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Strachey's A Dictionarie of the Indian Language

Smith's Vocabulary of Indian words

Weroances and Their Tribes

English Observers

William Strachey' s Description of Critters in the Chesapeake Bay

Henry Spelman, Relation of Virginia, 1609


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How did they travel?

The manner of makinge their boates
The manner of makinge their boates
The Powhatans depended on the rivers and the Bay to provide a means of traveling to other villages. They fished the waters for food and used the streams and creeks for drinking water. They did much of their fishing from canoes, which they called quintans. The quintan was the main source of transportation for the Powhatans. They were as valuable and as necessary to their owners as automobiles are to us today. It was the largest item the men built. The biggest quintans were four feet deep and fifty feet long, and each could hold up to forty men. The average quintan was smaller, holding ten to thirty people, including their goods. When traveling, a warrior might have carried a deerskin mantle, traditional weaponry, mats for temporary shelter, and a ceramic pot for cooking.

Most quintans were made from cypress trees. The size of the quintan depended on the size of the tree. Once the tree was selected, it was "cut" down by alternating between burning and chipping away at the charred area above ground level. The log would then be hollowed out. To help "cut" the hard wood, a fire would be set on the log. The burned areas would be chipped out with a shell or stone scraper. Someone had to stay close to the fire so that it did not burn out of control and destroy the entire log. The finished quintan was long with a flat or V-shaped bottom. In the flat-bottom quintan, one would either kneel or sit while paddling. In the quintans with the V-shaped bottom it was necessary to stand while poling. The Powhatans were able to paddle or pole their quintans faster than the English could maneuver their barges.

The women were as able to use the quintan as the men were. They often needed to go on the waterways to collect food supplies, reeds, or potting clay.




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