had any extraordinary accident, or incounter. And as you travell, at those stones they will tell you the cause why they were there erected, which from age to age they instruct their children, as their best records of antiquities. Vpon these they offer bloud, Deere suet, and Tobacco. This they doe when they returne from the Warres, from hunting, and vpon many other occasions. They haue also another superstition that they vse in stormes, when the waters are rough in the Rivers and Sea coasts. Their Coniurers runne to the water sides, or passing in their boats, after many hellish outcryes and invocations, they cast Tobacco, Copper, Pocones, or such trash into the water, to pacifie that God whom they thinke to be very angry in those stormes. Before their dinners and suppers the better sort will take the first bit, and cast it in the fire, which is all the grace they are knowne to vse.


Their solemn Sacrifices of children, which they call Black-boyes.


Those Black-boyes are made so mad with a kind of drinke, that they will doe any mischiefe, at the command of their Keepers.

In some part of the Country they haue yearely a sacrifice of children. Such a one was at Quiyoughcohanock some ten myles from Iames Towne, and thus performed. Fifteene of the properest young boyes, betweene ten and fifteene yeares of age they painted white. Having brought them forth, the people spent the forenoone in dancing and singing about them with Rattles. In the afternoone they put those children to the roote of a tree. By them all the men stood in a guard, every one having a Bastinado in his hand, made of reeds bound together. This made a lane betweene them all along, through which there were appointed fiue young men to fetch these children: so every one of the fiue went through the guard to fetch a childe each after other by turnes, the guard fiercely beating them with their Bastinadoes, and they patiently enduring and receiuing all defending the children with their naked bodies from the vnmercifull blowes, that pay them soundly, though the children escape. All this while the women weepe and cry out very passionately, prouiding mats, skins, mosse, and dry wood, as things fitting their childrens funerals. After the children were thus passed the guard, the guard tore down the trees, branches & boughs, with such violence that they rent the body, and made wreaths for their heads, or bedecked their hayre with the leaues. What els was done with the children, was not seene, but they were all cast on a heape, in a valley as dead, where they made a great feast for all the company. The Werowance being demanded the meaning of this sacrifice, answered that the children were not all dead, but that the Okee or Divell did sucke the bloud from their left breast, who chanced to be his by lot, till they were dead, but the rest were kept in the wildernesse by the young men till nine moneths were expired, during which time they must not converse with any, and of these were made their Priests and Coniurers. This sacrifice they held to be so necessary, that if they should omit it, their Okee or Devill, and all their other Quiyoughcosughes, which are their other Gods, would let them haue no Deere, Turkies, Corne, nor fish, and yet besides, he would make a great slaughter amongst them.


Their resurrection.


They thinke that their Werowances and Priests which they also esteeme Quiyoughcosughes, when they are dead, doe goe beyond the mountaines towards the setting of the sunne, and ever remaine there in forme of their Okee, with their heads painted with oyle and Pocones, finely trimmed with feathers, and shall haue beads, hatchets, copper, and Tobacco, doing nothing but dance and sing, with all their Predecessors. But the common people they suppose shall not liue after death, but rot in their graues like dead dogs.


To divert them from this blind Idolatry, we did our best endevours, chiefly with the Werowance of Quiyoughcohanock, whose devotion, apprehension, and good disposition, much exceeded any in those Countries, with whom although we could not as yet prevaile, to forsake his false Gods, yet this he did beleeue that our God as much exceeded theirs, as our Gunnes did their Bowes & Arrowes, and many times did send to me to Iames Towne, intreating me to pray to my God for raine, for their Gods would not send them any. And in this lamentable ignorance doe these poore soules sacrifice themselues to the Devill, not knowing their Creator; and we had not language sufficient, so plainly to expresse it as make them vnderstand it; which God grant they may.



For, Religion ’tis that doth distinguish vs,

From their bruit humor, well we may it know;

That can with vnderstanding argue thus,

Our God is truth, but they cannot doe so.


Of the manner of the Virginians Government.

A description of Powhatan.

His attendãce and watch.


