Where was the closest Powhatan tribe to Jamestown?

John Smith Map of Virginia

John Smith Map of Virginia

The closest Powhatan tribe to the Jamestown colony was that of the Paspahegh, who had towns upriver from Jamestown on both sides of the Chickahominy River. This tribe of at least 200 people was one of the core tribes of the Powhatan chiefdom. The people lived in a rich environment where two water zones merged, providing both fresh and salt water fish.

The Paspehegh welcomed the English to Virginia at first. When the newcomers settled on Jamestown Island in Paspehegh country, however, the Indians wavered between assisting the English and attacking James Fort. With growing numbers of English settlers, the need for food became more desperate by 1609, and the colonists used forceful means to take food from the Indians. This occurred during a period of drought when Indian food supplies were scarce as well. Continued English aggression for food led to the Indian siege on the fort during the winter of 1609-10, often called “the starving time.” After the English made retaliatory attacks in 1610, numerous Paspehegh Indians were killed, including the chief and his family. The remainder abandoned the area and joined other groups. In 1618, this tract of land, set aside by the English to support the Governor, was described as “Land formerly conquer’d or purchased of the Paspeheies.”