Jamestown: What Pocahontas Saw
In this excerpt from "Jamestown: What Pocahontas Saw," an episode of the radio program With Good Reason, Keith Smith, a Nansemond Indian, and Sue Elliott, a Monacan Indian, discuss native views of Jamestown and Pocahontas. The program first aired during the week of January 14, 2006. With Good Reason is produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and hosted by Sarah McConnell.
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There are eight state-recognized Indian tribes in Virginia. Keith Smith, a Nansemond tribal leader and Sue Elliott, a Monacan Indian and director of the Museum of the Monacan Nation in Amherst County, Virginia, were recently interviewed by Rhiannon Berkowitz about their perspectives on the arrival of the first English settlers.
Elliott: The United States was not founded. We were already here and Virginia history books are here at the public school system, we have a paragraph that’s in there that talks about the Virginia Indians and that’s about it.
Smith: The English would have died if it hadn’t been for us. They held us as being savage and pagan and backward and uncivilized and they couldn’t even feed themselves and were unwilling to do the work to feed themselves.
Elliott: The way we met the Europeans, if we could have been seen in the same eyes as they were and welcomed and not tried or forced to change our way of thinking, our way of actually doing ceremonies, and our own language … I think it’s one of the worse things that we do, is we force people to conform.
Smith: The white man wanted to Christianize the Indian, thinking that we were pagan and not close to God but I tend to believe that we were a lot closer to God than they thought we were, as a matter of fact I believe we were a lot closer to God than they were.
Elliott: Respect for the land is one of the most important things that native people are still trying to give to the Europeans and other people in the world. Our Creator provides us with everything we need. We do not have to abuse it.
Smith: I have mixed feelings towards Pocahontas. On the one part, she was a catalyst for peace amongst the Indians and the English, but on the other part I feel that she was somewhat of a traitor as well. There was at least one time that she warned the English that we were going to attack them and a lot of people don’t know that. I often wonder why she felt the need to do that.
Elliott: I felt that she wanted to make these two groups of people, the Europeans and the Indian people, work together as a team and she knew that no matter what happened, they were gonna stay, they were gonna to continue to come into our world as we knew it and the only way to survive was to help her people try to understand these other people and their way of thinking, and their way of doing things, this is what their world is like, be prepared.