Although the Country people be very barbarous, yet haue they amongst them such government, as that their Magistrates for good commanding, and their people for due subiection, and obeying, excell many places that would be counted very civill. The forme of their Common-wealth is a Monarchicall government, one as Emperour ruleth ouer many Kings or Governours. Their chiefe ruler is called Powhatan, and taketh his name of his principall place of dwelling called Powhatan. But his proper name is Wahunsonacock. Some Countries he hath which haue beene his ancestors, and came vnto him by inheritance, as the Country called Powhatan, Arrohateck, Appamatuck, Pamavnkee, Youghtanund, and Mattapanient. All the rest of his Territories expressed in the Mappe, they report haue beene his severall Conquests. In all his ancient inheritances, he hath houses built after their manner like arbours, some 30. some 40. yards long, and at every house provision for his entertainement according to the time. At Werowcomeco on the Northside of the river Pamavnkee, was his residence, when I was delivered him prisoner, some 14 myles from Iames Towne, where for the most part, he was resident, but at last he tooke so little pleasure in our neare neighbourhood, that he retired himselfe to Orapakes, in the desert betwixt Chickahamania and Youghtanund. He is of personage a tall well proportioned man, with a sower looke, his head somwhat gray, his beard so thinne, that it seemeth none at all, his age neare sixtie; of a very able and hardy body to endure any labour. About his person ordinarily attendeth a guard of 40 or 50 of the tallest men his Country doth afford. Every night vpon the foure quarters of his house are foure Sentinels, each from other a flight shoot, and at every halfe houre one from the Corps du guard doth hollow, shaking his lips with his finger betweene them; vnto whom every Sentinell doth answer round from his stand: if any faile, they presently send forth an officer that beateth him extreamely.


His treasury.


A myle from Orapakes in a thicket of wood, he hath a house in which he keepeth his kinde of Treasure, as skinnes, copper, pearle, and beads, whith he storeth vp against the time of his death and buriall. Here also is his store of red paint for oyntment, bowes and arrowes, Targets and clubs. This house is fiftie or sixtie yards in length, frequented onely by Priests. At the foure corners of this house stand foure Images as Sentinels, one of a Dragon, another a Beare, the third like a Leopard, and the fourth like a giantlike man, all made evill favouredly, according to their best workemanship.


His wiues.

His successors


He hath as many women as he will, whereof when he lieth on his bed, one sitteth at his head, and another at his feet, but when he sitteth, one sitteth on his right hand and another on his left. As he is weary of his women, he bestoweth them on those that best deserue them at his bands. When he dineth or suppeth, one of his women before and after meat, bringeth him water in a wooden platter to wash his hands. Another waiteth with a bunch of feathers to wipe them in stead of a Towell, and the feathers when he hath wiped are dryed againe. His kingdomes descend not to his sonnes nor children, but first to his brethren, whereof he hath 3. namely, Opitchapan, Opechancanough, and Catataugh, and after their decease to his sisters. First to the eldest sister, then to the rest, and after them to the heires male or female of the eldest sister, but never to the heires of the males.


Their authoritie.

The tenor of their lands.

His manner of punishments.


He nor any of his people vnderstand any letters, whereby to write or reade, onely the lawes whereby he ruleth is custome. Yet when he listeth his will is a law and must be obeyed: not onely as a King, but as halfe a God they esteeme him. His inferiour Kings whom they call Werowances, are tyed to rule by customes, and haue power of life and death at their command in that nature. But this word Werowance, which we call and construe for a King, is a common word, whereby they call all commanders: for they haue but few words in their language, and but few occasions to vse any officers more then one commander, which commonly they call Werowance, or Caucorouse, which is Captaine. They all know their severall lands, and habitations, and limits, to fish, foule, or hunt in, but they hold all of their great Werowance Powhatan, vnto whom they pay tribute of skinnes, beads, copper, pearle, deere, turkies, wild beasts, and corne. What he commandeth they dare not disobey in the least thing. It is strange to see with what great feare and adoration, all these people doe obey this Powhatan. For at his feet they present whatsoever he commandeth, and at the least frowne of his brow, their greatest spirits will tremble with feare: and no marvell, for he is very terrible & tyrannous in punishing such as offend him. For example, he caused certaine malefactors to be bound hand and foot, then having of many fires gathered great store of burning coales, they rake these coales round in the forme of a cockpit, and in the midst they cast the offenders to broyle to death. Sometimes he causeth the heads of them that offend him, to be laid vpon the altar or sacrificing stone, and one with clubbes beats out their braines. When he would punish any notorious enemy or malefactor, he causeth him to be tyed to a tree, and with Mussell shels or reeds, the executioner cutteth off his ioynts one after another, ever casting what they cut of into the fire; then doth he proceed with shels and reeds to case the skinne from his head and face; then doe they rip his belly and so burne him with the tree and all. Thus themselues reported they executed George Cassen. Their ordinary correction is to beate them with cudgels. We haue seene a man kneeling on his knees, and at Powhatans command, two men haue beate him on the bare skin, till he hath fallen senselesse in a sound, and yet never cry nor complained. And he made a woman for playing the whore, sit vpon a great stone, on her bare breech twenty foure houres, onely with corne and water, every three dayes, till nine dayes were past, yet he loued her exceedingly: notwithstanding there are common whores by profession.

