Powhatan priests and English rectors: world views and congregations in conflict

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Date: Fall 1992
From: The American Indian Quarterly(Vol. 16, Issue 4)
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 7,591 words

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Fundamental differences in religion and society that separated the English colonists in Virginia and the Powhatan Indians embittered their struggle for land and power in the early 17th century. Highly structured English Christianity and hierarchical English society bespoke the need to organize the use of land to feed a large population. The comparatively unorganized Powhatan religion and class-free Powhatan society reflected the need to stay close to nature to assure survival for a relatively small population.

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The Powhatan Indians and the English of the early seventeenth century had very different views of the world around them, divergent beliefs about what deities existed, and opposite opinions about whether "orthodoxy" was desirable. As ill luck would have it, the lives of both peoples were permeated by these differing religions. The result was a constant intellectual misunderstanding between the two peoples, which led them even more willingly to formulate the negative stereotypes that sharpened the economic and geographical competition already going on.

The English came from a country which was densely populated compared to the land of the Powhatan.(1) For millennia their ancestors had had to use the land as a commodity to produce enough food for the population; successful production of surpluses helped further to increase the number of people, and so it went. In intensive food production, men had come to be the main workers with both plants and animals while women were adjunct workers whose jobs were primarily domestic. With few exceptions (such as the Thames estuary), English rivers were small, which limited their fish-producing capacity and promoted their use as territorial boundaries. By the early seventeenth century the English had long taken it for granted that Man (the species, but especially males) had to be an exploiter of land, a subduer of Nature, in order to survive. "Wild" country was not just unused, it was menacing. Unfarmed country was a "desert." Humankind was supposed to "reduce" (which then meant "change") the wilderness and any people in it to "civilized" use, which meant the intensive plant and animal husbandry needed to feed millions of people.(2) Justification for this attitude was found in the Bible. Just as the Israelites were given the task of taking Canaan and using it for God's glory, so the Europeans were given the job of taking and transforming the New World.(3)

The religion practiced then (and now) in Christian England was not a European one; it was one imported from the Hellenized Middle East.(4) It was therefore automatically divorced from closeness with the land in the British isles, and its ideology emphasized things other than land, plants, and animals. Christianity exhorts its followers to adore God and maintain moral relations among people. Its most elaborate rituals center around grateful commemorations of the birth and death of the man believed to be an incarnation of God; petitions and thanksgivings were frequent but secondary rituals. All of these rituals, nonetheless, were and are a highly organized, carefully scheduled matter.

If the religion of the seventeenth-century English did not directly reflect their relationship to the land, the intensity of organization in that religion did reflect the intensity of their use of land. Most English households at that time held daily prayers, with the (male) head of the house presiding. People were supposed to be personally religious, but there was a very strong focus upon congregational rituals. Churches were built specially to house these rituals, and while the matter was becoming controversial in England at the time, most of them were still large and elaborately decorated to demonstrate the generosity and piety of the parishioners. People belonged to the parishes in which they lived (sneaking off elsewhere to hear a better preacher was frowned upon). Every seventh day they had to attend Sunday services (plural) in the church of their parish; in some districts non-attendance was punished. For the remainder of that day they could not work, for "breaking the Sabbath" was also punishable. There was also a chockfull annual calendar of saints' days and other special days, though in the Anglican church of that time the public observance of these was minimal. There was a recent tradition of church services being held in an ancient language (Latin, before the Reformation), which was not understood by the common folk. Religion in Protestant England might have been more accessible to the congregations, but its practice was still singularly abstract and yet coercive for the individual believers who worked their plots of land.

