Friday, October 10, 2008

Powhatan-Anglo War

Tensions between the native Virginian Powhatan tribes and the English settlers were wrought tight from the beginning. The English were cocky, presumptuous about the Indians. Both sides were wary of the other. The first major set of conflicts (1609-1614 or so) arose as Chief Powhatan wanted more and more copper from the English in trade for corn until the value of the copper was meaningless; then he asked for guns in trade for corn [1]. Not willing to give the people they wished to subjugate weapons, and the Indians not willing to trade for anything else reasonably, the English took the food they needed by force [2]. The battles that erupted were not just the English needing food, but a more nuanced power struggle for the territory and a need for dominance of that area that neither side wished to relinquish [3].

These instances of violence between the two groups over the next decade were mainly bloody skirmishes, vicious ones at that, with periods of brief cease-fires [4]. However from November 1609 to May 1610 Powhatan's warriors surrounded Jamestown fort in an in-active siege, cutting the English off [5]. As a result the colonists' numbers diminished by 65%. The "siege" was lightened by spring due to the need for manpower to begin crops [6]. Lord Thomas De La Warr's relief ships sailed in to relieve the colonists and eventually re-strategizing, re-invigorating the group's efforts culminating in subduing the natives through firepower, fear, and the sheer numbers [7]. Further seperating hostiles from good Christian Englishmen were laws enacted that kept colonists from copulating or trading with Indians [8]. This is not to mention the renewed vigor De La Warr brought was tinged with religious fervor, a cleansing of the pagan indians by an altruistic Protestant body of Englishmen (just like they did to the Catholics) [9]. The English managed to come out on top from these conflicts.

By 1622 Chief Powhatan was dead, his brother the new chief, Opechankeno military commander, and whites furthered their encroachment upon Indian lands [10]. The settlers no longer sought any kind of native permission, no treaty, merely taking the land for their own devices. The second Anglo-Powhatan war was conceived by Opechankeno as a last ditch effort to ideally discourage any further colonization or emmigration, or to either drive the English out of Virginia or at least contain them to the Jamestown area [11]. Inter-tribal communications within the Indian confederacy enabled a coordinated attack on the out-laying plantations and farms of the colony area, resulting in a quarter of the population being killed [12]. The English retaliation was one of outright warfare. Their resolve was strong, a national decree allowed for the killing or pacification of the natives [13]. With the native force subdued, wow the English were allowed to use the land outright, without much worry of reprisal or complaint.

The third Powhatan lasted from 1644 to 1646 and was even more of a failure than the second as Opechankeno was captured and executed [14]. Like the second, this war was a set of frontier skirmishes that lasted a number of years [15]. After this war the English looked beyond the lines of Powhatan land and sought to expand and explore outside this territory to establish trade routes with other natives not of the Powhatan [16]. 1646 also saw Opechankeno's succesor, Necotowance sign a peace treaty handing over a majority of their land to the English in exchange for tax tributes and a right to occupy specific areas of land [17].

Some thirty years later, more disagreements arose still. In 1675 and 1676 Susquehannock raids, sparked by white aggression, occured in the west back country of Virginia where many of what was left of the Powhatan resided along with poorer planters and newcoming planters (angry that they couldn't obtain more land that was already the Powhatan remnants' by contract, and angry at Susquehannock attack). The local indians were caught in yet more English violence (at the wrong tribe) and more English desire to obtain land. What became known as Bacon's Rebellion, after ring-leader Nathanial Bacon, almost became an outright civil war between the English and was ended by government cavalry being brought in [18]. The final treaty to be signed lasted until the American Revolution for Independence. It was signed in 1677 by the Nottoway, Nansemond, Pamunkey, Weyanok tribes and oversaw Anglo-Indian relations [19].

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1-2. Gregory A. Waselkov, Peter H. Wood and M. Thomas Hatley, Powhatan's Mantle: Indians in the Colonial Southeast (Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press, 2006), 221-222.

3. Kevin R. Hardwick, Warren R. Hofstra, Virginia Reconsidered: New Histories of the Old Dominion (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003), 13.

4. Gregory A. Waselkov, Peter H. Wood and M. Thomas Hatley, Powhatan's Mantle: Indians in the Colonial Southeast (Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press, 2006), 221-222.

5-9. Kevin R. Hardwick, Warren R. Hofstra, Virginia Reconsidered: New Histories of the Old Dominion (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003), 24-26.

10. Camilla Townsend, Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma (New York: Hill and Wang, 2004), 161-162.

11. Camilla Townsend, Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma (New York: Hill and Wang, 2004), 171.

12. Camilla Townsend, Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma (New York: Hill and Wang, 2004), 169-170.

13-14. Camilla Townsend, Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma (New York: Hill and Wang, 2004), 173-174.

15. Kevin R. Hardwick, Warren R. Hofstra, Virginia Reconsidered: New Histories of the Old Dominion (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003), 12.

16. April Lee Hatfield, Atlantic Virginia: Intercolonial Relations in the Seventeenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), 24.

17.Camilla Townsend, Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma (New York: Hill and Wang, 2004), 175.

18. April Lee Hatfield, Atlantic Virginia: Intercolonial Relations in the Seventeenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), 34.

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