Colonial Government and Politics

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Describe the events that led to conflicts between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Confederacy.

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Jamestown, established in 1607, managed to avoid full-scale conflict with the Powhatan Indian confederacy for more than a decade. There were several causes for the Powhatan War (1622–1646). However, the most important one was the colonists' hunger for more land.

The settlers were in no position to fight the Indians...

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Jamestown, established in 1607, managed to avoid full-scale conflict with the Powhatan Indian confederacy for more than a decade. There were several causes for the Powhatan War (1622–1646). However, the most important one was the colonists' hunger for more land.

The settlers were in no position to fight the Indians soon after founding the colony. In fact, they barely survived. They were not prepared to support themselves by living off the land, and supplies from England were not dependable. Fortunately, Captain John Smith emerged as a strict and capable leader, and the colony managed to survive.

Chief Powhatan and his daughter, Pocahontas, helped keep the peace for a decade. Powhatan had a lucrative trading relationship with the colonists. Pocahontas, who may or may not have saved John Smith's life, married an Englishman named John Rolfe.

By 1618, the situation had changed. Both Powhatan and his daughter were dead. The colony was growing quickly after basing its economy on tobacco. Also, the successful tobacco industry meant that the colonists no longer needed the Indians' assistance. Opechancanough, the new chief, who was either the brother or cousin of Powhatan, was hostile to the English. He led the Indians in three wars against the colonists.

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