The Powhatan War (1622–1644) was among the first conflicts between European settlers and Native Americans. In general, this warfare was caused by cultural differences and conflicts over land.
Jamestown (1607) was the first permanent English settlement in North America. At the time of its founding, the surrounding area was dominated by the Powhatan Indian Confederacy, led by Chief Powhatan. Relations between the two disparate peoples were problematic from the start, but full-scale war was avoided for fifteen years.
The first couple of years for the Jamestown settlers were hazardous, and the colony almost collapsed. The settlers sought merely to survive, and Indian foodstuffs were badly needed by the colonists. The Indians cultivated corn, fished, and hunted, so they had surplus food. In exchange for food, the Indians received blue beads from the English. But relations were tense, and there were occasional conflicts. Nevertheless, an uneasy cooperation continued for a few years.
One reason why limited cooperation persisted was the role played by Pocahontas. A daughter of Powhatan, she supposedly saved the life of Captain John Smith as he was about to be executed by the Indians. Later, in 1613, Pocahontas was captured by the English, and she married an Englishman in 1614. This marriage helped maintain a delicate peace.
By 1618, both Powhatan and Pocahontas were dead. Opechancanough became the new chief. Tensions were high. The English had started to cultivate tobacco and were seizing land from the Indians. Tobacco was extremely lucrative, so more land was needed by the colonists for planting and for settlements as more Europeans poured into Virginia. In 1622, Opechancanough led a devastating attack, and full-scale war had begun.