Even though the “New World” had already had 115 years of contact, the year 1607 is often regarded as the first year of American History. In the year 1607 the English established their first lasting colony. This colony would later become the United States. Jamestown, which is present day Virginia begun by the Virginia Company of London. In the beginning Jamestown consisted of 104 colonists, some of who favored the plantation model of settlement others of whom favored the conquistador model. Due to the English gentlemen’s lack of motivation to work the land, or build fortification, failure was upon them. The Natives who were living in the area where Jamestown was established were unsure of the newcomer’s arrival. The Natives first reaction to the newcomers was hostile, due to their previous experience with Spanish explorers along the coastline. The English settlers had not only the Natives to worry about, but they also had to worry about the Spanish that were along the coastline. The first years of the settler’s time in the “New World” were difficult and trying. They were faced with disease, lack of food, and poor management. Historians refer to this time as the “starving time”, when food and supplies were almost nonexistent, and at least one colonist resorted to cannibalism.
The only thing that kept the colony functioning was the continued arrival of colonist. As the colony deteriorated during its first two years, Captain John Smith’s leadership saved the colony. Part of this leadership involved exploring the area and making he risky decision to approach the Natives and attempt to trade with them jewels for food. John Smith unfortunately was injured by gunfire, and left Jamestown and went back to England. The first setters were in many ways dependent on Powhatan Confederacy for food. Powhatan and his tribe saw the English as allies who would trade their weapons for the Natives food. The Powhatan saw this opportunity of trading food for weapons as a way to help Chief Powhatan his confederacy against other tribes. Because the Natives knew little about what the colonist had in mind as far as how the settlers wanted to to develop the New World, or how they intended to go about doing it, the Natives found it somewhat difficult to go into trade with them. The relationship of the Jamestown colonist and Powhatan’s tribe were difficult at times, and sometimes violent, but though there were trial and tribulations between the two cultures, the Powhatan Confederacy assisted the settlers throughout the trying early years.
Around 1610 , the English settlers caught a break, they successfully cultivated tobacco. The Spanish had first introduced the crop to Europeans back in the late 1500’s, after coming across it in the Caribbean. Tobacco had been a great success in the European markets. By 1612, the Virginia settler John Rolfe had successfully cultivated an imported strain of tobacco in Jamestown. The Jamestown settlers shipped the first crop to England in 1617, and within a few years they were shipping around 1.5 million pounds. The success of growing tobacco made Jamestown more desirable, but growing tobacco was a laboring job. To meet the demands early, and not fall behind, the colonist tried to force the Natives to work their tobacco fields. The Jamestown colonists were met with objections from the Native people. The Natives wanted no part in growing surplus crops for monetary reasons, and the colonist didn’t have the force to enslave the Natives. In 1619 Dutch traders imported a small number of Africans to Jamestown, who were forced to do most of the hard work of growing the tobacco and establishing the town. Jamestown continued to grow, and the growth was causing Jamestown to have to deal with increased hostility with the Natives and also the introduction of African slavery.
Local Native tribes began to become leery of the growth of Jamestown because the growth was infringing on lands that had been open to them before the colonist arrived. After the death of Powhatan in 1618, the new chief Opechancanough began planning attacks to get rid of the colonist. One of these attacks in 1622 resulted in 357 English colonist dying, which was about one-quarter of the Jamestown population. The attack caused the colonist to feel that retaliation was in order, and they set to kill every Native they came in contact with. Hostilities grew between the colonist and the Natives. The Natives felt threatened by the fact that their way of life and the land they new was being taken over by these new comers. The colonist of Jamestown success has greatly to do with the help they received from the Native people. Though their relationship began in a somewhat peaceful fashion, it soon became a hostile relationship. The question is did it have to end the way it did? Could they both have come to mutual agreement, and even helped one another and cohabitated peacefully? Or were the two cultures so different that they were destined to clash at some point in time?
Scham, S. (2006). A Native Take on Jamestown. Archaeology, 59(1), 24. Tarter, B. (2007). Making history in virginia. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 115(1), 3-55. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/195928212?accountid=458 ZONGKER, B. (2013, May 02). Scholars find cannibalism at jamestown, va., settlement. Spartanburg Herald – Journal Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1348619236?accountid=458 Schultz, K. M. (2014). HIST3, volume 1: US history through 1877 (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth.