Tagged: Fort Christanna Saponi
December 28, 2022 at 1:07 am #66950MarcSnellingKeymaster
The Saponi Nation, Governor Spotswood, and the Experiment at Fort Christanna, 1670-1740
by Stephanie Gamble
from: Native South
Volume 6, 2013
University of Nebraska Press
Fort Christanna, built in 1714, was the product of the overlaps in and tensions between Virginia’s colonial policies and piedmont Indians’ goals. In the decades leading up to the creation of Fort Christanna, the various groups that became the Saponi peoples migrated throughout the piedmont and merged with other peoples in a continual effort to secure themselves from a variety of Native enemies. Though historians acknowledge the mobility of piedmont Natives, this article contributes to an enhanced understanding of the migrations and mergers of Virginia’s Siouan speakers by addressing the factors that drove these Natives from their existing towns and induced them to inhabit new locations and to adopt new living arrangements. In particular, this article illuminates the ways in which the Saponis, Occaneechees, and Tutelos who came to inhabit Fort Christanna negotiated a rapidly changing political landscape.
By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Saponis, Occaneechees, Tutelos, and Stuckanox had ventured a combination of migrations and mergers in a vain attempt to find security. They sought new alternatives. At the same time, Governor Spotswood developed his plan for Fort Christanna, devised to fulfill colonial interests for defense, trade, and Christianizing the Natives. The Saponis acceded to the plan, and for four years Christanna served the interests of both parties, albeit asymmetrically.
Relations between Virginians and piedmont Natives revolved largely around trade and security. For Virginians, Native trading partners could be called upon as allies in times of need, especially when those trading partners were tributaries, that is, officially tied to the colony as subject peoples.2 Virginia’s forts, although colony-run during periods of war, were usually in private hands during peacetime, when they doubled as trading posts. Throughout Virginia’s history, trade with Indians occurred primarily, or at times exclusively, at forts, which became locations not only for defense, but also for commercial and more general interactions between Natives and colonists. The Saponi peoples learned how to interact with colonists, often through trade, in their search for reliable allies. Their migrations owed much to their search for a haven safe from raids and attacks by northern Iroquois, southern slavers, and disruptive neighbors. Closely linked to this imperative was access to European goods—particularly guns, powder, and ammunition.
This article demonstrates how these interests combined to create Fort Christanna by tracing their evolution, beginning around 1670, when interactions between Virginians and piedmont-dwelling Natives intensified. The community forged at Christanna reveals a brief period of cultural cooperation between colonists and Natives. As Virginian policies changed and Indians’ goals no longer coincided with those of the colony, however, the opportunity that created Christanna passed, and the community of convenience dissolved.
Although the colonists’ policies and Natives’ goals aligned briefly, they were not identical. The parties did not value defense, trade, and intercultural engagement equally or for the same ends; neither party was unified. Christanna was a precarious location for piedmont Indians and Virginians to handle changing and divided interests. However, instead of viewing the demise of Fort Christanna as inevitable, it is illuminating to address the way colonial and Native leaders worked to establish a functioning relationship and how they responded when that relationship failed.
In recent years a rich literature in the ethno-historical tradition has developed around the concept of the Mississippian Shatter Zone. The Mississippian Shatter Zone encompassed the entire Eastern Woodlands from about 1620-1720, and was the result of the introduction of European market practices to the region, particularly the slave and fur trades. According to Robbie Ethridge, “an initial result was the generation of a handful of militaristic Indian slaving societies that held control of the trade, and that, through their slave raiding, caused widespread dislocation, migration, amalgamation, and in some cases, extinction of Native peoples.”3 These militaristic Indian slaving societies dominated for a century. Although the Mississippian Shatter Zone, as articulated by Ethridge, affected the entire Eastern Woodlands, works regarding the Mississippian Shatter Zone have primarily focused on the former Mississippian world.
Read more at: https://muse.jhu.edu/article/519247
Movement of Saponi People 1675-1715
Movement of Saponi People 1715-1780
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