What Was The Treaty Of 1677 And Why Was It Signed?

The conflicts between greedy Jamestown settlers and neighboring Native Americans eventually exploded to envelop all of Virginia, and many more Native American tribes. There was a seemingly perpetual cycle of violence: it began when English or European settlers encroached on Native American territory because they required new land for the most recent batch of settlers. Eventually, tensions between the Native Americans and settlers would grow and grow until blood was shed on both sides. And then the cycle ended with a treaty or some sort of deal to draw the boundary lines. 

The cycle inevitably began again — because settlers wanted more land. It always began with the settlers.

Unfortunately, when Native Americans had issues with these settlers, they couldn’t just have a sit-down with Nagel Rice LLP and chat about how best to press criminal charges against the obviously unlawful actions that had been perpetrated against them. Life didn’t work that way!

One such treaty was signed between King Charles II and numerous representatives of tribes like the Appomattoc, Monacan, Meherrin, Nansemond, Nanzatico, and Nottoway.  It was called the Treaty of 1677. Others knew it as the Treaty of Middle Plantation or, simpler, the Treaty Between Virginia And The Indians. 

It was signed as a way to end conflict, like all the others, but likely went further than most preceding treaties had done. However, in truth this just left the treaty with more room to fail. The Treaty of 1677 forced the Native American tribes to become tributaries to the English Crown, which essentially provided them with a number of “rights” so long as they paid taxes and remained obedient. The treaty left them their territories, drew up fresh boundaries, provided them with the right to hunt or fish on their land, the right to bear arms, and several other rights afforded to all other colonists.

Article I said, “That the respective Indian Kings and Queens do from henceforth acknowledge to have their immediate Dependency on, and own all Subjection to the Great King of England, our now Dread Sovereign, His Heirs and Successors, when they pay their Tribute to His Majesties Governour for the time being.”

There were also very technical rules that both sides were meant to have followed (but didn’t, of course): “It is hereby Concluded and Established, That no English shall Seat or Plant nearer than Three miles of any Indian Town; and whosoever hath made, or shall make an Incroachment upon their Lands, shall be removed from thence, and proceeded against as by the former Peace made, when the Honourable Colonel Francis Morison was Governour, and the Act of Assembly grounded thereupon, is Provided and Enacted.”

Native American witnesses include: Queen Pamunkey; her son, Captain John West; King of the Notowayes; King Peracuta of the Appomattux; Queen of Wayonaoake; King of the Nanzem’d; King Pattanochus of the Nansatiocoes; King Shurenough of the Manakins, King Mastegonoe of the Sappones; Chief Tachapoake of the Sappones, Chief Vnuntsquero of the Maherians; and Chief Horehonnah of the Maherians. 

Why Was Jamestown Even Founded?

Many people realize and acknowledge that the Jamestown Settlement, originally founded in 1607 after a late December departure in 1606, was an English settlement. But most of those same people probably have no idea that the settlement was originally owned by the London Company — and not the Royal Crown — and was intended to be a for-profit business venture.

This venture led to a series of supply missions once the settlement was established. They lasted from 1607 until 1611. A secondary priority for the London Company was maintaining a garrison of James Fort, which was eventually constructed on Jamestown Island. 

These supply missions brought direly needed resources and additional settlers. Remember, scores of the original planters died during overly harsh winters, injury, disease, and dysentery. They had come to a dangerous place — and they were unprepared for the obstacles ahead. 

Because Jamestown was founded by a company whose members were rich, and had been intended to keep a military presence in Virginia, the location of the settlement was chosen primarily for its highly defensible position. This decision resulted in both positive and negative consequences. 

Over the following decades, the ability to hold the position turned into a boon due to innumerable Native American attacks. It should be noted, however, that the settlers brought the vast majority of these attacks on themselves.

The negative consequences, then, likely outweighed the positive a great deal. The water at the location was stagnant and bad. The land was not ideal for agriculture, and farming was a skill that would need to be employed eventually if the people were to survive. Most of the original settlers were wealthy. Because they lacked these skills or resisted manual labor, many died during the first full winter they experienced. Rumors of cannibalisms persist to this day.

