NIU Libraries Digitization Projects
Lincoln/Net Prairie Fire Illinois During the Civil War Illinois During the Gilded Age Mark Twain's Mississippi Back to Digitization Projects Contact Us

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document:

Previous section

Next section

Chapter II.— The Powhatanic Tribes of Virginia, as they are Reported on the Second Voyage.


THE desire to found colonies was effectually aroused in England, by the results of this discovery, which was the germ of the British colonial establishments. It needed not the prophetic bard to pen the exclamation, "Visions of glory, spare my aching sight!" [69] nor the voice of the Indian sage, Opechan, to bid his countrymen fear, and fly before the footsteps of a people, who brought in their train the subtle genii of labour, letters, and Christianity.

The pioneer ships had scarcely returned from Virginia, when a second voyage was resolved on. Sir Richard Grenville, who had been one of the promoters of the first effort, originated this second adventure, and determined to lead it. For this enterprize, seven ships were equipped in the harbor of Plymouth, and fully provided with all necessary supplies. Raleigh was deeply interested in this new effort, and to render it successful, nothing was omitted, which, at that era, was deemed essential. The presence of Manteo, and his companion, had excited a lively interest in the public mind respecting the aborigines, and, in order to acquire correct ideas of their features, manners, and customs, Raleigh sent out Mr. With, or Wyth, a skilful writer. A gentleman of his household, Thomas Harriot, a noted mathematician and scholar, also accompanied the expedition, for the purpose of describing their character. Manteo returned to Virginia as guide and interpreter.

The ships sailed from Plymouth on the 9th of April, and, after crossing the Atlantic, on the 26th of May anchored off the island of Occoquon, having made the passage in forty-seven days. At this time the principal local ruler on the coast was Wingina, who resided on the island of Roanoke. To him a deputation was immediately despatched, under the guidance of Manteo, who is uniformly praised for his fidelity.

Other parties were sent off in different directions, to acquire a knowledge of the geography, and make inquiry concerning the productions, of the country. Sir Richard, himself, crossed to the main land, and explored the villages on the Chowan river, where he involved himself and attendants in hostilities with the natives. The manner

-- 86 --

in which this difficulty arose was as follows: The Indians had stolen a silver cup from his mess furniture, in revenge for which, after his return to the island of Occoquon, he burned their village and destroyed their corn. After perpetrating this impolitic and cruel outrage, he suddenly determined to return to England. He left a colony of 180 persons on the island of Occoquon, over whom he appointed Mr. Ralph Lane, governor. On his route home he visited the West Indies, with the expectation of encountering Spanish vessels; and, having captured a large ship, returned with his prize to Plymouth, which he reached on the 18th of September, after an absence of a little more than six months.

Lane and his companions immediately located the colony on the island of Roanoke. Under his directions they continued the reconnoissance of the country, exploring the coasts to the southward, as far as an Indian village called Secotan, near the mouth of Neus river, and northward as far as the village of the Chesapeake Indians, who resided on Elizabeth river. [70] To the northwest, they ascended the Chowan river 130 miles, to the territory occupied by a nation called Chowanocks, a branch of the Iroquois stock. [71] At Cape Hatteras, whither they went, by water, under the guidance of the friendly Manteo, they had an interview with Granganameo, which is the last mention we have of this chief, in Virginia history.

Richard Grenville's exploratory trip, and his severity toward the Indians, seconded as it was by the aggressive policy pursued by his successors, had the effect of keeping the settlers in a state of confusion, and continual dread of the aborigines. [72] The colonists soon found that they were regarded by the Indians with suspicion and mistrust. Finesse was retaliated by finesse, deception by deception. In one of their numerous broils with the natives, the colonists killed Wingina. About the same time, Granganameo, their best friend, died, and his death was followed by that of his aged father, Ensenore. A general state of unfriendly feeling at this time existed towards the English. The colonists planted nothing, and, with great reluctance, the Indians partially supplied them with corn, game, and fish, which, at length, they withheld altogether. The result of this non-intercourse policy was, that parties of the colonists were necessitated to forage for supplies on the islands, and some on the main land. Finally, they were compelled to subsist on roots and shell-fish. A party of twenty men, while thus employed at Croatan, on the southern part of Cape Lookout, descried a squadron of twenty-three ships, standing in. This fleet proved to be that of Sir Francis Drake, returning from an expedition against the Spaniards. They had taken, and plundered, Carthagena and Hispaniola, and burned the towns of St. Anthony and St. Helena, on the Florida coast.