The Powhatan world view, as far as the English colonists' accounts tell us, was entirely different. They used the land differently, and their religion was a native one. The Indians in eastern Virginia lived in a milieu of forested "necks" separating wide estuaries, four of them within eighty miles north to south, with the Chesapeake Bay (minimal width: seven miles) separating the mainland from the Eastern Shore. The Powhatan world was truly one of both water and land intermeshed. The water is wide enough in most places to become dangerous during storms; the land receives most of its rain after the rest of the southeastern United States does, so that there are droughts roughly every three years. Significantly, one of the major duties of Powhatan priests was controlling the weather.(5) The Powhatan population was small compared to that of England, as already shown. The cause and also the effect (people could live this way, and so they did) was the Powhatan economy, which was a mixture of horticulture and foraging (hunting, fishing, and gathering of wild plants). Of domesticated animals the Powhatans had only dogs, so hunting and fishing were a necessity. The domesticated plants were corn, beans, and squash; the recurrent droughts made reliance on the better-adapted wild (i.e., native) plants a necessity. The population had not yet grown so large that the supplies of wild foods were strained.(6)

Every Powhatan family produced the full variety of foods it needed; there was no local specialization, as far as the records show. Since every family used the full range of water, farmland, and forest to get its food, it followed that Powhatan political districts were organized within stream drainages (or sections thereof, along the inland reaches of the rivers where they were narrow and the tributary streams small). In the center was the water and marsh; on either side, in mirror image, was the farmland where the villages were and then the forest where wild animals and plant foods could be found. Men and women (and children helping them) actively used all of these zones. In the waterways men fished and hunted waterfowl; women gathered reeds for mats and the starchy roots of aquatic plants. In the villages, men rested and politicked between hunts; women farmed, gathered greens and berries from fallow fields, and did the limited domestic work for which they had time. In the forest men hunted animals and human enemies; women gathered firewood, nuts, and herbs.(7) Powhatan people lived close to the land and knew it intimately. They were not perfect conservationists - William Strachey recorded that the men killed any animal they found if they needed it for food(8) - but their small population and their small-scale horticulture made them much gentler on the land than the Europeans ever were.

The Powhatan religion was native to the region, and as such it reflected the people-to-land relationship closely. The main emphasis appears to have been upon individuals trying to work with the powers around them, powers that emanated from natural phenomena, then giving thanks when the work was successful and plenty of food resulted. The major annual ritual for the Powhatans was the mid-summer first-fruits celebration. Since so many rituals were individual, they were not highly scheduled. Everyone bathed daily in the stream that flowed near every village, after which prayers were said. People made offerings of tobacco, puccoon, and deer suet whenever they saw an omen, undertook a new project, or felt something was going wrong in their lives. In the last case, a priest would prescribe the offering. Priests led the few public rituals; they also kept the temples for and consulted with the tutelary deity most important in the Powhatan pantheon (see below). In those consultations, held privately in the temples, the priests used an ancient language not understood by ordinary people. Temples were not highly decorated places for congregational worship; when such worship occurred, it was held outdoors in whatever cleared space was available.(9)

The religion of the English reflected very well their general social organization; indeed, they considered the former to be the basis for and justification of the latter. The English were both hierarchical and patriarchal in their social relations.(10) As in the Old Testament, family members were ranked, father over mother, brother over sister, elder over younger. Obedience was expected from "inferiors" and enforced by physical chastisement if necessary (and it often was in the case of children and servants). Families were broadly ranked in society: royalty, several levels of nobility, gentry, yeomen, and still lower orders. Ranks were theoretically hereditary, but it was possible for a family to rise in a few generations by acquiring land (or more land); taking on a "higher" lifestyle, especially one eschewing menial work; and receiving the social recognition or, at more exalted levels, the princely favor that validated the new status. The land and the trappings of the lifestyle were tangibles that could be inherited, with elder sons preferred; the status was an intangible passed on patrilineally. Persons of higher rank expected public deference from their "inferiors." Such exalted persons were also believed by everyone concerned to be of genuinely better "quality" and therefore able - and even obliged - to instruct them in the proper way to live. "Inferiors" showed their deference and their lower status by at least appearing to listen humbly while being lectured. The English priesthood was a male-only organization that was arranged in a hierarchy. Few of its members were drawn from the upper classes at that time, but as full-time specialists, educated in universities and removed from the taint of menial labor, English priests had a reasonably high rank in their communities. Significantly, parish priests in the Church of England were (and still are) called "rectors." The word does not come from Latin rectus, meaning "right"; it comes from Latin regere, meaning "to govern."

