A primary source set and teaching guide created by educators.
by Adena Barnette
English-Native conflicts began as soon as the first European settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607, when they encountered the dominant Powhatan Confederacy and realized they must build a coalition or fight to secure the region for England. These early events created the mythic relationship between John Smith and Pocahontas, which is still interpreted in popular culture. Relations quickly broke down and ended in warfare. The same happened in New England. Fighting erupted in the region in 1637 when Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island forces destroyed the Pequot Nation and again in 1675 during King Philip’s War, when conflicts arose around protecting a traditional indigenous way of life. Other colonies, such as Pennsylvania, sought to establish treaties with the native population. The colonists often sought to appease native leadership in order to avoid struggle, but did so with a tone of ethnic superiority. These relationships were never seen as a partnership of equals; colonists sought to dominate their extensive landholdings and to remove native threats from these areas. By exploring cross-cultural colonial conflicts between European and Native populations through the lenses of chronology, politics, religion, and society, we can understand the breakdown of fledgling alliances and the impact of colonialist expansion on the Native American way of life.