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The Establishment of Relationships Between Native Americans and Newcomers

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Question: how did Pocahontas’ capture and marriage with John Rolfe affect the relationship between native Americans and colonists?

Pocahontas, when she was a young girl befriended John Smith, bestowed him with the slight of status in the Powhatan community, her tribe (Ripper, 2008.) This would not affect her father, the chiefs, decisions. Meaning the Powhatan kept their stance of a dislike of the presence of English colonists in America (Ripper, 2008.) This early behavior from Pocahontas did show how much privilege and deciding power she did have in relations to her tribe and English colonists. Later in her life, Pocahontas was captured and held captive as an effort of trade between the Powhatan people and the English (Ripper, 2008.) The English wished to trade the English prisoners the Powhatan had held captive in exchange for their newly captured Pocahontas (Ripper 2008.) When the Powhatan people did not give back all the English demanded, they kept Pocahontas captive and eventually brought her to Jamestown where she would live (Ripper, 2008.) Jamestown felt they had to educate “savages” to the sophisticated English ways and so they took in Pocahontas as a citizen (Ripper, 2008). This means things like religion and marrying in the English colony. Her kidnap led to her marriage to John Rolfe in 1614, even though she had been married to a member of her tribe, they had a form of divorce in Powhatan society (NPS.)

John Rolfe was a tobacco farmer who would become famous for bringing this cash crop to the people of Virginia and giving folks actual reasons to move there (NPS.) Her Marriage to John Rolfe was consented to by all parties, even Powhatan, who sent his brother, Opechancanough, as an emissary (Ripper, 2008.) This was a good sign. Even though the English had kidnapped Pocahontas and kept her in their society, leading her to divorce her husband in the tribe and marry an English colonist, there was a halfhearted goodwill that this marriage reinstated. The relative peace that had survived before the years of war. This peace after the marriage was known as the “peace of Pocahontas” (NPS.)

After the Marriage, the Virginia Company of London decided to use Pocahontas to their advantage and have her encourage interest in both the state of Virginia and the Virginia company of London (NPS.) Pocahontas, John, and their son accompanied by twelve men and women from the Powhatan tribe and toured the country (NPS.) This was called “a propaganda blitz to obscure bad news coming from the colony” by author Tim Hashaw (Ripper, 2008.) This brings up a lot of questions like if the Powhatan members came by diplomatic discussion and agreement, and what they did in England. Like if they could still be Powhatans or were required to be fitted into the English standards. After the family returned to Virginia, Pocahontas fell ill when travelling down the Thames river and died in March of 1617 (NPS.)

After this, the life of the Powhatan people was changed forever with the positive and negative interactions with the English colonists and over time, their peaceful relationship weakened (NPS.)

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