Powhatan society was not strongly hierarchical and had only the beginnings of a class system.(11) There were village and district chiefs and, in 1607, a paramount chief. They and their families and possibly also the priests comprised "the better sort." But chiefly positions were passed on matrilineally, and sisters were heirs just as brothers were, though the brothers were given preference. Sisters as well as brothers were thus occasionally given satellite villages to rule. A chief's sister could expect to take his place if she outlived all her brothers, and the eldest sister's children would make the next generation of chiefs. We know less about ordinary Powhatan families, but it appears that wives had considerable personal autonomy from their husbands, as did children from their parents. Forced education and corporal punishment were not used; subtle public pressure in the small, intimate communities was sufficient to prod children to learn. Older boys were put through a horrendous initiation into manhood (the huskanaw), designed to make them "forget" family ties and concentrate their energies for the good of society as a whole (and the chiefs in particular). Non-chiefly men - and perhaps women - were able to rise in society only through personal achievement. The achievements recorded by the English colonists were male ones, consisting of military exploits and extraordinary prowess in hunting. The result was personal prestige, an intangible that was not heritable. Men who stood high in their chiefs' estimation became councillors, but their sons had to prove their own abilities in order to achieve the same status.

Powhatan chiefs were said to have had life-and-death power over their subjects, but the everyday reality may have been less authoritarian, especially in the case of a chief lacking personal chatisma.(12) Chiefs are not kings in anthropological jargon. They have great influence and an advantage in coercive power, but they do not have a monopoly on either. Priests were part-time specialists whose abilities as seers and communicators with the supernatural made them highly influential with chief and populace alike. Their family origins and training went unrecorded. But they, too, needed real personal ability in order to become priests and then rise in the (poorly documented) priestly ranks. Both they and the chiefs could give orders to ordinary folk; the fact that they but not the common people were believed to have an afterlife indicates that in some degree they were believed to be genuinely "better." But there is no evidence that Powhatan chiefs or priests were thought to have a duty to tell people in detail how they should live their lives. Such aggressive lecturing of compatriots on the part of any Indian is missing in the English accounts of the Powhatans. Only the paramount chief is recorded as having done it even to foreigners, and he did it only after the English had tried him out of all patience.(13) In a chiefs council discussing going to war, etiquette dictated that any speaker be listened to quietly for as long as that person felt like talking.(14) Grave and sober listening and careful consideration of the speaker's words were major values in Indian behavior.

The English religion was - and is - a monotheistic one, with one omniscient, omnipresent God very actively involved in the affairs of human beings. The involvement often involved punishing wrongdoing, for humankind was seen as essentially weak and potentially bad. Everyone expected an afterlife, either pleasant or unpleasant, and behavior on earth determined to which place one was sent. Although there was supposed to be only one god, most English people believed in a second, evil entity who ruled the unpleasant afterworld and worked hard to increase the number of souls to be sent there. Only those following the godly path would be assured of entry into the pleasant afterlife, whether the follower were a king or a pauper. Nobody really wanted to go to hell; no one who was concerned about other people could want to see them go there, either.

However, just as the English were authoritarian and coercive in their social relations, so were they rigid in their expectations of what people should believe. English religious practice insisted upon orthodoxy (with a small "o"). There was only one "right" set of beliefs about that powerful single god, and everyone had to conform or society would fall apart. Of course, there were disagreements about which of a number of doctrinal paths was correct, and in the 1640s English society did fall apart. But everyone agreed that there could be only one truth." Religion was a major topic of animated discussion throughout English society in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Those who felt they were right (which was nearly everyone) felt they had a duty to straighten out the others, often less from egotism than from a genuine concern for others' welfare. The result was that aggressive discussion, if not actual preaching to one another, was the norm among the English.(15)

