Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Previous European and Coastal Native American Encounters

When Arthur Barlowe and Philip Amadas attempted to communicate with Algonquians near Roanoke Island in 1584, they had no idea how much the natives knew about Europeans.  The captains would be told of two events that had happened along the Outer Banks but nothing more.  The few encounters that tribes north and south of the Banks had had with Europeans might have been a part of the Roanoke natives’ oral history, but we don’t know that.

We do know the following.

Giovanni de Verrazzanno, sailing for France, visited the Outer Banks in 1524.  Verrazzano’s ship, La Dauphine, neared the area of Cape Fear on or about March 1 and, after a short stay, reached Pamlico Sound.  Believing he had found the beginning of the Pacific Ocean, Verrazzano continued his exploration of the North American coastline.  Missing the entrance to Chesapeake Bay and the mouth of the Delaware River, he reached Newfoundland before sailing back to France.  On a third voyage to North America, in 1528, he explored Florida, the Bahamas, and the Lesser Antilles.  Rowed ashore to the island of Guadeloupe, he received a much less friendly reception than he had received from the North Carolina Algonquians.  He was killed and eaten.

At a
bout this same time, Spanish ships must have navigated the North Carolina and Virginia coastline, for Spanish cartographers had begun to show the Chesapeake Bay on their North American maps.  We do know that in 1549 the crew of either a French or Spanish ship traded with the Powhatans of Virginia.

French Huguenots established outposts on the South Carolina coast in 1562 and again in 1564.  Spaniards slaughtered them.  In 1565, Spanish settlers founded St. Augustine on the Florida coast.

Then there is the story of Paquinquineo. 

A Spanish exploratory voyage captained by Antonio Velazquez entered Chesapeake Bay in June 1561.  Two native youths were taken.  One was probably the son of the Paspahegh (Algonquian) chief of the village of Kiskiack on the Virginia Peninsula.  The Spaniards named him Paquinquineo (little Francis). That September, he arrived in Seville and was taken to Cordoba and Madrid.  He had an audience with Queen Elizabeth’s future nemesis, King Philip II.  In August 1562, he arrived in Mexico City and, like so many natives exposed to European diseases, he became ill.  Unlike most, he recovered.  Thereafter, Jesuits baptized him Don Luis de Velasco and educated him. 

In 1566, Don Luís accompanied a Spanish expedition sent by Pedro Menendez de Aviles from Spanish Florida to the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia) Peninsula to found a Spanish colony.  The Spaniards believed at that time that the Chesapeake was an opening to a water passageway to China.   A severe storm turned the expedition back.

In August 1570, Father Juan Bautista de Segura, Jesuit vice provincial of Havana, and Father Luis de Quitos, former head of the Jesuit college among the Moors in Spain, and six Jesuit brothers left Havana to establish a mission in Virginia.  Don Luis was to act as their guide and translator.  Their ship landed on the Virginia Peninsula September 10, perhaps on the New Kent side of Diascund Creek near its confluence with the Chickahominy River.  They built a small wooden hut with an adjoining room where they could conduct mass.  Their ship departed.  The Jesuits proved to be pushy and intolerant.  Very soon, Don Luís left the settlement.

Months passed.  The Jesuits had used up their supply of food.  Trade with the Indians had stopped, a lengthy drought having reduced what the natives were able to store.  Disease, transmitted by the Jesuits, had decimated their population.  They looked upon the presence of the Spaniards as the cause of their uncharacteristic misfortunes.  One swift action would solve them.  That action took place in February 1571.  All of the Spaniards but a young servant boy, Alonso de Olmos, were murdered.

A Spanish supply ship arrived in the spring.  Natives wearing the priests’ vestments called out to the ship.  Sailors began to transport their cargo to shore.  They were attacked.  They withstood the attack, captured two natives, and returned to the ship.  They learned from the captives that the Jesuits had been killed. 

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived from Florida in August 1572 with four ships and 150 men.  Believing that Don Luís's uncle was responsible for the settlement’s massacre, he lured several natives aboard his ship with gifts and questioned them.  Learning that Alonso de Olmos was alive, he had the boy brought to him.  After hearing Olmos’s account of the killing, de Avilés ordered his men to attack the natives that were waiting ashore.  20 Paspaheghs were killed; 12 were captured.  De Avilés’s offer to exchange his hostages for Don Luís was rejected.  From the shoreline Don Luis’s warriors watched the hostages baptized.  Afterward, they witnessed each captive hung from a yardarm.  

The first of the two events that Wingina’s people mentioned to Captains Barlowe and Amadas happened in 1558.  A ship had run aground on the Outer Banks.  Surviving members had been washed ashore on Wococon Island – located about 80 miles southwest of Roanoke Island.   Algonquians from the village of Secotan had helped them fasten together two dugout canoes.  They had erected masts for them and made sails, using the Europeans’ shirts.  They had given the sailors food, wished them good fortune, and watched them set off to venture out to sea.  After a sudden storm, the natives had come upon the make-shift “boat,” broken apart on the sand of an adjoining island.

The second event had occurred in 1564.  A “Christian shippe” had wrecked on the Outer Banks, this time with no survivors.  Local Indians had salvaged what had come ashore.  Included in the debris had been nails and spikes, which the Indians had used subsequently for tools.

As shocked as Wingina’s people must have been at the initial sight of Barlowe’s and Amadas’s ships, they were not ignorant of the existence of strange, powerful men who lived far beyond the great ocean that bordered their world.