Indian Lives Changed By Jamestown Settlers

1506 words - 6 pages

Pocahontas Powhatan Opechancanough, tells the story of the interactions between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Indians, and how the European arrival changed the lives of the natives. the book focuses on the three Indians it is titled for and tries to explain the story of Jamestown through a less Anglo-biased view. At many times the book contradicts the story most people know of the Jamestown settlement and the major players involved. Throughout the book, author Helen Rountree goes to great lengths to tell the whole story truthfully, and when she can't give the whole story she makes it clear as to what is accepted to be true.

Rountree starts the book by "setting the scene," she introduces the Indians and attempts to explain the complexities of the Powhatan society. This may be the hardest part of the book for most readers to follow, because the system of leadership and the leadership line is quite complicated. It is explained the Powhatan, the king of the Powhatan people, ascended to the throne through a matrilineal system, Powhatan being his mothers oldest son would rule first, then his next brother and so on. Once his mother had no more sons to rule leadership would be passed on to the son of his mothers eldest daughter, and so on. This system, while difficult to understand is easily justified; a man could possibly have two children at the same instant but no matter what a woman can only have one child at a time.

After the explanation of the chiefly lineage the book goes on to introduce more of Powhatan's family, and Powhatan himself. Powhatan had a very large family, with many sons, daughters and wives. The book explains that by having many children and wives Powhatan was able to extend ties out to far reaching groups in his kingdom, and maintain a close knit society. With the description of his great family the introduction of "the favorite daughter" is inevitable. Introduced as the daughter that kept the attention of Powhatan, readers meet Pocahontas for the first time. Because she is possibly the most well known Indian in modern America, Pocahontas is only briefly mentioned here, and it is not until later that her role becomes more important, and her character is further developed.

With introductions, explanations, and descriptions the book finally gets down to the good stuff.
Rountree, telling the story from the perspective of the Indians, quite often points out how the European invaders were, somewhat, dull witted. The first example of this is in where the Europeans decided to settle. Needing a place to anchor their ships the strangers settled near the mouth of the river, where for part of the year the fresh water mixes with the salty sea water to create an undrinkable mess of brackish water. With the English establishing their new settlement the first signs of trouble were noticed, they were fortifying their settlement, which appeared threatening to the natives. They also had brought no women or...

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