The Powhatans believed in a pantheon of deities, most of them with only limited power.(16) The creator of the world was a beneficent character who did the job and then retired. Gratitude to him - the English colonists understood him to be male - was fine, but not a matter to act upon. On the other hand, there was at least one other deity - the personal name reported for him, Okeus or Quioccos, simply means "god" - who took an active and rather policemanlike interest in humanity. Not making offerings to him (them) invited poor hunting, a bad crop, marital discord, injuries while traveling, and so on. Since only chiefs and priests were supposed to have an afterlife, retribution came in this life and was tangible enough that most people did the "fight" thing and made frequent offerings. The English writers did not specifically mention whether interpersonal moral behavior was supervised by such supernatural power. If it were, then the irony would be even greater: the English colonists persisted in regarding Okeus as the devil, at the same time that they themselves went in fear of punishment from their own all-loving God. The recorded attitude of a Powhatan priest, Uttamatomakkin, even parallels that of most Englishmen: he regarded Okeus with a mixture of affection, reverence, and fear.(17) Uttamatomakkin's initially cooperative attitude toward conversion of young Powhatans to Christianity illuminates another matter: Powhatan religion was polydox.(18) It allowed various individuals simultaneously to believe different things and emphasize different powers in their worship. Individuality in religion accorded well with the relative autonomy the Powhatans had in economic and family life, and it was reinforced by the etiquette that made it polite to listen quietly and unaggressively to the opinions of others.

It should be obvious by now that encounters between the Powhatans and the English were going be abrasive on several levels, and that one side would show its impatience immediately and the other side in general would not.(19) The very differences in notions of polite manners held by the two sides would mislead the participants. The English, ethnocentric but meaning well, preached a "better" life to the "heathen" and therefore "inferior" Powhatans, one that would also conveniently have made Virginia easier for the English to take over without bloodshed. The early colonists' accounts make it clear that lecturing is what they did. The Powhatans, ethnocentric but meaning well, heard them out and suppressed their resentment at the implied insult. That in turn led the English to think the Powhatans were amenable to adapting to English ways.

For instance, John Smith wrote complacently in 1608 that the village chief Pipsco had agreed that the English religion was better and had asked Smith to pray to God for rain during that year's drought. (Note: there was no decent interpreter in the colony at the time.) In 1621 the Reverend George Thorpe would be led on in spectacular fashion by Opechancanough. Amiability of that caliber, surpassing mere politeness, had an ulterior motive. Pipsco was a deposed district chief with few friends; Opechancanough was putting the finishing touches on a mass attack on the English settlements. Uttamatomakkin's reaction to English preaching was less guarded when he visited England in 1616. He was interrogated by English clergymen, including Samuel Purchas. Eventually he realized that their questions were not so much curiosity as an attempt to draw him out and then prove him wrong; he also realized that the English man-in-the-street felt the same way. He seems finally to have lost his temper, becoming a "blasphemer of what he knew not," and he returned to Virginia to give a scathingly negative account of what he had seen.(20)

The English colonists' hopeful views on Powhatan amenability had to be revised when the Powhatans went right on living as they had done for centuries - and fighting mercilessly in the 1620s when they were pushed too hard.(21) The English, genuinely oblivious to the fact that they had done anything to insult such "social inferiors," were disillusioned, the more liberal calling the Indians ungrateful, the more bigoted calling them beasts. It is a pity that the Powhatans' terms of non-endearment were not recorded.

The discord between the Powhatans as natives and the English as invaders showed its face very quickly in economic matters, though it was masked by a combination of Indian politeness toward people they probably considered bullies and the English disinterest in the inner feelings of "inferior" people. The English initially claimed to be visitors, yet they nosed around all over the Chesapeake, taking hostages upon arrival at towns and then asking probing questions.(22) They also explained to their hosts, through the language barrier, that their own religion was the "right" one and that the English way of life was the best one. The latter claim must have been hard for the Powhatans to believe when they watched the English colony come near to starving several times in the first three years of its existence.(23) The Kecoughtans openly taunted John Smith and his men with being "starved men" when they tried to buy corn there in the fall of 1607. Captured Englishmen died "badly" under torture, so obviously their manner of living had not prepared them to be "real men." By 1610 the Powhatans were singing a derisive song about English deficiencies as men of war.(24)

