By Helen C. Rountree
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Additional resources for Before and After Jamestown: Virginia's Powhatans and Their Predecessors
All human populations encountered by anthropologists or described by historians have had people with differing personalities and differing abilities to follow the rules, whatever the local rules may be. And the needs of local populations, in relation to their neighbors, can change due to natural stresses like droughts or human stresses such as overpopulation. So it is safe to say that occasionally—and only occasionally, because everybody had to work hard in order to eat—there were lawbreakers and people at odds with each other within the hamlets.
The English did not record much about the native holy places or rituals; there is more about Indian deities and the power of the priests. But it is safe to infer the homegrown nature and the vividness of Powhatan religion in the people’s lives, giving them deep attachments to a religion which in turn bound them to their territory. Last but not least, a phrase that has become hackneyed in modern rhetoric was true for the Powhatans: they really were “closer to the land” than Europeans were then or modern Americans are now.
Men and women who work part of the time in a forest will encounter briars, often without having water and medicine with them to clean the resulting scratches. It is hard to say exactly which infectious diseases the Virginia native people suffered from. Seventeenth-century English medical diagnoses were entirely different from those made by doctors today, and much less 32 Before and After Jamestown precise. The English were more fatalistic about people dying young, so that in the case of Pocahontas’s death, for instance, neither her symptoms nor their supposed cause were even mentioned by her contemporaries.