Many different Indian tribes lived in the Chesapeake region, and their social, cultural, and political identities were extremely varied and complex. They spoke different languages, had distinct cultures, and organized themselves in a range of political structures and alliances.
The Indians who lived around the Chesapeake Bay spoke three main languages in a variety of dialects. Most of the tribes spoke Algonquian, but others spoke Siouan and Iroquoian. These language languages could not be mutually understood, although Captain Smith was helped by native translators who could speak multiple languages.
The majority of the Chesapeake tribes spoke Algonquian languages - a family of languages widespread among native peoples from northern Canada to the Carolinas. Among the Algonquian spoeakers were the Powhatan tribes, the Chikahominy, the Piscataway, the Nanticoke and the Asseateague.
Siouan is a language family spoken mainly by tribes in the Midwest. Around the Chesapeake, the Monacan, Mannahoac, Saponi, and Occaneechi spoke variations of this language.
Iroquoian languages are spoken primarily in the northeastern United States and southern Canada. The Susquehannock tribe at the norther reach of the Chesapeake Bay spoke an Iroquoian language, as duid the Massawomeck, raiders from the north who attacked John Smith's crew.