It took a larger, better organized effort from England to make the colony viable, and even then the Jamestown leadership at times had to trade for corn with Indians more distant, and therefore more friendly, in order to survive. The Powhatans living nearer to Jamestown were made wary immediately and then alienated altogether after 1610, when the English colony began successfully expanding up and down the James River. Englishmen felt they had a right and a duty to move onto and use "unused" lands. The lands taken were prime farmlands, which meant less food for the Powhatans. Further, this was the economic zone connecting the streams and the forest, so that losing it was very inconvenient for the Indians. And some of these lands very likely contained sacred places (unrecorded by the English), which were sorely missed by religious Indian people.(25)

As the English expanded more successfully, especially after the beginning of the tobacco boom in 1617, they tried harder to incorporate Powhatan families and especially children into their settlements to learn the "godly" life.(26) They were neither wholehearted nor trusting in doing so; the economic and religious instruction was to be accompanied by segregation of living quarters and the posting of guards. Very few Powhatans showed any interest in such a project, especially given the condescension toward women and harshness toward children that they perceived among the English.(27) Later in the century, when the English had taken over the Virginia coastal plain - and they cleared the forest for their farms, too, to use the land "properly" - in a movement punctuated by one minor Indian war (1610-13) and two major ones (1622-32 and 1644-46), Powhatan people continued trying to practice their traditional three-zone mixed economy in spite of the loss of nearly all their land. Those who went to work for the English to stave off poverty usually took jobs that were honorable by Powhatan standards: hunting and fishing for men, domestic work for women. At home on the reservations, men and women still cooperated to produce food; men became the primary farmers only in the eighteenth century (Gingaskins) or the nineteenth (Pamunkeys).(28) Before that, conversion to English culture was perceived differently by the English and the Powhatans: for the English it was a "simple" religious matter, while for the Powhatans it was a complex, threatening cultural matter. Culture change had to occur before religious conversion could among the Virginia Indians.

The Powhatans realized that they had a political competition on their hands as soon as the English began exploring. With the exception of the Chickahominies on the river named after them, all of eastern Virginia was officially part of the paramount chiefdom ruled by the man Powhatan. The more peripheral areas, though, had more autonomy,(29) and were obvious targets for English blandishments in seeking allies. Chief Powhatan felt threatened at once; he had the people on the Potomac's south bank attack the English when they came exploring in 1608. As it happened, dismantling Powhatan's organization from the outside in was not the intent of the English as yet; that would come later, and then Powhatan's fears would be fully justified. The English colony was instructed to make friends with "more distant" peoples in the Second Chailer of 1609.(30) It would have had to adopt that policy anyway, for the continued English presence alienated the Indians nearest so that only the distant people would trade with them on a regular basis.

Competition on a social level reared its head even faster than on the economic level. Powhatan chiefs and priests appear to have sensed an immediate threat to their power and influence in English preaching. By 1609 the English in London knew of and referred in the Second Charter to Indian priests being a major obstacle to the conversion of Indians. The thing the priests feared was probably not religious conversion, as Uttamatomakin's tolerant attitude in 1616-17 showed. What they feared was a cultural conversion. Political and religious leaders in the Indian style would have no place in an English world. And that world had some outward attractions for the common folk that the chiefs and priests found worrying. Among both the distant Indians and those living close to Jamestown, there were always people willing to trade with the English for practical iron tools as well as supposedly frivolous "trinkets."(31) Most of the "trinkets" were made of copper or glass, similar to high-status chiefly ornaments,(32) and that was a serious political matter among a people who did not have written records to validate chiefs' right to rule: now, anybody willing to part with enough corn or venison could look "rich." Powhatan chiefs apparently had only a circumscribed ability to restrain their people's trade, in spite of their supposedly life-and-death power. So through the custom of tribute in high-status goods, chiefs still could and did relieve their subjects of many of their valuables, and Powhatan also managed a monopoly on English copper. A longer-term source of anxiety was the prestige attached to iron tools and also the guns that Indian men began learning to shoot as early as 1616.(33) The yearning of "real men" (i.e., Powhatan men) for English tools and weapons meant that even during a war it remained possible for the English to present themselves as a useful source of power, worthy of some degree of friendship, if not of allegiance. For the increasingly hostile chiefs and priests, worried about keeping their hold over their people, that was a threat indeed. Thus for the ambitious English leadership, the Powhatan chiefs were "tyrants," while for the chiefs the English leaders were "usurpers."

