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In 1606, guided by the Discovery Doctrine which declared that Christian nations had the right to conquer and rule all non-Christian nations, England gave a Royal Charter to the Virginia Company to develop a market in the New World for English commerce and for

“Propagating of Christian Religion to such people, as yet live in darkness.”
The charter characterized Indians as living
“in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God.”

The Virginia Company was founded and directed by a group of merchants and gentry who were motivated in part by the promise of strong economic returns for their investment. The company intended to plant trading posts to acquire furs and other valuables from the Indians, and to sell them manufactured goods and textiles. In addition, the Company intended to search for gold and silver, and begin the development of industries, such as the production of naval stores and the manufacture of shingles. Following the royal charter, they sought the conversion of the heathen (that is, converting Indians to Protestant Christianity), the expansion of the English kingdom, increased revenues for the king, employment for the English vagrant poor, and a market for English manufactured goods.

The Plymouth Company, a branch of the Virginia Company of England, was granted the northern coast from New York to Maine. The primary participants in the Plymouth Company were powerful people who had the political and economic means to put a large region of North America under their personal control.

In 1607, the Virginia Company established the colony of Sagadohoc on the Kennebec River. The party included 120 men and Skidwarres, one of the Abenaki who had been kidnapped in 1602. Skidwarres was supposed to serve as the trusted interpreter-liaison between the English and the Abenaki. However, as soon as he made contact with the Abenaki, he simply slipped into the crowd and returned to his people.

The purpose of the Sagadohoc colony was to find precious metals and spices, establish a fur trade with the Native Americans, and show that New World forests were a limitless resource for English shipbuilders.

While sailing to Maine, the English had encountered two sailing shallops being used by Souriquois under the leadership of Membertou. The Souriquois offered skins for trade and the English noted that the Indians seem to be using a lot of French words. The use of French words told the English that the Indians were in contact with the French. Concerned about the possibility of a French attack, the colonists built an earthenwork fort, which they called Fort St. George. The fort was fortified with eight cannons.

In one instance, five Abenaki, including Skidwarres and the leader Nahaneda, showed up at the fort. They joined the colonists for both food and church services. The Indians were accustomed to hospitality when they visited other villages, but they found that the English forced them to endure public prayers both morning and evening. They told the English that they thought that King James was a good king and that his God was a good God, but that Tanto (their own deity) had commanded them to avoid contact with the English.

While one of the goals of the English colony was to establish trade with the Indians, the English, lacking any understanding of Indian cultures and arrogantly assuming the superiority of their own culture, managed to anger their Abenaki neighbors. As a result trade between the two groups was suspended. There were a number of minor skirmishes in which 11 colonists were killed.

In spite of the tense relationships, the English did manage to obtain some English furs and they gathered sarsaparilla, which the Europeans felt was a valuable herbal cure-all. Tired of waiting for English ships to arrive and resupply them, the English colonists built their own 50-foot ship and were preparing to return on their own when the ships arrived. The English brought with them word that the colony’s leader was now the heir to an immense fortune. With visions of a lavish castle in mind, he decided to return to England and the colony was abandoned.

Native American Netroots Web BadgeCross Posted at Native American Netroots

 An ongoing series sponsored by the Native American Netroots team focusing on the current issues faced by American Indian Tribes and current solutions to those issues.


Originally posted to Native American Netroots on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 08:33 AM PST.

Also republished by History for Kossacks and Invisible People.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Indians 101 (17+ / 0-)

    is a series exploring American Indian cultures, histories, biographies, and current concerns. It is posted here on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    For more about New England Indians see--

    Aboriginal New England Cuisine

    Maine's Indian Heritage

    Massachusetts Prior to the Pilgrims

  •  thank you for this, as usual! (7+ / 0-)

    tipped and rec'ed.

    pseudoscience can kill

    by terrypinder on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 08:54:30 AM PST

  •  Good work. nt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ojibwa, JBL55, weck

    Speak the truth, but ride a fast horse.

    by Deep Harm on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 09:47:45 AM PST

  •  The Discovery Doctrine usually comes as a shock... (4+ / 0-)

    ... when Christians, especially liberal ones, learn about it.

    The Episcopal Diocese of Maine explicitly condemned it at its annual convention in 2007, which led to a number of other religious organizations following suit, including the national Episcopal Church in 2009.

    When it was presented at convention and read aloud in churches across the state the following Sunday, it took a lot of us by surprise because we hadn't heard of it before and we were horrified at its implications and consequences.

    The Doctrine of Discovery was the theme for the 11th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in 2012.  In February of this year, the executive committee of the World Council of Churches issued the following statement in which the WCC:

    A.      Expresses solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of the world and supports the rights of Indigenous Peoples to live in and retain their traditional lands and territories, to maintain and enrich their cultures and to ensure that their traditions are strengthened and passed on for generations to come;

    A.      Denounces the Doctrine of Discovery as fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and as a violation of the inherent human rights that all individuals and peoples have received from God;

    B.      Urges various governments in the world to dismantle the legal structures and policies based on the Doctrine of Discovery and dominance, so as better to empower and enable Indigenous Peoples to identify their own aspirations and issues of concern;

    C.      Affirms its conviction and commitment that Indigenous Peoples be assisted in their struggle to involve themselves fully in creating and implementing solutions that recognize and respect the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples and to exercise their right to self-determination and self-governance;

    D.      Requests the governments and states of the world to ensure that their policies, regulations and laws that affect Indigenous Peoples comply with international conventions and, in particular, conform to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169;

    E.       Calls on each WCC member church to reflect upon its own national and church history and to encourage all member parishes and congregations to seek a greater understanding of the issues facing Indigenous Peoples, to support Indigenous Peoples in their ongoing efforts to exercise their inherent sovereignty and fundamental human rights, to continue to raise awareness about the issues facing Indigenous Peoples and to develop advocacy campaigns to support the rights, aspirations and needs of Indigenous Peoples;

    F.       Encourages WCC member churches to support the continued development of theological reflections by Indigenous Peoples which promote indigenous visions of full, good and abundant life and which strengthen their own spiritual and theological reflections.

    "The fears of one class of men are not the measure of the rights of another." ~ George Bancroft (1800-1891)

    by JBL55 on Tue Dec 18, 2012 at 10:42:31 AM PST

  •  I wasn't aware (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of this Discovery Doctrine.

    When people would discuss the Plymouth and Virginia colonies it was always implied how we need to go back to how "things were". I dismissed such a notion because I knew it was little more than a commercial endeavor. The aristocrats were generally without skills of measureable worth so that is why the 'yeoman farmers'  and other laborers were here to pick up the slack.

    Here in Pennsylvania, the Paxton Boys slaughtered 20 Susquehannock/Conestoga that previously converted to Christianity.

    I will look more into this "Discovery Doctrine". I guess it shouldn't surprise me too much, as even Queen Isabella tried to turn Spain into a "Christian Nation", requiring a culling of Jews unwilling to convert or move fast enough. She did this the same year she (and Ferdinand) funded the voyages of... Christopher Columbus.

    Forget Occam's Razor, try hitting them with Darwin's Hammer!

    by Munynn on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 05:12:29 PM PST

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