In the yeare 1608, he surprised the people of Payankatank his neare neighbours and subiects. The occasion was to vs vnknowne, but the manner was thus. First he sent divers of his men as to lodge amongst them that night, then the Ambuscadoes environed all their houses, and at the houre appointed, they all fell to the spoyle, twenty-foure men they slew, the long haire of the one side of their heads, with the skinne cased off with shels or reeds, they brought away. They surprised also the women, and the children, and the Werowance. All these they presented to Powhatan. The Werowance, women and children became his prisoners, and doe him service.  The lockes of haire with their skinnes he hanged on a line betwixt two trees. And thus he made ostentation of his triumph at Werowocomoco, where he intended to haue done as much to mee and my company.

And this is as much as my memory can call to minde worthy of note; which I haue purposely collected, to satisfie my friends of the true worth and qualitie of Virginia. Yet some bad natures will not sticke to slander the Countrey, that will slovenly spit at all things, especially in company where they can finde none to contradict them. Who though they were scarce euer ten myles from Iames Towne, or at the most but at the falles; yet holding it a great disgrace that amongst so much action, their actions were nothing, exclaime of all things, though they never adventured to know any thing; nor euer did any thing but devoure the fruits of other mens labours. Being for most part of such tender educations, and small experience in Martiall accidents, because they found not English Cities, nor such faire houses, nor at their owne wishes any of their accustomed dainties, with feather beds and downe pillowes, Tavernes and Alehouses in every breathing place, neither such plentie of gold and silver and dissolute libertie, as they expected, had little or no care of any thing, but to pamper their bellies, to fly away with our Pinnaces, or procure their meanes to returne for England. For the Country was to them a misery, a ruine, a death, a hell, and their reports here, and their actions there according.

Some other there were that had yearely stipends to passe to and againe for transportation: who to keepe the mysterie of the businesse in themselues, though they had neither time nor meanes to know much of themselues; yet all mens actions or relations they so formally tuned to the temporizing times simplicitie, as they could make their ignorances seeme much more, then all the true actors could by their experience. And those with their great words deluded the world with such strange promises, as abused the businesse much worse then the rest. For the businesse being builded vpon the foundation of their fained experience, the planters, the money and meanes haue still miscarried: yet they ever returning, and the planters so farre absent, who could contradict their excuses? which, still to maintaine their vaine glory and estimation, from time to time haue vsed such diligence as made them passe for truths, though nothing more false. And that the adventurers might be thus abused, let no man wonder; for the wisest liuing is soonest abused by him that hath a faire tongue and a dissembling heart.

There were many in Virginia meerely proiecting, verball, and idle contemplators, and those so devoted to pure idlenesse, that though they had liued two or three yeares in Virginia, lordly, necessitie it selfe could not compell them to passe the Peninsula, or Pallisadoes of Iames Towne, and those witty spirits, what would they not affirme in the behalfe of our transporters, to get victuall from their ships, or obtaine their good words in England, to get their passes. Thus from the clamors, and the ignorance of false informers, are sprung those disasters that sprung in Virginia: and our ingenious verbalists were no lesse plague to vs in Virginia, then the Locusts to the Egyptians. For the labour of twentie or thirtie of the best onely preserved in Christianitie by their industry, the idle livers of neare two hundred of the rest: who liuing neere ten moneths of such naturall meanes, as the Country naturally of it selfe afforded, notwithstanding all this, and the worst fury of the Salvages, the extremitie of sicknesse, mutinies, faction, ignorances, and want of victuall; in all that time I lost but seaven or eight men, yet subiected the salvages to our desired obedience, and receiued contribution from thirtie fiue of their Kings, to protect and assist them against any that should assault them, in which order they continued true and faithfull, and as subiects to his Maiestie, so long after as I did governe there, vntill I left the Countrey: since, how they haue revolted, the Countrie lost, and againe replanted, and the businesses hath succeded from time to time, I referre you to the relations of them returned from Virginia, that haue beene more diligent in such Observations.


Iohn Smith writ this with his owne hand.


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