The captured Indian youth was initially taken to Mexico, where he was baptized and educated by the
Dominicans. He was later taken to Spain. During his two years in Spain, he met King Phillip II. While he
was in Spain, he was generally assumed to be "the son of a petty Chief". He eventually left Spain for
Havana, Cuba, in the company of Dominican missionaries. Don Luis carried on the Powhatan tradition
of being a great speaker, and seems to have mastered the art of persuasion. He convinced the
Dominicans to return with him to his homeland, under the pretense of helping them in their quest to
"Christianize" his fellow tribesmen. Phillip II wanted to establish a missionary settlement in the Tidewater
region of Virginia (then known as "Ajacan"). Some historians believe that Opechancanough was that
unnamed captive, and his experiences among the Spanish may have influenced his deep distrust of
European settlers in the "New World". He must have known that their plans for colonization would result
in the cultural annihilation and displacement of his people by the Europeans.
Another theory about Opechancanough's distrust of Europeans can be found in the writing of John
Smith. Smith boasted of having shamed the well-respected leader by holding a pistol to his breast
while marching him in front of his assembled tribesmen. The Pamunkey warriors laid aside their
weapons in an attempt to save the life of Opechancanough, not out of cowardice, but in solidarity of
their love for him. Opechancanough was shown an egregious lack of respect by John Smith.
Opechancanough was a
younger brother of
(Powhatan). He was
primarily known as the
nationalist war chief who
masterminded the intertribal
Indian rebellion of 1622, and
later 1644, until he was
assassinated while held in
captivity by the English
colonists in Virginia in 1646.
There are many theories
about the true identity of
Opechancanough as well as
his rationale for instigating
the ingeniously coordinated
Virginia Indian rebellions.
Whatever reasons he may
have had for his actions, the
stories that have been told
about him are fascinating...
In 1560, the son of a major
Powhatan chief was seized
by the Spanish when they
entered the Chesapeake
Bay (which they called the
"Bahia de Santa Maria").
The youth was christened
of Indigenous Arts and Culture
Copyrighted 2007 by Auld/Powhatan