Indigenous Resistance: North America

Jamestown, 1622: “Native Infidels”

Jamestown, 1622: “Native Infidels”

Jamestown Massacre

Could it not be contrived to send the small pox among the disaffected tribes of Indians? We must on this occasion use every stratagem to reduce them.

-British Lord Jeffrey Amherst

The joint-stock company from London that financed the Jamestown settlement expected large profits.  Edward Waterhouse, an official of the company, writing after the attack by the Powhatan, outlines the theory and tactics that would guide the attitudes of most European settlers for generations in their relations with the native population.

Because our hands which before were tied with gentlenesse and faire usage, are now set at liberty by the treacherous violence of the Savages, not untying the knot, but cutting it: So that we, who hitherto have had possession of no more ground then their waste, and our purchase gained: may now by right of Warre, and Law of Nations, invade the Country, and destroy them who sought to destroy us: whereby we shall enjoy our cultivated places, turning the laborious Mattocke into the victorious Sword (wherein there is more ease, benefit, and glory) and assessing the fruits of other labours. Now their cleared grounds in all their villages (which are situated in the fruitfullest places of the land) shall be inhabited by us…

Because the way of conquering them is much more easie then of civilizing them by faire means, for they are a rude, barbarous and naked people… Besides that, a conquest may be of many, and at once; but civility is in particular, and slow, the effect of long time and great industry.  Moreover, victorie of them may be gained many wayes; by force, by surprise, by famine in burning their corne, by destroying and burning their Boats, Canoes, and Houses, by breaking their fishing Weares, by assailing them in their huntings, whereby they get their greatest sustenance in Winter, by pursuing and chasing them with our horses, and blood-Hounds to draw after them, and Mastives to teare them, which take this naked, tanned, deformed Savages, for no other then wild beasts, and are so fierce and fell upon them, that they fear them worse then their old Devill… By these and sundry other wayes, as by driving them (when they flye) upon their enemies, who are round about them, and by animating and abetting their enemies against them, may their ruine or subjection be soone effected…

Because the Indians who before were used as friends may now most justly be compelled to servitude and drudgery, and supply the roome of men that labour, whereby even the meanest of the Plantation may imploy themselves more entirely in their Arts and Occupations, which are more generous. Whilest Savages performe their inferious workes digging in mynes, and the like…

Following this advice, the English make war on the Powhatans year after year until by 1642 they are almost completely exterminated.

-Chronicles of American Indian Protest, 4-5

See additional sources at:

The Powhatan Indian Attack of March 22, 1622

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