Coat of Arms of the Virginia
Company, a joint-stock
company organized for the
colonization of Virginia.
Virginia and English settlement in
Powhatan lands
Powhatan Confederation of tribes
To the English the Indians were a less-than civilized “Other.” The Powhatan
Confederation peoples had well-established, organized, and prosperous
communities, and complex societies involved in surplus production, trade, and
other forms of exchange.
While the English sought surface
wealth and land for the
production of tobacco, the
Indians looked to trade for
copper from the English.
The powerful Powhatan
chiefdom controlled more
than 30 separate tribes
and over 200 towns.
Capt. John Smith
and the search for
surface wealth, land,
and harborage.
English-Indian relations were tenuous at best; both sides distrusted the other, yet each
possessed things that the other wanted. What followed was a “Middle Ground” system of
exchange and mutual dependency that ultimately benefited the English.
Organized as a business venture, promotional
broadsides made the most of the potential for
opportunities and the security of investment.
Brought to England in 1615,
Eiakintomino and Matahan
were portrayed in English
literature as simple “children
of nature.” The Indians posed
no threat.
Smith’s capture and rescue by
Matoaka/ Pocahontas; “rescue”
or adoption ritual?
Coronation of
performed by the Sea
Hawke, Christopher
Newport in 1609 at a
crucial time when
relations were
Opechancanough became the
sachem of the Powhatan
Confederation after
Wahunsonacock retired in
Undertaken largely for diplomatic reasons, the
arranged marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe
took place in 1614 after her “capture” by the
Jamestown colonists. Joined by her brother
Uttamatomakkin, she went to England in 1616,
where she took the name “Rebecca Rolfe.” On her
return to Virginia in 1617 Matoaka-PocahontasRebecca Rolfe died of a fever.
Despite the diplomatic exchanges and efforts to appease one another, long
standing tensions between the Virginia Indians and English colonists erupted
into violence after Englishmen murdered the nephew of a Pamunkey tribal
chieftain. In an effort to rid his country of the English, Opechancanough
launched the “Good Friday Attack” on English settlements on March 22, 1622,
killing nearly 400 colonists, bankrupting the colony, and causing the
government of James I to revoke the colony’s charter in 1624.
The English retaliated
with a campaign that
attempted to
exterminate the Indians
in Virginia; in one
attack on a Pamunkey
village in 1625, more
than 1,000 Indians
Having subdued the tribes, relative peace followed, that lasted until Opechancanough, at the
age of 100 years, led a new war against the English between 1644 and 1645, that resulted in
more than 500 English deaths (out of a colonial population of over 8,000), but resulted in the
loss of all the lands held by the Powhatan Confederation. Opechancanough was captured and
killed by an angry guard at Jamestown in 1646. Within a decade, the Virginia House of
Burgesses chose the sachems of the tribes—their autonomy was no more.