The Powhatans were actually exposed to relatively limited missionizing, compared to the experience of other Native Americans.(34) The Spanish Jesuit mission in Virginia had not lasted long, only about five months (1570-71).(35) The Englishmen who came to the lower Chesapeake region were Protestants, without religious orders to establish missions as such. They were also non-puritan Protestants, with no real desire to establish anything like "praying towns." So the preaching that the Powhatans endured came on a piecemeal basis from ordinary colonists living, in the early seventeenth century, in sparsely settled parishes. That may have been enough, abetted by the poverty-causing spread of English settlements, that by 1622 the Powhatans rose up in a religious revitalization movement and tried to oust the English from Virginia. J. Frederick Fausz thinks so;(36) I personally doubt it. Being preached at was distasteful, and Powhatan priests were undoubtedly powerful in urging their people towards a mass attack on the invaders. But there were more than adequate economic and military reasons for trying to be rid of the English, who had taken over most of the James River valley in ten years and who had been experiencing a settler-attracting "boom" in tobacco for about five years.(37) The Powhatan paramount chiefdom's primary objectives before the English arrived had been more military than religious anyway. In 1644 the same chiefly leader, Opechancanough, organized another mass attack along the same lines. By then the English were rarely preaching to Indians; instead they were spreading rapidly onto their lands. The motive there was economic and political; the same was probably true in 1622.

For the rest of the seventeenth century and beyond, the English continued to see the Powhatans as "devil-worshippers" whose boys' initiation was a "sacrifice of children."(38) The English also continued to tell the Indians they were wrong and the English way was right. For them the Powhatans were still "pagans," while to the Powhatans the English were loud-mouthed bigots. They used their own "godly" way of life as a justification both for taking over Indian lands at tremendous profit to themselves and for acquiring Indian children (by contract or by kidnapping) and giving them a harsh indoctrination into plantation life. The Powhatans were unable to resist the loss of their lands, for they were flooded out of them. But they succeeded in keeping most of their children, apparently, until their extreme poverty toward the end of the century forced many Indians of various ages to go to work on English farms. It was not easy to work for people who derogated Indians as openly as the Virginia English did. Many such Indian people later returned home and helped those who had stayed to keep up some semblance of a traditional life, which persisted well into the eighteenth century.(39) Meanwhile, Powhatan people had long known better than to discuss religion with such narrow-minded people. When at last some sympathetically curious Englishmen came on the scene (ironically enough, they were English rectors: John Clayton and John Banister),(40) they had little luck in getting Indian people to talk. In fact, the Powhatans had hit upon the same way to short-circuit discussion that Pueblo people use today; discussion of religious matters with non-Indians was "sacrilegious."(41)

Powhatan priests' prestige suffered a crippling blow when the warriors lost first the wars and then the rest of the land. Losing the sacred places was bad enough. But priests had always been revered as seers, on whose predictions one could safely rely in planning for the future. Now their credibility was damaged-though not destroyed. In the 1680s an English observer recorded that priests were still believed to be able to warn their people about enemy Indians, but they could not "acquaint them with the designs of the Inglish."(42)

The Powhatans and the English held opposing beliefs in several ways: Man living gently on the land with the consent of the deities versus Man being ordered by the Deity to exploit it to the maximum; worship outdoors, at need, versus scheduled worship in buildings; multiple deities versus one Deity; non-interfering autonomy in beliefs versus aggressive insistence on orthodoxy. The priest-worshipper relationship also differed somewhat: the English rector had more power to lecture and was expected to do so more often. Both religions permeated their followers' ways of life. The Powhatan religion explained and validated a world of fairly autonomous people living close to the land; the English one reflected an exploitative, imperialistic, highly scheduled orientation to both land and people. Both sets of followers felt that their way was the proper "human" one. And neither side could fully explain itself to the other, either from politeness or from lack of self-awareness. The conflicts between the two religions exacerbated and justified an already existing competition for political influence and land. That competition became more acrimonious with time; the English, having the larger population to pour into Virginia, won it. They saw their victory, of course, as stemming from adherence to the "right" religion, and they went on preaching to the Indians.