Mostly, the settlement couldn’t fully support itself until those living in the vicinity began to encroach on Native American lands. When the English Crown took over much later, the potential for the settlement increased substantially.

The Beginnings Of Systemic Racism Began In Virginia

In our series on post-establishment Jamestown, we discussed many of the ongoing conflicts between Native Americans and Jamestown colonists, and then those growing to become even larger and bloodier conflicts between a number of Native American tribes (most of which were wiped out, pushed off their lands, or assimilated) and Virginia colonists from other established settlements, including Jamestown. 

We also discussed the arrival of the first African slaves to the new world. Africans would continue to arrive by the boatload; some slaves, some free men and women. You either probably already know this, or at the very least it comes as no surprise — after all, the slave trade started somewhere. But what you might not know is that this was a historical seed that, once planted, would mature into a fairly rotten plant we call “systemic racism today.”

To many American citizens even today, the phrase doesn’t mean much. It’s just something that social justice warriors and bleeding heart liberals like to say to prove a point — right? But you would be wrong. 

It all started when a man named Nathaniel Bacon led a group of frontiersmen against the Virginian Colonial Governor William Berkeley. These frontiersmen were from all walks of life. Some were indentured servants, some were African slaves, some were Native Americans, some were English, and others were from other European countries. “Bacon’s Rebellion,” as it would come to be called, resulted in Jamestown being completely burned to the ground. Berkeley fled.

When Jamestown was leveled, the town couldn’t exactly go about filing bankruptcy. What they could do, though, was raise a force to put down the rebellion — which was ongoing for years and years. Bacon and his raised army (of thousands) were initially stopped when armed merchant ships offered Berkeley help. This force held out long enough for colonial government reinforcements to swoop in. Bacon himself died of dysentery before his rebellion ended — and likely it was due to his death that many of his followers left the cause. 

It was due to Bacon’s Rebellion that the English Crown assumed even more direct control over the Virginia colony. According to historical documents, Berkeley was summoned back to England because: “The fear of civil war among whites frightened Virginia’s ruling elite, who took steps to consolidate power and improve their image: for example, restoration of property qualifications for voting, reducing taxes, and adoption of a more aggressive Indian policy.”

Many historians have come to believe that the Crown’s (and the colonial government of Virginia’s) response was designed to drive a wedge between the European settlers, indentured servants, and African slaves. What was the point? With racial lines drawn between these groups, the original settlers would be able to better manipulate and control the poorer settlers who came later. This method was used to decrease the chances of, or opportunity for, another rebellion in the subsequent decades.

It worked for nearly one hundred years — when the American Revolution was born. Thomas Jefferson believed that the revolution followed in Bacon’s footsteps.  

Post-Establishment Jamestown (After 1610): Part V

In part four of our ongoing series on post-establishment Jamestown, we discussed the Third Anglo-Powhatan War of 1644. Shortly before this war, the Crown took over ownership of Virginia and was able to provide the colony with additional resources to fuel conflicts with Native Americans. After another attack by the Powhatan, Jamestown militarization occurred at a growing rate, leading to the construction of four forts. The war ended with a treaty that favored the Jamestown settlers and taxed the Native Americans.

The next chief of the Powhatan was named Neotowance, but he died only a few years later. His successor was a man named Totopotomoi and he took on the mantle of Weroance of the Pamunkey, an altogether different title than “Paramount Chief” of the Powhatan. His allegiances shifted from side to side to protect the peace, and eventually he died fighting Native Americans who had continued to fight their way past borders that the aforementioned treaty drew.

However, that’s not to say that those Native Americans were the “bad guys” in this historic tale. On the contrary, the colonists were once again the ones to cause conflict. Even after the treaty, they continued to push past the borders in an effort to obtain more land.

When Chief Wahanganoche patented tribal land to the colonists in an attempt to appease them, they accused him of murder. He was tried, found not guilty, and allowed to go free — after which, the colonists stalked and murdered him. The colonial government of Virginia increased tension even more when those in authority demanded the tribe sell every parcel of land to the colony. When the Native Americans rightly refused this demand, the colony declared war on the Patawomeck  in 1666.

