Chief Powhatan, as his title states, is the chief of the Powhatan tribe. He was once married, but his wife died sometime before the time period of the first film. He has one daughter, Pocahontas. He is initially prejudiced towards the white settlers, but later changes his ways thanks to Pocahontas.
Chief Powhatan appears to be middle-aged; however, he is still a powerful and respected warrior, as he has led his tribe to battle on at least two known occasions. His most distinctive clothing consists of a feathered headdress and a buckskin cape that he later gifts to John Smith. He appears to be a wise leader, though his distrust of the white settlers almost gets the best of him.
Powhatan appears early in the film, having just returned from a successful war campaign against an aggressive tribe. That night, he proclaims a feast in honor of Kocoum, who had distinguished himself as the bravest warrior. Later, he reunites with Pocahontas. Pocahontas relates a dream that she recently had, telling him she believes that it means something exciting will happen. Powhatan reveals to her that Kocoum has asked to marry her. Pocahontas is somewhat reluctant, but Powhatan believes it is the right path for her. He gives Pocahontas a necklace which her mother wore when she married Powhatan and counsels Pocahontas that the people will look up to her as she is the Chief's daughter.
When white settlers appear on shore, Powhatan orders Kocoum to take some men and observe. After one of the warriors is shot, Powhatan forbids his tribe from going near them (not knowing his daughter has already met one). Powhatan begins making plans to gather his allies, a call-to-arms to prepare for a war against the settlers. Later, Pocahontas, who has met a white man named John Smith, asks her father if he would be willing to speak with a white settler should one wish to. Powhatan finally concedes that he would, but is certain that they would not want to.
When Kocoum is killed, Powhatan orders that John Smith, who is believed to be the murderer, be killed at dawn. He then harshly scolds Pocahontas for disobeying him and leaving the village, and when she tries to explain that Smith was trying to help her, her father accuses her of foolishness and being a traitor and puts the blame of Kocoum's death on her, leaving his daughter in tear-enducing disgrace. Later that night, he and the warriors prepare for a war against the soldiers. At dawn, Powhatan prepares to execute Smith but is stopped by Pocahontas, who reveals her love for the settler. Pocahontas then scolds everyone for following a path of hatred. Powhatan realizes the truth of Pocahontas' words. With the help of the spirit of his wife, he allows John Smith to be released and prevents his warriors from fighting with the similarly moved settlers subsequently dropping their arms. However, Governor Ratcliffe, the leader of the settlers rejects the offer, attempts to kill Powhatan, as he believes the Indians to be hiding gold. John steps in the way, saving Powhatan's life. Powhatan is seen stooping to care for the injured Smith.
Later, as Smith is preparing to return to England for medical treatment, Powhatan comes to see him off. Powhatan thanks John for saving him, giving Smith his own cape as a gift. Powhatan also tells Smith that he is welcome among the tribe.
John Rolfe is tasked with bringing the "Indian Chief" to England for negotiations to avoid war between the tribe and England. However, a misunderstanding leads Rolfe to believe that Pocahontas, rather than Powhatan is the chief. After learning his mistake, Powhatan is asked to accompany Rolfe back to England. Powhatan stubbornly refuses, and so Pocahontas is sent in his stead. Before Pocahontas leaves, Powhatan appoints a warrior named Uttamatomakkin as a bodyguard to Pocahontas during the voyage.
- According to history, this Pamunkey chief had many wives and children. All of his children were half-siblings and not two were, it is believed, full siblings. He would marry many at once in different stages of pregnancy. He would keep a wife until she bore him a child. When this was accomplished that wife and her child would be sent back to her own people. Later on, the child would be sent back to Powhatan's court and that woman would no longer be the chief's wife. She was then free to remarry.
- He had a half-brother or younger brother named Opechancanough who succeeded him after his death in 1618. Opechancanough led a massacre four years later because he felt his tribe was threatened when the English people's agriculture forced them off their homeland. John Rolfe, who was then married to his English-born third wife Jane Pierce, was possibly one of Opechancanough's victims.