Native History in the Chesapeake: The Powhatan Chiefdom and Beyond

Martin Gallivan

in The Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195380118
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Native History in the Chesapeake: The Powhatan Chiefdom and Beyond

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  • Archaeology of North America



As home to the Powhatan chiefdom, the Jamestown colony, and colonial interaction involving a number of recognizable figures of seventeenth-century history, the Chesapeake region has played a prominent role in American origins mythology. To take an example, colonist John Smith's captivity narrative foregrounds the tale of his wily negotiations with the Algonquian leader Wahunsenacawh (or Powhatan) in the town of Werowocomoco and his rescue from execution by Wahunsenacawh's daughter Pocahontas. Smith's accounts launched a cottage industry of Powhatan studies and assumed iconic status for some as a sign of forthcoming English colonial success and Native societies' retreat. Much of the historiography and archaeology that have focused on James Fort have emphasized such event-driven history, understood as reflecting the roots of American democracy.

Keywords: Chesapeake; native history; Powhatan chiefdom; colonial interaction; American democracy; English colony

Article.  4422 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology of North America

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