What followed was nothing short of the complete genocide of the tribes residing in Northern Virginia. A new treaty would follow yet more violence, and that treaty would be followed by violence in kind. The beginning of each new cycle was nearly always catalyzed by the actions of Virginian colonists, however.

Post-Establishment Jamestown (After 1610): Part IV

In part three of our series on post-establishment Jamestown, we discussed the Indian Massacre of 1622 and how it was used by Jamestown settlers to continue encroaching on Native American lands. The settlers needed it to let the newly arrived indentured servants (most of whom were not English) and the first African family of slaves grow crops such as tobacco. Today, we’ll discuss the long-term aftermath of this conflict.

When a family of settlers, indentured servants, or slaves wanted to change jobs or complain about an “employer,” they couldn’t exactly sit down for a chat with Lipsky Lowe LLP, because there were no employment law firms in existence in the 17th century. Bummer. But in 1624, Jamestown and Virginia as a whole were transferred from the ownership of the London Company directly into the ownership of the Royal Crown. This meant that at the very least, settlers could take grievances directly to the king.

But there were other consequences of this transfer of power and authority as well. The Crown had vested interests in Jamestown, but didn’t care about conflict with the Native Americans at all. Because their interests were uniformly ignored, the Native Americans grew increasingly agitated.

Although there were scattered conflicts and skirmishes with the Native Americans in the subsequent years, it wasn’t until the Third Anglo-Powhatan War in 1644 that the beginning of the end was marked. During this war, about 500 colonists were killed. During the two decades preceding, the population had boomed, making this loss less noticeable than the previous massacre in 1622. 

That doesn’t mean they would ignore the attack on their colony; quite the opposite, in fact. This time, the settlers were more enabled to retaliate. Opechancanough was captured in transport, and later killed by a guard when in custody in Jamestown in 1645. 

His death served to put the Native Americans on notice. They realized that right or wrong, they had to choose where to go and what to do next. And there were really only a few choices: they could leave Virginia, integrate with the colonists, or flee to a reservation set by the Crown. Although most of these reservations have since been assimilated by the Crown and, later, by the newly formed United States government, several still exist today.

Shortly before Opechancanough’s death, the colony’s governors requisitioned three forts to serve as a vanguard shield against further incursions into Jamestown territory. Fort Charles was erected at James Falls, Fort James at Chickahominy, and Fort Royal at York Falls. One year later a fourth fort was requisitioned and erected at Appomattox Falls in the vicinity of modern-day Petersburg: Fort Henry. 

The Third Anglo-Powhatan War officially ended by treaty in the latter half of 1646. This treaty provided clearly marked boundaries that the Native Americans and colonists were not supposed to cross without written permission from authorities garrisoned at one of the four aforementioned forts. But the Native Americans were also essentially forced to become tributaries for the Crown — and that basically meant taxation without representation, a common historical problem that you’re probably already familiar with. 

Post-Establishment Jamestown (After 1610): Part III

In part two of our series on post-establishment Jamestown, we discussed many of the events preceding an attack by the Powhatan Confederacy — the English continued to infringe upon the Native American land as new settlers arrived. These settlers were mostly not English, nor were they wealthy, and were placed into indentured servitude as a result. Voting rights were implemented, as were standardized laws. The first African slaves were introduced into the colony. 

Only three years later, the Powhatan Confederacy decided to end the peace. They invaded Jamestown in force in the early hours of March 22, 1622. This would be the single most important event from 1610 to 1624 and would eventually be labeled the Indian Massacre of 1622. It was an effort to completely eliminate the English presence in the New World.

Almost immediately, hundreds of settlers were slaughtered as the Native American warriors swarmed through the outermost plantations and newly built communities — ensuring that many indentured servants would never survive long enough to repay their debts.

Jamestown itself fared better because a native employee sounded the alarm before the attackers arrived. By this day, only 3,400 of the 6,000 settlers who had arrived by ship during the years 1608 to 1624 still survived. 

