Colonial Virginia's Relations with the Indians | Mises Institute
When the first British settlers tried to establish a small settlement on Roanoke and encroach on more and more Indian lands, relations became more strained. Thus, from the very beginning of the Virginia colony, the Indians first The English quickly counterattacked, burning Indian villages and. By the British had solid colonies established along the New England Early colonial-Indian relations were an uneasy mix of cooperation and conflict.
They hunted for whales along the east coast of North America. They set up camps and often traded with the local Indians. The Europeans often paid Indians to work for them. Both groups found this relationship to be successful. On several occasions, different groups of fishermen tried to establish a permanent settlement on the coast. The severe winters, however, made it impossible, so the camps were only temporary.
The first permanent European settlers in New England began arriving in sixteen twenty. They wanted to live in peace with the Indians.
They needed to trade with them for food. The settlers also knew that because they were so few in number, a battle with the Indians would result in their own quick defeat. Yet problems began almost immediately.
Perhaps the most serious was the difference in the way that the Indians and the Europeans thought about land. This difference created problems that would not be solved during the next several hundred years. Owning land was extremely important to the European settlers. In England, and most other countries, land meant wealth. Owning large amounts of land meant that a person had great wealth and political power. Many of the settlers who came to North America could never have owned land back home in Europe.
They were too poor. And they belonged to religious minorities. When they arrived in the new world, they discovered that no one seemed to own the huge amounts of land.
American History: A New World Clash of Cultures
Companies in England needed to find people willing to settle in North America. So they offered land to anyone who would take the chance of crossing the Atlantic. For many, it was a dream come true. It was a way to improve their lives.American History: The New World - Colonial History of the United States of America - Documentary
The land gave the European settlers a chance to become wealthy and powerful. On the other hand, the Indians believed that no one could own land. They believed, however, that anyone could use it. Anyone who wanted to live on a piece of land and grow crops could do so. The American Indians lived with nature. They understood the land and the environment. They did not try to change it. They might grow crops in an area for a few years.
Then they would move on. They would allow the land on which they had farmed to become wild again. They might hunt on one area of land for some time, but again they would move on. They hunted only what they could eat, so populations of animals could continue to increase. The Indians understood nature and were at peace with it. The first Europeans to settle in the New England area of the Northeast wanted land. The Indians did not fear them. At first, trade with the European settlers brought advantages: Those Indians who traded initially had significant advantage over rivals who did not.
In response to European demand, tribes such as the Iroquois began to devote more attention to fur trapping during the 17th century. Furs and pelts provided tribes the means to purchase colonial goods until late into the 18th century. Early colonial-Indian relations were an uneasy mix of cooperation and conflict. On the one hand, there were the exemplary relations which prevailed during the first half century of Pennsylvania's existence. On the other were a long series of setbacks, skirmishes and wars, which almost invariably resulted in an Indian defeat and further loss of land.
The first of the important Indian uprisings occurred in Virginia inwhen some whites were killed, including a number of missionaries who had just recently come to Jamestown. The Pequot War followed inas local tribes tried to prevent settlement of the Connecticut River region. In Phillip, the son of the chief who had made the original peace with the Pilgrims inattempted to unite the tribes of southern New England against further European encroachment of their lands.
In the struggle, however, Phillip lost his life and many Indians were sold into servitude. Again, in AprilOpechancanough organized a surprise massacre that killed settlers — a greater number than earlier but, of course, a vastly smaller proportion of the colony.
American History: A New World Clash of Cultures
One of the problems of a hard line is that it begets hard-lining by the other side, and this massacre came at a time when genuine peace seemed at hand. The English quickly counterattacked, burning Indian villages and destroying their corn. Opechancanough was taken prisoner and shot in the back by one of the Virginian soldiers. The Indians then sued for peace, but unfortunately the peace treaty ofinstead of providing for peaceful trade and other contacts between the two peoples, forced the Indians to cede territory and drew arbitrary boundaries beyond which the Indians were forbidden to come.
Moreover, neither the Virginians nor the Indians were permitted to go into each other's territory on pain of very heavy punishment, and trading could only be conducted at certain specified — and therefore monopolized — forts. This type of quasi peace greatly restricted white exploration and settlement of Virginia west of the fall lineas well as fruitful trade with the Indian people. Since a few military forts were given the monopoly privilege of all trade with the Indians, the commander of each fort now occupied a highly lucrative and privileged position in the colony.