Drake had orders from Queen Elizabeth to visit and succor the Virginia colony. [73]

-- 87 --

He furnished them with a ship of seventy tons burthen, 100 men, and four months' provisions, but the vessel was driven off the coast by a tempest. He then supplied them with another vessel of 120 tons burthen, manned and provisioned, but it was found to be impossible to get her over the bar at the entrance to the sound. Then the colonists at Roanoke, considering that they had already suffered "much misery and danger," [74] and had not received the expected supplies, promised by Grenville, solicited permission to return to England in the fleet of Drake. To this request Sir Francis gave his ready assent, and they were all safely landed at Portsmouth, about the close of July, 1586. On this trip, Governor Lane first carried the tobacco plant from Virginia to England.

Of the customs, rites, creed, and opinions of the Indians, Mr. Herriot gives the following account: "They believe in one God, who is self-existent and eternal, and the creator of the world. After this he created an order of inferior gods, to carry out his government. That then the sun, moon, and stars, were created as instruments of the secondary gods. The waters were then made, becoming the vital principle of all creatures. He next created a woman, who, by the congress of one of the gods, brought forth children, and thence mankind had their beginnings. They thought the gods were all of human shape, and worshipped them, by their images, dancing, singing, and praying, with offerings. They believed in the immortality of the soul, which was destined to future happiness, or to inhabit Popagussa, a pit, or place of torment, where the sun sets; and this doctrine they based on the assertion of persons who had returned after death." These doctrines are said to have had much weight with the common Indians, but to have made but little impression on their Weroances, or rulers, and priests. How accurately they were reported, and how much they were colored by Christian predilections, may be judged of by the known repugnance of the native sages to give information on such points; by their soon being on ill terms, or at open war, with the English; and by the probability that some of the more striking characteristics of this alleged Indian creed had been derived from traditions, related by Manteo and Granganameo — the first a baptised convert, and the latter a politic friend of the English, and an admirer of their manners.

Wingina, himself, would often be at prayers with the English, it having been their practice to read the service publicly in the presence of the Indians. But it was evident that they deemed the English great necromancers, possessing almost unlimited influence with the gods; firmly believing that they could inflict diseases, ensure death, and impart vigor to the growth of, or destroy, their corn crops. The Bible, which was read by the English, and regarded as the exponent of the purest doctrines, the Indians considered to be a talisman, whose virtues resided in the material of the book, and not in its spiritual teachings. They deemed it a favor to handle, hug, and kiss it, passing it over their faces, and rubbing it over their breasts.

-- 88 --

Mr. Herriot observed that they had great esteem and veneration for a plant — a spontaneous growth of the country — which they called Uppowoc, but which was even then better known by the name of tobacco. [75] The leaves of this, cured and dried, they smoked in earthen tubes, drawing up the smoke by inhalation. The fumes of this plant were offered to their gods with ceremonial rites, and extravagant genefluxions. They threw its dust on nets to consecrate them for use, and into the air as a thanksgiving for dangers past. But its most sacred use was casting it into fires kindled for sacrifice, to produce a kind of incense to heaven. This eminent mathematician, and pious scholar, as he is termed, has been severely criticised for defending those rites; nor has Sir Walter Raleigh escaped the charge of infidelity, for the interest with which he received, and his example in introducing the use of tobacco into gay and fashionable society. The great value which the North American Indians place upon tobacco, is one of the most universal and well known of their traits. There is nothing in more esteem in their social, ceremonial, and religious circles, every solemnity being opened with its use. In their religious rites it is the most highly venerated thing on their altars. In social life it is the first requisite inquired for, and (as I have frequently noticed in travelling through the Indian territories) it is valued above food. Were there nothing else to identify the present race with the inhabitants of the Virginia coasts in 1586, the general use of, and the value attached to tobacco, would supply irrefragable evidence of their propinquity. The lapse of nine generations has not, in the least, diminished their extraordinary attachment to this narcotic production. [76]

-- 89 --

Previous section

Next section

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document:
Powered by PhiloLogic