The Powhatans who remained unassimilated in "Indian" communities eventually had to adapt their way of life to a much reduced land base, which meant taking on many aspects of English economic life. They were relying heavily on iron tools and firearms by the 1680s; they could conduct their trade in fluent English by 1700; some of their boys began to attend the College of William and Mary in 1711; they wore only English clothing by the 1750s. But they kept much longer their tradition of male hunters/female farmers and their preference for cheaply built, climatically adapted longhouses instead of log cabins. And they clung in spite of all the informal pressure around them to a rejection of Christianity. They may not have practiced their traditional religion for very long after the 1720s (there is no evidence one way or the other). But the reservation people did not even begin to join any Christian congregations until the 1780s.(43) And when they did change, they succumbed to the ministrations of itinerant, independent Baptist preachers who themselves were looked down upon by the still-Episcopalian, still hierarchical-minded Anglo-Virginian majority. Now somewhat altered in outlook themselves, it was there that the Powhatans finally found some religious kinsmen among the aliens.


(1.) Powhatans: ca. 14,000 people in ca. 6350 square miles, or 0.79 persons per square mile (Rountree 1989: 15). England in 1600: about five million people (Bridenbaugh 1967: 15) in ca. 58,000 square miles, or an overall average of 86.2 persons per square mile. (2.) Non-agriculturally used land was "waste and wild" (Rowse 1951: 67), and there was enough of it that Europeans tended to see even farming tribes of Indians as nomads (McNickle 1967 [1957]: 624). That the first English colonists in Virginia thought of unfarmed ground as "waste" is shown by a passage in Percy 1969 [1608?]: 141. (3.) Kimmey 1960. (4.) The following paragraph is based on my own observations as a lifelong active Episcopalian, as well as readings on the Anglicanism of that day. Daily prayers: Bridenbaugh 1967: 86. Parish membership: Ibid.: 382. (5.) Rountree 1989: 131, 132. Because the sources on this and every other aspect of Powhatan culture are a mosaic of small pieces, I will save space here by citing my own book, and readers may consult the extensive notes in it. (6.) Ibid.: 44-46. (7.) Ibid.: 29, 32; Rountree n.d. (8.) Strachey 1953 [1612]: 82, 83. (9.) Rountree 1989; 131-38. The first-fruits celebration, apparently analogous to the Southeastern Indian Busk, was lamentably poorly described by the English. (10.) Amussen 1985: 197-199, 210-214; Amussen 1988: chap. 2; Bridenbaugh 1967: 88-91; Fraser 1984; Slater 1984:126-138; Stone 1965:207-209; Underdown 1985. (11.) Rountree 1989: chap. 6. (12.) Ibid.: 114, 118; Rountree 1993a. For an anecdote demonstrating the limited power of even a charismatic chief, see Smith 1986a [1608]: 49. (13.) In January 1609: Smith 1986b [1612]: 247-48. (14.) Clayton 1968 [1687]: 435. (15.) Bridenbaugh 1967: 174-76, 307; Morgan 1975: 61; Stone 1965: 726, 729. (16.) Rountree 1989: 135-36. (17.) Purchas 1617: 955. (18.) Ibid.: 952, 955. I deliberately chose this word, composed of poly- (many) and -dox (opinion). The proper opposite of "orthodox" (literally, correct opinion) is "heterodox," which - culturally biased as it is - means diverging from accepted opinion. In Powhatan society, there was no one accepted belief to begin with. "Polymorphous," literally many forms, is closer, but English speakers usually mean many successive forms, with only one form appearing at a time. To use this word would foster another cultural bias. The Powhatans had many forms of belief simultaneously. (19.) The Patuxents in what is now Maryland allowed themselves to show impatience in 1621; they listened, all right, but they "seemed more willing of other discourses they better understood" (John Pory, in Smith 1886c [1624]: 289). By that time they had been meeting English visitors for thirteen years. (20.) Pipsco: Smith 1986b [1612]: 172; Strachey 1953 [1612]: 64-65, 101. Opechancanough: Kingsbury 1906-35: 3: 584. Uttamatomakkin: Kingsbury 3: 73; Purchas 1617: 955. (21.) Fausz 1977; Rountree 1990: chaps. 