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Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
Virginia's Early Relations with Native Americans
A Relation of the Barbarous Massacre, 1622

When Powhatan died in 1620, Openchancanough became the primary leader of the alliance of Indian tribes around Jamestown. Although rather cool to the English at first, he was not openly hostile. Openchancanough even agreed, in principle, with George Thorpe to a project in which some Indian families would live among the English and some English families among the Indians. However, Openchancanough had years of experience in dealing with Europeans, and he was just biding his time. On March 22, 1622, he showed the English that he did not share their vision of an integrated community. Even though the following document is written from an English colonist's point of view, what things does the writer (Edward Waterhouse) mention that may have been of concern to the Indians in the region? According to Waterhouse, how did the Indians manage to convince the colonists they had no malicious intent? Why were the Indians unable to completely annihilate the Jamestown colony?

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To The Honrable Companie of Virginia.

Right Honorable and Worthy:

The fame of our late vnhappy accident in Virginia, hath spread it selfe, I doubt not, into all parts abroad, and as it is talked of of all men, so no question of many, and of most, it cannot but be misreported, some carryed away with ouer-weak lightnesse to beleeue all they heare, how vntrue soeuer; others out of their disaffection possibly to the Plantation, are desireous to make that, which is ill, worse; and so the truth of the Action, which is only one, is varied and misreported. I haue thought it therefore a part of some acceptable seruice in me towards you, whose fauors haue preferred me to be a member of your Company, to present you with these my poore labours, the Collection of the truth hereof, drawne from the relation of some of those that were beholders of that Tragedie, and who hardly escaped from tasting of the same cup . . . That so the world may see that it was not the strength of a professed enemy that brought this slaughter on them, but contriued by the perfidious treachery of a false-hearted people, that know not God nor faith. No generous Spirit will forbeare to goe on for this accident that hath hapned to the Plantation, but proceed rather chearfully in this honorable Enterprize, since the discouery of their bruitish falshood will proue (as shall appeare by this Treatise following) many waies aduantageable to vs, and make this forewarning a forearming for euer to preuent a greater mischiefe. . . .

To conclude (but out of certaine aduertisements so often reiterated from thence, as well as by the constant relations of many hundreds now yearely comming & going) they auow, that it is a Country which nothing but ignorance can thinke ill of . . .

In the three last yeares of 1619. 1620. and 1621. there hath beene prouided and sent for Virginia forty two Saile of ships, three thousand fiue hundred and seauenty men and women for Plantation, with requisite prouisions, besides store of Cattell, and in those ships haue beene aboue twelue hundred Mariners imployed. . .

By this (though it be but in part) the Reader may vnderstand the great riches and blessings of this excellent Countrey . . . But . . . we freely confesse, that the Countrey is not so good, as the Natiues are bad, whose barbarous Sauagenesse needs more cultiuation then the ground it selfe, being more ouerspread with inciuilitie and treachery, then that with Bryers. . . . But the Sauages though neuer Nation vsed so kindly vpon so small desert, haue in stead of that Harvest which our paines merited, returned nothing but Bryers and thornes, pricking euen to death many of their Benefactors: yet doubt wee not, thorow our sides, haue more wounded themselues then vs, God Almighty making way for seueritie there, where a fayre gentlenesse would not take place. The occasion whereof thus I relate from thence.

The last May there came Letters from Sir Francis Wiat Gouernor in Virginia . . . he found the Country setled in a peace (as all men there thought) sure and vnuiolable, not onely because it was solemnly ratified and sworne . . . but as being aduantagious to both parts; to the Sauages as the weaker, vnder which they were safely sheltered and defended; to vs, as being the easiest way then thought to pursue and aduance our proiects of buildings, plantings, and effecting their conuersion by peaceable and fayre meanes. And such was the conceit of firme peace and amitie, as that there was seldome or neuer a sward worne, and a Peece seldomer, except for a Deere or Fowle. By which assurance of securitie, the Plantations of particular Aduenturers and Planters were placed scatteringly and straglingly as a choyce veyne of rich ground inuited them, and the further from neighbors held the better. The houses generally set open to the Sauages, who were alwaies friendly entertained at the tables of the English, and commonly lodged in their bed-chambers. The old planters . . . placed with wonderfull content vpon their priuate diuidents, and the planting of particular Hundreds [an English land and civil division] and Colonies pursued with an hopefull alacrity, all our proiects (saith he) in a faire way, and their familarity with the Natiues, seeming to open a faire gate for their conuersion to Christianitie.

The Country being in this estate, an occasion was ministred of sending to Opachankano the King of these Sauages, about the middle of March last, what time the Messenger returned backe with these words from him, That he held the peace concluded so firme, as the Skie should sooner fall then it dissolue: yea, such was the treacherous dissimulation of that people who then had contriued our destruction, that euen two dayes before the Massacre, some of our men were guided thorow the woods by them in safety. . . and as well on the Friday morning (the fatal day) the 22 of March, as also in the morning, as in other dayes before, they came vnarmed into our houses, without Bowes or arrowes, or other weapons, with Deere, Turkies, Fish, Furres, and other prouisions, to sell, and trucke with vs, for glasse, beades, and other trifles: yea in some places, sate downe at Breakfast with our people at their tables, whom immediately with their owne tooles and weapons, eyther laid downe, or standing in their houses, they basely and barbarously murthered, not sparing eyther age or sexe, man, woman or childe; so sodaine in their cruell execution, that few or none discerned the weapon or blow that brought them to destruction. . . . And by this meanes that fatall Friday morning, there fell vnder the bloudy and barbarous hands of that perfidious and inhumane people, contrary to all lawes of God and men, of Nature & Nations, three hundred forty seuen men, women, and children, most by their owne weapons; and not being content with taking away life alone, they fell after againe vpon the dead, making as well as they could, a fresh murder, defacing, dragging, and mangling the dead carkasses into many pieces, and carrying some parts away in derision, with base and bruitish triumph. . . .

. . . [T]hat whilst all their affayres were full of successe, and such intercourse of familiaritie, as if the Indians and themselues had beene of one Nation, those treacherous Natiues, after fiue yeares peace, by a generall combination in one day plotted to subuert their whole Colony, and at one instant of time, though our seuerall Plantations were an hundred and forty miles vp one Riuer on both sides.

But before I goe any further, for the better vnderstanding of all things, you shall know that thee wyld naked Natiues liue not in great numbers together, but dispersed, and in small companies; and where most together, not aboue two hundred, and that very rare, in other places fifty or forty, or thereabouts, and many miles distant from one another, in such places among the Woods where they either found, or might easiliest make some cleared plots of ground, which they imploy wholly in setting of Corne, whereby to sustaine their liues. . . .

That the slaughter had beene vniuersall, if God had not put it into the heart of an Indian belonging to one Perry, to disclose it . . . Perries Indian rose out of his bed and reueales it to Pace . . . And thus the rest of the Colony that had warning giuen them, by this meanes was saued. . . .

Pace vpon this discouery, securing his house, before day rowed ouer the Riuer to Iames-City (in that place neere three miles in bredth) and gaue notice thereof to the Gouernor, by which meanes they were preuented there, and at such other Plantations as was possible for a timely intelligence to be giuen; for where they saw vs standing vpon our Guard, at the sight of a Peece [gun] they all ranne away.

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