Like the Iroquois League, this confederation of Algonquian-speaking peoples in what is now Virginia seems to have formed in response to the effects of the Little Ice Age. Oral testimony suggests that it began forming around 1550—the time that the climate reached its severest stage. Consisting initially of six villages in the area that is now Richmond, it expanded significantly toward the end of the sixteenth century under the influence of the dynamic leader Wahunsunacock, called the Powhatan. Over a twenty-year period, Powhatan drew in dozens of allies, making the confederacy a significant military and economic power. When the British began settlement in the region in 1607, they found themselves largely dependent on Powhatan and his people for survival. While there were tensions, Powhatan maintained cordial relations with the British throughout his lifetime, though after his death in 1618 his successor, Opechancanough, began a war that would last for decades.

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