3-4. (22.) This is not an exaggeration. John Smith's compatriots wrote of his methods while exploring the Bay, "at our first meeting we ever observed this order [i.e.,] to demand their bowes and arrowes, swordes, mantells and furrs, with some childe or two for hostage, whereby we could quickly perceive, when they intended any villany" (Smith 1986c [1624]: 168). (23.) Earle 1979; Jennings 1975: 33; Morgan 1975: chap. 3; Rountree 1990: chap. 2. (24.) Kecoughtans: Smith 1986b [1612]: 211. Song: Strachey 1953 [1612]: 85-86. (25.) One possibility here is the site near Claremont, in Quiyoughcohannock territory, where several ossuaries and unusual evidence of rituals were unearthed. These have not been securely dated as yet, but they are probably Late Woodland (Jeffrey Blick, personal communication, 1990). (26.) Kingsbury 1906-35: 1: 210-211, 3: 349, 446, 468, 470, 552-553; Fausz 1977: chap. 4. (27.) Kingsbury 1906-35: 1: 588, 3: 93, 469, 487; C. Robinson 1905-06: 395; Smith 1986c [1624): 262. For the nature of English childrearing, see, among others, Fox and Ouitt 1980, chap. 4; Stone 1977: 105-114 et passim. For the minimal time-depth of "fostering out," see Sneyd 1847. (28.) Rountree 1990: chaps. 6, 7. (29.) Rountree 1993a. Stephen Potter feels that the Patawomecks were autonomous and probably barely within his sphere of influence (Potter forthcoming, chap. 1). I am more inclined to include them in the paramount chiefdom. The English records on Patawomeck-powhatan relations are vague and open to divergent interpretations. (30.) Barbour 1969: 24-54. (31.) Rountree 1993b. (32.) For a deeper discussion of such parallels north of Virginia, see Miller and Hamell 1986. (33.) Mcllwaine 1979 [1924]: 28. (34.) W. S. Robinson 1952; Rountree 1990: 167. (35.) Lewis and Loomie 1953; Gradie 1988 and Forthcoming; Rountree 1990: chap. 1. (36.) Fausz 1977, 1981. (37.) Settlements: Nugent 1934: map facing p. 224. "Boom": Morgan 1971, 1975: chap. 6. (38.) Beverley 1947 [1705]: 207. (39.) Rountree 1990: chaps. 6, 7. (40.) Two early seventeenth-century colonists were even better ethnographers: John Smith and William Strachey. Between them and Clayton and Banister nearly seven decades elapsed. (41.) Clayton 1965 [1687]: 22; Clayton 1965 [1694]: 112; Beverley 1947 [1705]: 195. (42.) Pargellis 1959: 232. (43.) Tools and firearms: Banister 1970: 382. Clothing and housing: Burnaby 1812 [1760]: 718. Boys at the College: Spotswood 1882: 122, 134. Fluent English: Clayton 1968 [1687]: 234; Durand de Dauphine 1934 [1687]: 154; also, presence of a monolingual English-speaking young man among the Nanzatico in 1705 (Richmond County records). Men's and women's work: Burnaby 1812 [1760]: 718, Gingaskin data of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century in Legislative Petitions from Northampton County, and Pamunkey occupations listed mid- and late-nineteenth century King William County marriage records. Conversion to Christianity: Pamunkey data in National Archives, Revolutionary War Pensions and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, Microcopy M-804, Reel 1797. The same things may have been true of the Powhatan communities that lost their reservations (e.g., Chickahominy after 1718). An exception was the "Christianized Nansemonds," a non-reservation segment of the Nansemond chiefdom that adhered to the leadership of English rector John Bass after he married a Nansemond woman in 1638. (Bass's handwritten sermon book, dated 1675, is still extant; the sermons seem aimed at reasonably literate Anglicans.)


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Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A13775089