Let’s Talk History 24: Ethnohistory & the First Anglo-Powhatan War


The Anglo-Powhatan Wars of 1609–1614. A newly fortified Jamestown attacks the Powhatan. English colonists are tortured and killed; tribes are massacred and their villages burned.


Free Dictionary:

  • The study of especially indigenous or non-Western peoples from a combined historical and anthropological viewpoint


  • […] most commonly used in writing about the history of Americas


New Philology generally refers to a branch of Mexican ethnohistory and philology that uses colonial-era native language texts written by Indians to construct history from the indigenous point of view.

Ethnohistory is the idea of Native Americans (and other historically disenfranchised peoples) as dynamic — with complex desires, intelligence, interpersonal relationships, culture — rather than as passive. It is the reminder that many (primary) interpretations and constructions of history are documented from the (biased) perspective of a conquering people.


  • The idea of Wahunsunacawh(Chief Powhatan) desiring restricted English settlement, but Captain John Smith desiring settlement elsewhere (in regions outside of Wahunsunacawh’s authority).
  • Crowded settlement reducing area for animal grazing and crop raising while increasing the necessity of resource sharing.
  • The idea of other tribes befriending Europeans out of friendliness as well as fear of both English settlers and Wahunsunacawh.

Come back next week for the cultivation of tobacco in the Virginia colony! See ya next Tuesday! >>>