Indians in the United States and Canada: A Comparative History

By Roger L. Nichols | Go to book overview

2 Indians and English near the Chesapeake, 1570s-1670s

The English Began their exploration of North America slightly before the French and Spanish, but following the efforts of John and Sebastian Cabot during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, they lapsed into inactivity. In fact, nearly three-quarters of a century passed before Sir Humphrey Gilbert and then Sir Walter Ralegh restarted British explorations. In 1583 Gilbert perished at sea, and in 1584 Ralegh dispatched two ships to investigate the southern coast of North America. Under the command of Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe, they reached the outer banks of Carolina near Roanoke Island in July of that year. That month members of the Roanoke and Croatoan tribes met the English peacefully. Then, in August, the English set sail for England with "two of the savages being lustie men, whose names were Wanchese and Manteo." 1 Apparently the village leaders agreed to send at least one of the two young men back with them, although there is some possibility that the intruders abducted Wanchese. 2 In any case, early relations between the tribal people and the whites proved relatively peaceful, but that was not to last.

The next spring Ralegh sent a fleet of seven ships carrying nearly six hundred men to North America. Although not all of this force reached its destination, much of it did, and with an invasion that size it was only a matter of time until violence occurred. By late June 1585 the first ship reached the outer banks and began exploring nearby islands and coastal regions. In mid-July, after the Indians visited one of the ships, the English realized that a silver cup belonging to Sir Richard Grenville was missing. Although the villagers denied having taken it,

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