John Smith had gone back home after an accident, so he was not in Virginia during the attack. Even so, he decided to record the History of Virginia, and described what he knew as if he had been there: “[The Powhatan] came unarmed into our houses with deer, turkeys, fish, fruits, and other provisions to sell us.” And so the story goes, they used tools procured in those very same houses to murder their inhabitants, including women and children. 

The warrior Opechancanough withdrew, expecting the English settlers to do the same — and go home. Although the English failed to mount a retaliatory strike, they used the massacre as an excuse to continue to steal land from the Native Americans.

Post-Establishment Jamestown (After 1610): Part II

In part one of our series on post-establishment Jamestown, we explored two important events that occurred by 1614: the planting of tobacco and the encroachment onto lands owned by Native Americans. It was the former development that sped the latter development. Tobacco was a crop that would guarantee the health and robustness of Jamestown’s economy, and the settlers required more space to farm it.

John Rolfe was the man who had brought the first tobacco seeds and, coincidentally, it was he who married the famous Pocahontas, who was the daughter of Chief Powhatan. This marriage was built to keep the peace — but Pocahontas died three years later, in 1617, instead guaranteeing violence. Pocahontas’s Uncle Opchanacanough was a warrior who led the Powhatan Confederacy. None of this stopped the Ancient Planters from continuing to steal more land from the Native Americans to plant their tobacco.

Regardless of the difficulty of the trans-Atlantic voyage and life in Jamestown, people still lined up to come. The ride was expensive. And these folks weren’t like the first Jamestown settlers who were accustomed to having wealth. 

These folks were poor by comparison, and so they did the only thing they could do to make the trip feasible — they bought passage based on credit, essentially placing themselves into indentured servitude. They weren’t prostitutes or taken advantage of in other ways, so there was no need to hop over to paulmones.com to find a sexual assault attorney. In return for years of work, they would be granted passage overseas and land once they arrived. Many of these travelers were German. 

Had the Native Americans chosen to attack before this influx of new settlers, they may have successfully wiped them out. But they waited, biding time as relations soured between the communities.

Meanwhile, Jamestown was organizing — not militarily, but instead with standardized laws to ensure the sense of community would only become stronger. The General Assembly drafted these laws at Jamestown Church “to establish one equal and uniform government over all Virginia” for the purpose of writing “just laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting.”

Instead of fostering a stronger community, the laws weakened it — because only English men were allowed to vote, and remember: by this time most new settlers were from other European countries. Polish artisans decided to “strike,” refusing to work because they weren’t allowed a vote. Jamestown couldn’t function without everyone doing their fair share, so the Poles were quickly granted the right to vote as well. 

The community was divided into four boroughs. A few months later, African slaves — the first — arrived aboard the White Lion. Their names were Antoney and Isabella, and they soon had a child, William Tucker. This was the first recorded African family to live in Jamestown, which we know from the census recorded in 1624.

The drafting of laws, strike, and introduction of African slaves occurred in 1619. Three years later, the Powhatan Confederacy was ready to attack — and intended to completely wipe out Jamestown.

Post-Establishment Jamestown (After 1610): Part I

We spend most of our time exploring how early life in Jamestown would have worked and what it would have looked like from our perspective. Many of those who traveled overseas to settle Jamestown would have had a “romantic” notion of this adventure, the same way we might have a romantic notion of hurdling light years through space to settle a faraway place, never to see home again. But those notions are born to die — just like everything else.

Even six years after Jamestown was first settled (this is after the worst winters and starvation periods the colonists would ever know), life was still difficult. It was better, but not good. Production remained inconsistent and the future was uncertain. Those who had organized the Virginia Company had a lot riding on the venture. Imagine investing a ton of money into an expedition and watching it fall to pieces as Jamestown did! You would do anything to right the course.

Governor Sir Thomas Dale was known to have assigned 3-acre parcels of land to each of the surviving members of the original voyages. Those who would arrive later would be entitled to land, but smaller parcels. This allowed Jamestown to grow ever so slowly. When the investors noted the economic advancements, it was time for another gamble: they would begin to farm land that was inhabited by the neighboring Native Americans. They had been mostly peaceful up until that point, but these actions would guarantee new conflict in the future.

