Check out my new post on Virginia culture and History!
In the last post on Virginia history, we took a crack at condensing the state’s past into a linear, teleological tunnel- a difficult task to be sure. One of the larger focuses of the post was on the different language tribes across the land that is now Virginia. Remember how people organized themselves according to language families? And how one of the people from one of those language families, the Algonquin, organized themselves into a confederacy called the Powhatan? Well, this post is all about the Powhatan.
The Powhatan confederacy can trace it’s origins (in terms of time, at least) to the late 1500’s. At this time, a man called Wahunsenacawh (Chief Powhatan), consolidated 30 tribes of the language family into one powerful confederacy. The consolidation of power was rapid; with the first seeds of a unified political and military confederacy being sewn, Chief Powhatan had inherited the control of only about six tribes. However, by the time the settlers first came in the early 17th century, that number increased to 30. The people who were part of these separate tribes mainly inhabited the eastern parts of present-day Virginia and what is now Western Maryland, but they were all allied under Chief Powhatan, and it was to him that they paid tribute. Think of it like a parent company with independently operated subsidiaries. Keep in mind that the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown was founded in 1607, so the two histories are closely intertwined.
Perhaps the colonists had hoped for peaceful and economically productive relations with the colonists; whether they did or did not, violence took hold early on in their interactions. After some skirmishes, a very brief and even tenuous peace came about with the capture of Wahunsenacawh’s niece, Pocahontas. She was married to planter John Rolfe and converted to Christianity, but within a few years both she and her uncle, the Chief, were dead. After Chief Powhatan Wahunsenacawh’s death in the early 17th century, his brother, Opechancanough (and Pocahontas’s father) took up the role as chief.
Predictably, by the time Opechancanough ascended to the role as chief, tensions with the English settlers were higher than ever. This result in several notable clashes with the English, which were in turn met with violence in a series of events known as the Anglo-Powhatan Wars. However, introduced diseases wrought havoc on the American Indigenous peoples, including the Powhatan. Opechancanough was captured, and killed while still a prisoner. Ultimately, a treaty was signed that gave the English a permanent slice of Virginia, between the rivers York and Blackwater. Also a consequence of the treaty was the effective dissolution of the Powhatan confederacy.
Even today, we must always be mindful of the blood on which our national histories have been built.
from Justin David Hughes Virginia http://ift.tt/1pkAtzJ