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Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
Virginia's Early Relations with Native Americans
The Virginia Company's Instructions to Sir Thomas Gates Concerning the Natives, May 1609

The Virginia Company's appointment of Sir Thomas Gates as Governor brought many changes to the colony. In its instructions to Gates, the Company finally stated clearly its policy concerning the Indians. These instructions, as you will see below, were quite detailed. What is the Company's views concerning the Indians? What specific directions does the Company give to Gates in terms of demanding tribute from the Indians, forming treaties with them, trading with them, and defending the colony?

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17. Yor enemies can be but of two sortes straungers and natiues, for the first yor defence must be vppon advauntage of the place and way vnto it for fortes haue no other vse but that a fewe men may defend and dispute their footinge with them against a greater nomb and to winne time . . . Besides it is not safe to lett any of the Savages dwell betwene you and the Sea--least they be made guides to yor enemies. . . .

18. The second enemy is the Natiues who can no way hurte you but by fire or by destroyinge yor Catle, or hinderinge yor workes by Stealth or yor passages in small nombers, and in this sorte of warr, there is most pill yf you be not very Carefull, for if they may destroy but one haruest or burne yor townes in the night they will leaue you naked and exposed to famine and Cold, and convey themselues into wodes, where revenge wilbe as difficult as vnnecessary to prevent that you must keepe good watches in the fielde and suffer none of them to come nere yor corne in those daungerous seasons and continuall centinells without the walles or vttermost defences in the night, and you must giue order that yor Catle be kept in heards waited and attended on by some small watch or so enclosed by them selues that they destroy not yor corne and other seed provisions:

19. For Powhaton and his Weroances it is Clere even to reason beside our experience that he loued not our neighborhood and therefore you may no way trust him, but if you finde it not best to make him yor prisoner yet you must make him yor tributary, and all other his weroances about him first to acknowledge no other Lord but Kinge James and so we shall free them all from the Tirrany of Powhaton [space in manuscript] vppon them Euery Lord of a Province shall pay you and send you into yor forte where you make yor Cheif residence so many measures of Corne at euery Harvest, and many basketts of Dye so many dozens of skins so many of his people to worke weekely, and of vuery thing somewhat, accordinge to his pporccon in greatenes of Territory and men, by wch meanes you shall quietly drawe to yor selues an annuall revennue of euery Commodity growinge in that Counrey and this tribute payd to you for wch you shall deliuer them from the exeaccons of Powhaton, wch are now burdensome and ptect and defend them from all their enemies shall also be a meanes of Clearinge much ground of wood and of reducing them to laboure and trade seinge [for] this rent onely; they shall enioye their howses, and the rest of their travell quietly and many other commodities and blessings of wch they are yet insensible:

20. Yf you hope to winne them and to pvide for yor selues by trade, you wilbe deceaued for already yor Copper is embased by yor abundance and neglect of prisinge it, and they will never feede you but for feare. Wherefore if you pceaue [perceive] that they vppon yor landinge, fly vp into the Countrey and forsake their habitaccon you must seise into yor custody half there corne and harvest and their Weroances and all other their knowne successors at once whom if you intreate well and educate those wch are younge and to succeede in the governement in yor Manners and Religion, their people will easily obey you and become in time Civill and Christian:

21. Yf you make friendship with any of these nations, as you must doe, Choose to doe it with those that are farthest from you and enemies vnto those amonge whom you dwell for you shall haue least occasion to haue differences with them, and by that meanes a suerer league of Amity And you shalbe suerer of their trade pteley for Covetousnes and to serue their owne ends, where the Copper is yett in his primary estimaccon wch Pohaton hath hitherto engrossed and partely for feare of Constrainte. Monocon to the east and head of our Riuer, Powhatons enemy and the Manahockes to ye Northeast to the head of the Riuer of Moyompo in the necke of the land to the west betweene our bay and the sea.   Cathcatapeius a greater Weroance then he is, also his enemy to the Southeast and South. he hath no freinde to the North. The Masawoymekes make continuall incursions vppon him and vppon all those that inhabite the Riuers of Bolus and Myomps and to the Northwest. Pocoughtuwonough infecteth him with a Terrible warr, with those you may hold trade and freindeship good Cheape for their emotenes will prevent all offence wch must needes happen beweene vs and them wch we are mingled with to the north. at the head Bay is a large towne where is store of Copper and Furres called Cataaneon that trade and discouery wilbe to greate purpose, yf it may be setled yearely:

22. Such trade as you shall finde necessary or pfitable for you with the Indians you shall endeauour to drawe them to seeke of you and to bringe their Commodities into yor forte wch will greatly ease the imployment of many men, and this you may bringe to passe by seeminge to make litle estimaccon of trade with them, and by pretendinge to be so able to consist within yor selues as that you neede care for nothinge of theires, but rather that you doe them a Curtesy to spare such necessaries as they want as leetle Iron tooles or copper or the like such as are convenient for traffique and so one officer or two in euery forte, whome you must onely appointe to be truncmasters may dispatch the whole busines of trade wch els will cost you may mens laboures, if you seeke it far from home. And besides these you must by proclamaccon or edicte publiquely affixed prohibite and forbidd vppon paine of punishement of yor discreccon all other psons to trade or exchange for anythinge, but such as shalbe necessarie for foode or clothinge and vppon all such commodities of yors as shall passe away from you. . . .

23. You must constitute and declare some sharpe lawe with a penaltie theron to restrayne the trade of any phibited goods especially of Swordes, Pikeheads gunnes Daggers or any thinge of Iron that may be turned against you and in case of such offence punishe severely haue also especially regard that no arte or trade tendinge to armes in any wise as Smythey Carpentry of or such like be taught the Savages or vsed in their Presence as they may learne therein:


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