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5.2 Eastern Tribes

The tribes that lived along the Atlantic seaboard from Canada to Georgia were called Algonquians.

North Carolina Indians introduced the English to corn in about 1587.

In 1607 English ships with 105 would-be colonists landed at what is now Jamestown in Virginia. Their Governor, Captain John Smith, sailed up river to meet the Indians from whom he wanted corn and land. They arrived to the small village of Werawocomoco on January 12, 1608 and they were well received by the Indians with whom they ate bread, turkey and venison. They then walked to an inland village to meet their chief, Powhatan, the leader of 30 tribes and 13,000 people known by the same name, who received them in his longhouse (over a hundred feet long). He was wearing a headdress of feather, many necklaces of shells and a decorated robe that has survived until now. Powhatan had no corn to give Smith but he expressed his feeling that the Englishmen were not coming as friends but as invaders. Finally Smith got some corn and a piece of land in exchange for a copper kettle. Smith was the first to use the term “New England”.

Half of the colonists died during the first year. The remaining were saved by the Indians who gave them corn and taught them how to fertilise their field with seaweed, to plant corn, beans, pumpkins, squash and how to cook them. They also discovered tobacco that would become the main crop and the wealth of the State.

In 1607 Chief Wahunsonacock and the Powhatan Indians assisted the English in Jamestown, Virginia. Their territory extended from Washington DC to North Carolina. Wa hunsonacock was the head of about 30 tribes spread over the above mentioned territory. During their first winter there , the English did not starve to death due to the Indians generosity. However they did appreciate it as they fought that the Indians were only paying respect to their superiority.

John Smith asked the Powhatan in 1608 to submit to the English Crown and to provide the settlers with an annual tribute of corn. The Indians did not like it. However the English took corn by force. Following some skirmishes, the Indians captured Captain Smith but he was saved by one of Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas or, better, he was later liberated in unknown circumstances (the former story could be an legend invented later on since, at first, Smith did not mention how he escaped in his writings, but he mentioned it in his memoirs 16 years later). Pocahontas died in England without telling her side of the story.

In 1609 full war broke out between the English and the Powhatan in Virginia. The new English settlers were not willing to work clearing he forest for agricultural uses. Instead they wanted the lands the Indians had already cleared for themselves. They drove the Indians off their fields, burned their villages and captured them as slaves. The Powhatan reacted with force.

Around 1612 the Powhatan taught the English how to cultivate tobacco. They did very well at it and soon developed an export trade of tobacco.

In four years of fight the Powhatans nearly defeated the English. As tobacco sale grew in England, more settlers came to America and wanted more Indian lands. Fighting was constant between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatans. Both sides took prisoners and in retaliation for the killing of settlers, the English soldiers kidnapped Pocahontas, the chief’s daughter. In 1613, the English offered to release her if all English prisoners were free. The chief agreed and released the prisoners but the English kept Pocahontas. During her stay with the English she converted to the Church of England and the English said she refused to go home. She eventually decided to marry one of her captors, John Rolfe, although she was already married to an Indian.

In 1614 Pocahontas’ father –Wahunsonacock- agreed to her marriage to John Rolfe. He then made a peace agreement with the Jamestown settlers. Pocahontas went to England but she died there on her way to take a boat back to Virginia. She was 22 year old. Her son, Thomas Rolfe, stayed 19 years in England then came back to Virginia where he became a wealthy tobacco plantation owner.

As the profits of the colony increased more colonists came to Jamestown. They drove the Indians away, burned their villages and tried to capture them as slaves. The Indians rebelled and nearly drove the colonists out in 1613. The English captured Pocahontas and offered to give her back in exchange for the English held by Powhatan. The Indians released the prisoners but Pocahontas was kept. She was baptised a Christian and taught English. In order to see his daughter again, Powhatan accepted a peace settlement. Pocahontas married John Rolf, although she was already married to an Indian, and they went to England in 1616 where she was well received. She gave birth to a son called Thomas. She died while getting ready to go back to Jamestown in 1617; she was 22 years old.

Powhatan died in 1618. He was followed by his brother Opechancanough who started a twenty five-year war with the English that ended in 1644 with the destruction of the Powhatan Confederation. In 1619 the colonists opened a school for Indian children in Jamestown. The aim was to convert them to Christianity or, more precisely, to the Church of England. By 1620 there were 1,000 English in Jamestown and they took as much land from the Indians as they wanted, using African slaves to do the work.

