In1607, English people arrived in Virginia and established the firstpermanent settlement at Jamestown, but they did not found uninhabitedland. These Britons encountered tribes that belonged to theinfluential Powhatan Chiefdom. The Powhatan Indian tribes possessedland called Tsenacommacah which was major sources of food andtransportation due to river James (Rountree,2006).However, this area was surrounded by enemy territory. In addition,the Powhatan community was matrilineal and, therefore, descent wasinherited from mother’s line (Rountree,2006).This paper is aimed at discussing the most important turning point inthe history of Powhatan-Virginia Colony.
Mostsignificantly, there was single most important turning point in thehistory of Powhatan-Virginia colony (Rountree,2006).First and foremost, there was a development of conflicts between theEnglish and the Powhatan Indians due to difference in many aspectsthat included but not restricted to languages, cultural standards,attitudes and cultural standards. When the English came into this newarea, they were welcomed and even helped by the Powhatan Indians, butthey stayed more than expected and even overstepped the hospitalityof the Powhatan Indians (Rountree,2006).Two years since the arrival of the English, Chief Powhatan became fedup by persist demand for food by the newcomers and told his peoplenot offer more help to them. Consequently, the relationship betweenthe two deteriorated more than English could have imagined.
In1613, Pocahontas the favourite daughter of Chief Powhatan was seizedby English. While in captivity, Pocahontas met John Rolfe. However,English accounts assert that John Rolfe and Pocahontas fell in loveand decided to marry where Powhatan gave approved their marriage. Inaddition, this account adds that Pocahontas was converted andbaptised where she was renamed Rebecca. According to English records,this marriage solidified the peace between the foreigners andPowhatan Indians especially in 1614. In 1616, therefore, the couplegot a child named as Thomas, and the Rolfe family was send to Englandwith assistance of the Virginia Company so as to enhance the interestof the English in Jamestown (Rountree,2006).
However,Pocahontas died in 1617 after she succumbed to unknown fatal disease(Rountree,2006).In addition, Chief Powhatan died in the following year and thechiefdom was briefly passed to Opitchapam, Powhatan’s youngerbrother, before being passed to Opechancanough (Rountree,2006).Very importantly, peace endured even after these series of events.However, John Rolfe’s tobacco experiments was increasing thrivingand becoming the cash crop for the Virginia Company. as a reminder,this company had funded for the English settlement in Jamestown(Gately,2002).For this reason, the number of the English increased in Virginia andstarted displacing Powhatan Indians from their own lands (Porter,2007).
Consequently,Opechancanough planned attacks against English settlers in 1922. Manyoutlying towns were attacked but Jamestown was spared because of theyoung Indian boy’s warning (Rountree,2006).However, of all attacks waged against the English setters only about400 out of 1200 English settlers were killed. Furthermore, PowhatanIndians stopped attacks hoping that the English will leave the areaas they thought they had taught the English a lesson. Contrary, theEnglish retaliated by causing more conflicts for a period of tenyears (Montgomery& Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2007).
Additionally,the English (8000 in number) were not willing to leave and continuedto intrude upon lands belonging to Powhatan Indians by the year 1944(Rountree,2006).Therefore, Opechancanough coordinated another attack, but someIndians belonging to the Powhatan Chiefdom collaborated with Englishsettlers (Rountree,2006).Therefore, second attack was not as successful as the first one.Latter Opechancanough was captured in 1646 and kept into captivity atJamestown. Against the orders, Openchacanough was shot to dead.Consequently, the Powhatan began to collapse and was later minimizedto tributary status (Rountree,2006).
Moreover,Necotowance who succeeded chief Openchancanough in 1646 signedtreaties with the English to set up clear understanding concerningPowhatan-owned lands and the English-owned lands (Rountree,2006).According to terms in the treaties, Powhatan Indians were not allowedto trespass through the English lands unless carrying out officialbusinesses and were supposed to wear stripped coats when doing so(Rountree,2006).In 1676, however, there was a rebellion in Virginia colony which wasknown as Bacon’s Rebellion. Subsequently, a second treaty wassigned to allow more reservation lands for Virginia and PowhatanIndians (Gately,2002).The treaty also reinforced annual tributes to the English.Eventually, the Powhatan Indians become the English Subject and wasrelegated to congested reservations (Custalow& Daniel, 2007).
Inconclusion, the Opechancanough’s coordinated attacks against theEnglish is the marked the turning point in the history ofPowhatan-Virginia colony relations. This attack agitated the Englishwho retaliated by becoming more hostile rather than leaving the land.Later, Opechancanough was killed the fact that collapsed the PowhatanChiefdom. Worse still followed, with puppet chief Necotowance whosigned treaties in the favour of the English in terms of owning theland that was once not theirs. Eventually, Powhatan Indians wererelegated into small reservations and became the subjects of theEnglish. In addition, Powhatan was minimized to tributary status.
Custalow,L., & Daniel, A. L. (2007). Thetrue story of Pocahontas: The other side of history.Golden, Colo: Fulcrum Pub.
Gately,I. (2002). Tobacco:A cultural history of how an exotic plant seduced civilization.
Montgomery,D., & ColonialWilliamsburg Foundation. (2007). 1607:Jamestown and the New World.Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield.
Porter,J. (2007). Placeand native American Indian history and culture.Bern: Peter Lang.
Rountree,H. C. (2006). Pocahontas,Powhatan, Opechancanough: Three Indian lives changed by Jamestown.Charlottesville: Univ. of Virginia Press.