Native Americans and the Colonists

Start Free Trial

What was the Powhatan uprising?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At first, relations between the Powhatan tribe and the Jamestown settlers were fairly amicable. The Powhatan had helped the English when they were struck down by disease and starvation, providing them with food when the settlers' crops failed. However, as the English colonies expanded, relations between the two sides deteriorated...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

At first, relations between the Powhatan tribe and the Jamestown settlers were fairly amicable. The Powhatan had helped the English when they were struck down by disease and starvation, providing them with food when the settlers' crops failed. However, as the English colonies expanded, relations between the two sides deteriorated rapidly. Newcomers treated the native tribes and their traditions with contempt, carving up their ancestral lands into lucrative tobacco plantations and destroying hunting grounds by driving away game.

The Powhatan responded to the wholesale destruction of their way of life via a full-scale uprising. They descended upon the English settlements, burning homes, destroying crops, and indiscriminately killing men, women, and children. Something like one-sixth of the entire settler population was wiped out in a single day of carnage.

The colonial authorities responded by arranging peace talks with the Powhatan. But it was all in bad faith, for the settlers' political and military leaders were hell-bent on revenge for the uprising. And revenge was indeed gained at a meeting between the settlers and the Powhatan, at which a number of tribesmen were killed by poisoned wine and others shot out of hand. Now in a much stronger position, the settlers were able to press home their advantage and continue ravaging Powhatan land, stealing the corn that the Powhatan had originally planted to provide food for themselves.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team