In 1619 the English colonialists in Jamestown founded a school for Indian children in order to convert them to Christianity. The English wanted the Indians to submit to the Crown and the Church of England as well as to work for free.

In 1622 Powhatan rebelled against the Jamestown settlement and the town was burned down in what is known as the first Virginia War. More than 350 colonists were killed (more that one third of the colony) and others were thrown off their lands. The Royal Virginia Company ordered the killing of all the Powhatan Indians and the hostilities lasted for ten years with many victims on both sides. The Chikaminy nation, an ally of the Powhatan Confederation, was nearly annihilated. The Powhatans were bound to loose.

In 1623 the English invited the Powhatans to a peace conference to which Opechancanough did not participate. At the end poisonous wine was served to the Indians and those who did not die this way were shot by the English soldiers. The war went on for nine years and in 1632 the Indians gave up, as they could not oppose the colonists anymore. The English took the best land and the Powhatans were obliged to live in small parts of their homeland. In 1607 there were about 30,000 Powhatans and by 1669 only 2,000 remained, the others having been killed by war or diseases.

Negotiation with the Pamunkey and Chickahominy Indians in 1632 was followed by a brief peace. But it did not last as the English settlers were still taking land from the Indians whom they also used as slaves on their tobacco plantations. The Powhatans did not collaborate.

Roger William published the first dictionary of a Native American language. This Algonquian-English dictionary was published in London in 1642 and John Eliot translated the Bible into Algonquian in 1646. It was first published in America in 1661.

In 1642 Lord Calver’s settlers took Susquehannock land in Maryland and imposed their will despite the Resistance of the Indians. In 1643, with Swedish help, the Susquehannock took their revenge and defeated the settlers and took back their land.

Opechancanough, although very old, led the second uprising of the Powhatans in Virginia in 1644. The English had been expanding north into Maryland, west into the land of the Rappahannock, and south into the Carolinas and Georgia. A treaty defining a boundary between the Indians and the settlers was negotiated after two years of fighting. The Powhatans abided by the treaty but the settlers did not and in 1649 moved deep into Indian lands.

A mission was established on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland by 7 Spanish Jesuits guided by a converted Indian (called Dom Luis Valasco). They were all killed by Powhatan or Piscataway local Indians.

In 1661 the Georgia Indians attacked the Spanish missions. Those north of savannah River were then abandoned.

In 1675-1676 Nanticoke and Susquehannock villages in western Virginia were attacked by land-hungry colonists despite a peace agreement signed by the governor. The settlers, former indentured servants who had been promised land at the end of their seven year service, also attacked Royal troops sent there to put down the attacks.

In 1680-1684 the Yamasee Indians of Guale (coastal Georgia) rebelled against the Spanish with English backing. As a result the Spanish lost control of Georgia.

In 1704 with their Creek and Cherokee allies the English attacked the Spanish missions from the Savannah River to St, Augustine depopulating the entire area and forcing the Indians to migrate north.

In 1708 English traders in the Carolinas seized between 10 and 12,000 Indians who had been part of the Spanish mission system –many of them Yamasee- and sold them as slaves in West Indies.

In 1712 the Tuscarora fought against the English slave traders in North Carolina. The Tuscarora were defeated and had to move to New York where they became the sixth nation of the Iroquois Confederacy at the invitation of the Oneida.

In 1715 the Yamasee from Georgia with the Creek and some allies raised against the British slavers who collected trading debts by capturing Yamasee families and selling them in slavery. Within a year the Yamasee were defeated. Many migrated to Florida to join the Seminole nation while others joined the Creek in Central Georgia and Alabama.

The Iroquois Confederacy disbanded in 1783 following the separate treaties between the USA and the Tuscarora and the Oneida and a British treaty with the Mohawk.

In 1784, the Treaty of Fort Stanwix between the Iroquois and the USA forced the Indians to cede all their land in western New York, Pennsylvania as well as territories in Ohio and Kentucky to the USA. The Iroquois had to accept a small reservation in New York state. Some Iroquois repudiated this treaty.

In 1785 the Wyandot, Delaware, Chippewa and Ottawa were forced to sign the Treaty of Fort McIntosh ceding certain lands in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee to the US government. Few Indian leaders recognized this treaty legitimacy and did not abide by its terms. As a result land struggles began in these states were white settlers bought lands transferred illegally to the US government.

In 1788 the Iroquois ceded some lands in Kentucky. However these lands were Shawnee hunting grounds and the Shawnees fought to keep them. They considered their cession by the Iroquois as illegal and invalid.

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