One of the most important events in these years occurred in 1614, when a man named John Rolfe brought tobacco seeds from Bermuda. He had harvested them in the wild (tobacco wasn’t native to Bermuda, but it had been planted there years earlier by the Spanish), and no one knew how they would fare in Jamestown. Soon, they had a harvest!

It was these two events — tobacco farming and encroaching on land owned by the Native Americans, that paved the way for what would happen next.

Would You Travel To A New World If You Had The Chance?

The American lifestyle is all about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness above all else. It’s about white picket fences. It’s about church and family. It’s about money and material wealth, even when it seems far out of reach. But is it about adventure? Not everyone would say yes. How many of us go out in search of a new adventure? Ask yourselves if you would do what these people once did!

The first mental obstacle is the most obvious. The Ancient Planters left everything behind. Everything they had ever worked for would be gone. It was a complete reset. Many people would have had to leave parents and other loved ones, knowing they wouldn’t ever see one another again. They couldn’t take many material possessions, even though most were wealthy. 

We’ve already explored the way life worked back in the world the ancient planters had inhabited — one couldn’t just go find a wrongful death attorney to recoup damages. Frontier justice was neither common nor uncommon, because a system of justice was in place — albeit we can gather that it made mistakes in doling out punishments. There’s at least as much about this system we don’t know. We know it was harsh.

But that’s the least that a person traveling to the new world would need to prepare for. It wasn’t just about the circumstances we know about — the starvation, the bad water, the Native American threat, the brutal winters — but the ones they didn’t know about. They had no idea what they were walking into.

They knew the voyage overseas would be a terrible one. They had brought little extra food to make the trip, and if storms caused them to veer off course or spend more time at sea, they had little chance of survival. And the voyage was already a dangerous one. These were people who knew they might never make it across the ocean — and more importantly, they knew it was unlikely they would ever return.

When they arrived, they knew they would have to fend for themselves. They would have to find or grow their own food. They would have to locate a good source of water (they didn’t) and a defensible position (they did) from which to build a settlement that could last. They would have to build everything. 

But keep in mind, these were not men who were accustomed to doing everything themselves. There was a great disconnect between what they must have known they would have to do upon arrival and what they actually wanted to do, which is why rules were put into place guaranteeing that no one who didn’t work would eat. It was a reality check.

Our own world has essentially been explored. The last great frontiers we have left are the ocean and space. Would you leave everything behind to go live the rest of your life on Mars? Would you leave the solar system? That’s similar to what the Ancient Planters had done — but truth be told, we have the resources and technology to make the trip safer and the life in space easier.

Jamestown In Popular Culture

The first settlement here in the present-day United States was, of course, an English one: Jamestown. Over four hundred years have gone by since the first men landed on the shores of the James River (undoubtedly called something different by the people who actually lived and thrived here before the English showed up to do a poor job of just surviving), and it should be no surprise that the settlement has received a great deal of attention in popular culture. Books, films, and music have all been adapted to explore its rich history and the iconic location.

To Have and to Hold was a 1900 best-selling novel set in Jamestown, later adapted to popular films in 1916 and 1922. 

Although the history obviously runs askew of actual events, Disney brought the 1995 animated film Pocahontas to the big screen. It was followed by a direct-to-video sequel no one cares about in 1998. 

Colin Farrell starred in The New World in 2005, a movie directed by Terrence Malick. This was another attempt at the Jamestown story — and certainly they pulled off the albeit dramatized romance between John Smith and Pocahontas better than Disney’s animated movie. Christian Bale starred as well; notably, this was the same year Batman Begins hit theaters.

First Landing: Voyage from England to Jamestown was released in 2007 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement. It features documentation related to the initial landing of settlers.

A 2018 musical called To Look For America was co-written by Richard Digance and Eric Sedge. It covered the first days of Jamestown through the eyes of Bartholomew Gosnold.
Channel Sky 1 launched a Jamestown series in 2017, most notable because it was produced by those responsible for the PBS hit classic Downton Abbey. Because the first boats to arrive in Jamestown carried men, this series explores the obvious “changes” that occurred when the first women crashed the party. And what a party it must have been *wink wink nudge nudge*.