History is laced with cruel ironies. In 1492, Cristobal Colón (known to the English-speaking world as Christopher Columbus) accidentally arrived off the coast of the Americas while searching for a westerly passage to India. In Spanish, the name Colón translates into "farmer." Hence, the word colonialism for the concomitant attempts to justify colonial processes as progress. Thus, the process whereby Europeans and their progeny have systematically dispossessed the indigenous peoples of the non-Western world is aptly named like the one who initiated it on the eve of the modern era. Nearly three hundred years later, an American continental general named Jeffrey Amherst contrived a scheme for exterminating Indian tribes on the frontier by sending them gifts of smallpox-infested blankets (Rice, 1970: p. 56). In 1774, the government of Virginia honored this military "hero" by naming a county on the upper James River after him. In the two centuries to follow, Amherst County would play host to one of the most peculiar and denigrating set of colonial circumstances ever to face indigenous people in North America.
Before the advent of railroads and highways, rivers provided the vital means of transportation and communication in the southeastern highlands, and for the Monacans and their confederates the