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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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Did the children have to go to school?

A younge gentill woeman doughter of Secota
A younge gentill woeman doughter of Secota
The education of the Powhatan children was done informally by relatives. The storytellers of the tribe would enhance their education with the myths and legends of the Powhatans. Though children were shown a great deal of affection, expectation for them was very high.

Babies, from birth, were washed daily in cold water to make them hardy. This was a practice that all the people did throughout their lives, no matter the water temperature or the weather. In the winter, they would break through the ice to bathe.

It was the mother's job to teach her son to hunt. The boy would not be able to eat breakfast until he had hit the target his mother threw for him. As boys improved their hunting skills, they would receive new names that would denote their achievements. Name changes were ongoing for all ages whether growing up, in war, or in politics. The name changes referred to special characteristics of a person, or deeds they had done.

Boys, age ten to fifteen, who were thought to have great potential, were initiated into manhood through the huskanaw. This was a ritual that lasted for nine months. This was a time of physical hardship, isolation in the forest, fasting, and medicine that would cause hallucinations (or visions). The boys were ceremonially taken from the village, but returned to the village as men. Their loyalty belonged only to the god Oke and to the village weroance. This was a harsh ordeal that some boys did not survive, but a special bond was formed among those men who survived the ordeal. A Powhatan man was not eligible for the priesthood or a councillorship if he had not been initiated. The huskanaw was held, empire-wide, only once every fourteen to fifteen years, but each tribe determined a time to hold their own for boys who were not in the right age group for the empire-wide huskanaw.

Girls learned women's responsibilities from an early age by watching and helping other women of the tribe. They were allowed to learn at their own pace. There were such a variety of jobs to do, that each day could have been different from the last. Younger girls would go to uncultivated fields to gather wild greens and to the freshwater marshes with other women and children to gather the tuckahoe roots. As the adult women cut the tuckahoe roots the children would catch the roots and wash the mud off. As she became older, a girl would also be expected to gather firewood, scrape and tan deer hides, and become more active with planting, weeding, and harvesting the fields. Girls were also expected to help with cutting the reeds that were used for making the mats that covered the yi-hakans.

A girl could be married by the time she was thirteen. Pocahontas was married in 1611 to a Powhatan named Kocoum and went to live with him in his village. She later married an Englishman named John Rolfe.




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