The Virginia government not only built the forts, but granted them and their surrounding land to their commanders. Typical was Captain Abraham Wood, a former indentured servant of Samuel Mathews, who was placed in command of the most important of these forts, Fort Henry, at the Appomattox falls.
Settling there for 30 years, Wood exploited his position as sole authorized trader for the area; often he had to guard his pack trains against the use of force by rival traders understandably resentful at Wood's compulsory monopoly of the Indian trade. The town at the fort took the name of Wood, and Wood acquired over 6, acres of plantation land in the neighborhood. He was also for many years a councillor of the colony.
- Colonial-Indian Relations
- Indian commerce with early English colonists and the early United States
Yet the inexorable march of settlement westward could not be halted, and once again the English came to settle near the Indians. The arbitrary peace terms of the treaty clearly needed revision. Happily, after an Indian found without a badge in white territory was no longer liable to be shot, and all freemen were allowed to trade with the Indians.
Other provisions of the new law constituted a rather limited advance: Other policies were so arbitrary as to deal unjustly not only with the Indians, but also with the white settlers. Thus, inas supposed compensation to the Indians, lands in York County were set aside and reserved for them, even though this meant that already existing white settlers had to be forcibly removed. However, peace and justice to the Indian, as always, went only so far. In several hundred Indians settled near the falls of the James River, which the whites had decided was to be barred from any Indians — even peaceful settlers.
The Assembly sent Colonel Edward Hill with an armed force to drive out the Indians; though joined by Indian allies, the attacking force was smashed by Indian defenders near the present site of Richmond. Hill met not with sympathy for his defeat, but with an angry Assembly that tried him and unanimously found him guilty of crimes and weaknesses and suspended him from his posts.
The relatively sound peace of with the Indians was shattered by the onset of the second Berkeley administration. It is not surprising that Berkeley's onslaught on the liberties and rights of Virginians should have extended to Indian relations. His first step, inwas the suppression of free trade with the Indians and the reviving of trading monopoly.
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The Assembly decreed that henceforth no one might trade with the Indians without a commission from the governor, who, of course, would license only "persons of known integrity" rather than the "diverse ill-minded, idle, and unskillful people" currently engaged in the trade. The Assembly followed this with a decree outlawing all trade by Marylanders and Indians north of Virginia with the Virginia Indians, thus further tightening the trading monopoly. Ironically, the old trade monopolist Abraham Wood, now a colonel, was charged with the enforcement of this prohibition.
The next year, Captain Giles Brent, one of the leading planters of the Northern Neck, hauled the chief of the Potomac Indians, Wahanganoche, into court on the false charges of high treason and murder.
And even though Wahanganoche was acquitted and his false accusers forced to pay him an indemnity for the wrongs suffered, the Assembly arrogantly proceeded to require the Potomac and other northern tribes to furnish as hostages a number of Indian children to be enslaved and brought up by whites. It is no wonder that under this treatment the Indians of Virginia began to get a bit restive, a restiveness due also, as the Assembly admitted, to "violent intrusions of diverse English" into Indian lands.
But this was only the beginning of white aggression. In —66 the Assembly set further arbitrary bounds to Indian settlement, pushing back the Indians once more. It also prohibited any white sales of guns and ammunition to the Indians, and decreed that the governor select the chieftains for the Indian tribes. Militarism was imposed on the white settlers by ordering them to go armed to all public meetings, including church services.
Even collective guilt was imposed on the Indians, it being provided that if an Indian murdered a white man, all the people of the neighboring Indian town would be "answerable for it with their lives or liberties. During the same yearGovernor Berkeley declared war on the Doeg and Potomac tribes, as an even more massive form of collective guilt and punishment for various crimes committed over the years by individual Indians against individual whites.
But since this act of slaughter was called "war," even its far greater magnitude did not evoke the reproofs of conscience following upon the collective punishment of the previous year.
By the end of the '60s, the Indians had been so effectively cowed and suppressed that the administration believed the situation well in hand. In the words of Berkeley, "The Indians … are absolutely subjected, so that there is no fear of them.
Particularly aggrieved was the Doeg tribe, which had been attacked and expelled from its lands by the Berkeley administration. The Doegs found new compatriots in the Susquehannocks, a powerful tribe that had been expelled from its lands at the head of the Chesapeake Bay by the Seneca nation, and had then settled on inadequate lands on the Potomac River in Maryland.