The Powhatan - Sparing Women and Children?

Although judging by the dead list for 22 March, you would think the Powhatan thought nothing of killing and maiming women and little fair-haired infants and babies, in fact it seems they generally made a point to spare them when possible and even treat them well as valuable wives or else as slaves, slavery and the slave trade being an aboriginal practice in this part of the Americas. Hume believes nearly all the women and children at Martin's Hundred reported dead in the Massacre were so treated, but marked off for dead when they could not be found (258). We should not forget that often the sole object of Powhatan warfare was the securing of female captives. Below are a few reports to illustrate:

John Smith learned of the Powhatan he met in 1607, "They seldome make warre for lands or goods, but for women and children, and principally for revenge…Yet the Werowances, women, and children, they put not to death, but keepe them Captives" (A Map of Virginia, 105-106).

At a mock battle staged for Smith at Nonsuch at the same time, Smith recorded,

Having thus pitched the fields; from either part went a Messenger with these conditions, that whosoever were vanquished, such as escape, upon their submission in 2 daies after, should live, but their wives and children should be prize for the Conquerers (A Map of Virginia, 106).

William Strachey thought the endemic feuding in which family heads and weroances of rival Indian nations "strive for manie wives, is, because they would have many children, who maie, if chaunce be, fight for them when they are old, as also feed and mayntein them," but speculated that "their often warrs for women (in which many hundreds perish)," along with promiscuity and the venereal desease and hunger they suffered by, rather contributed to the sparseness of the Indians' population in Virginia, making the body "generall unfitt to the office of increase rather than otherwise: so maie the common people especially, for the most part, for this reason likewise be not so long lived here as ellswhere, even amongst salvadges where greater moderacion is used, and where they keepe a stricter ceremonie in their kind of marriages, and have not as manie women as they can buy or wyn by force and violence from the enemyes" (114).

Strachey also reported a real expedition by Wahunsonacock (Powhatan) against his enemies on the Piankatank river to the north 1608, saying:

Twenty-four men they kild outright (the rest escaping by fortune and their swift footmanship); and the long haire of the one side of their heads,with the skin cased off with shells or reedes, they brought away to Powhatan. They surprised also the women and childrene and the Weroance, all whome they presented to Powhatan (36).

The minutes of the Virginia Council for 11 November 1619 included a discussion of an invitation that had reached them on 25 October from Opechancanough, the same sachem who supposedly engineered the 1622 Massacre, to say he

required from the governor some 8 or tenn Engleshe with ther Armes to assiste hime in battell against a people dwelinge about a daies Jornye beyond the ffalls Called Massituppamohtnock to bee revenged of hime for murtheringe certaine woemen of his Contrary to ye law of Nations, offeringe to furneshe our people wth Indyan shooes to march and to Carry thire Armor for them tell they should haue occatyon to use yt as lickwise to share all the booty of male and female Children: of Corne and other things and to devide the Conquered land into two equall parts betweene us and them (Kingsbury 228).

Finally, we know that on 1 April, 1623, Christopher Best wrote to a Mr. John Woodall, "There are none but women in Captivitie with th'Indians for the men that they tooke they put them to death" (Kingsbury IV: 238).

Therefore, knowing full well the error of relying on the morals, common sense, and historical or anthropological knowledge of the average convention gamer to quietly settle such matters, I have introduced point disincentives for female and child deaths into the Wolstenholme Towne victory conditions.

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Last updated 16 August, 2004.
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