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Princess Cleopatra, Pocahontas’s Sister

June 26, 2018 , ,

 

Cleopatra married Opechancanough who was her father’s adopted brother and her adopted uncle

Matachanna traveled to England to be with her half-sister, Pocohontas, before she died. Matachanna went back to Virginia where she lived and died.

Cleopatra Powhatan the Shawano was born in 1590, near Jamestown colony, and died in 1680

Cleopatra Powhatan was half sister of Pocahontas

Going back to the era of John Smith . . . In the late 1500s/early 1600s a Powatan chief name Wahunsunacock [one of numerous variant spellings] had united some 30 Alonquian tribes into a powerful confederation. He had created the empire through conquest and alliances. He actually ruled as an emperor, not just a tribal chief. When the Jamestown colonists arrived, Wahunsunacock’s domain encompassed the entire region that was to become Virginia. Wahunsunacock did not use a title other than chief of the Powhatans. The colonists referred to him as simply “The Powhatan”, denoting his position as emperor over numerous tribal chiefs of the Powhatan nation. The Powhatan was not friendly toward the colonists, seeing them as encroachers.

Wahunsunacock’s younger brother, or half-brother, Opechanacanough, was the tribal chief who captured John Smith. He immediately took the captive Smith to Emperor Wahunsunacock who imposed the death sentence. Tradition holds that Wahunsunacock’s daughter Matoaka “LIttle Snow Feather”, nicknamed Pocahantas or “Playful One”, pleaded for her father to spare John Smith’s life. Pocahantas became an emissary between her father and the colonists and as such was instrumental in providing the food which saved them during the hard winter. The colonists, in turn, showed their appreciation by capturing and holding Pocahantas for ransom. After they had extracted the full ransom from Wahunsunacock, then they forged an alliance with him by marrying Pocahantas to John Wolfe, a planter in the Jamestown colony who is credited with introducing tobacco as a cash crop.

That much is familiar history. Then comes the chapter that is really relevant to our family. At the death of the elderly Wahunsunacock, his younger brother [it’s uncertain if he was a brother or a half-brother] Opchanacanough became successor to Wahunsunacock as emperor. As such, he is frequently also called The Powhatan. To distinguish between the two men I have chosen to use the technically accurate term “Emperor” for Wahunsunacock and “Chief” for Opechanacanough, since Opechanacanough was promoted from a “chief” to succeed Wahunsunacock who had forged the “empire”. In reading other histories, however, it is necessary to note that some writers use the term Powhatan for both brothers interchangeably which is unnecessarily confusing and actually incorrect. Sometimes I get the impression that some genealogy researchers do not grasp that they are two different men.

Emperor Wahunsunacock perhaps had hundreds of wives and children. Several of them are noted in historical documents, but none so well as Pocahantas and, to our benefit, her sister Cleopatra. Not only was Cleopatra a daughter of the Emperor, she was wife to the successor Chief/Emperor Opechanacanough. Now if you were paying attention and recall that Opehanacanough and Wahusunacock were brothers/half-brothers, you might realize that she was also Opechanacanough’s niece [or half-niece as the case may be]. They were a royal dynasty and keep in mind that the family lineage was preserved by most Native Americans, as they still do now, through the matriarchal line.

The relationship of Cleopatra and Pocahantas as full sisters is fully documented. After the death of Pocahantas, Pcahantas’ son had to apply for rights to get to visit his Indian relatives and in his written legal request specifically asks to visit his “mother’s sister Cleopatra” by name. Cleopatra obviously was not her Indian name, but rather what she was called by the colonists because since her husband was the successor ruling Chief/Emperor she was in fact Queen. The title seemed especially apropos to the colonists since not only was she Queen, but her exotic dark looks and elaborate trappings also seemed very regal, and reminiscent of the Egyptian queen.

Only I and probably 30 million other people descend from this royal hierarchy. While everyone is eager to prove their ancestry to Pocahantas because of her fame, Cleopatra was the only one to ascend to actual Queen. Pocahantas, for all her fame, was a mere Princess. The modern day Native American line of this family adapted the surname Powhatan from very early times.

Jamestown

Jamestown

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