Desperate people will not be stopped

We need to recognize that it is impossible to understand the mind set of both the Indians and pioneers hundreds of years after the fact. It’s easy to sit back on our sofas and condemn the actions of the early pioneers, being conveniently removed from circumstances and conditions in a distant time. The pioneers, as we all are, were a product of their environment.

The first permanent English settlement in the New World was at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. The site was chosen because it offered a defensive position against enemy ships and because it was not inhabited by the local Indians. The company financing the settlement told the settlers “Do not offend the naturals.” The settlers wanted the goodwill of the local Indians.(12) So as not to offend the naturals, they didn’t build fortifications, living in tents until houses could be built. However, within two weeks of landing, settlers were attacks by Indians who killed one settler and wounded 11 more. Following the attack, fortifications where hurriedly built around the settlement.(13)

Following the wedding of Pocahontas to John Rolfe, there was a period of relative peace. However in 1622, a large number of Indians showed up with food to sell the settlers. Without warning, the Indians turned on the settlers and massacred 347 people, including women and children, a quarter of the population. Enraged, the settlers soon organized and spent the next 10 years relentlessly pursuing and killing most of the Indians of eastern Virginia.(13) The massacre at Jamestown set an ominous tone for future relations between Indians and settlers.

The vast majority of immigrants to the US had little hope of bettering their lives and one day decided to risk it all by going to America - where hard work and self initiative would determine their fate. After the dangerous 3,000 mile voyage across the Atlantic, some stayed in the East, but many headed west. There were vast stretches of land to farm or raise cattle on and many businesses were needed to service the farmers and ranchers. Failure was not an option for the pioneers. Moving west with their wife and children, NOTHING was going to stop them from establishing their new life in the New World. All settlers stayed away from land directly associated with Indian encampments. Even so, settlers were often attacked and killed by Indians in open land not directly used by Indians. Women and children were killed by Indians as quickly as the men. Indian massacres of white settlers became an all too frequent event. As a result, a mindset of fear, resentment and vengeance developed among settlers. The goal of settlers often was to get rid of the Indians in a particular area no matter how it had to be done. It was massacre for massacre.


Sections in this article

The Indians were NOT superior human beings.

Native American population in 1492

Death by Disease

Desperate people will not be stopped (this page)

Selective unforgiveness

Broken Treaties - Indian Reservations


12. National Park Service web site.

13. History of Virginia: a brief textbook for schools By Royall Bascom Smithe. Published in 1898, p 61-62