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Pocahontas and the English Boys*

Insight into Early Colonial America

Pocahontas and the English Boys gives a unique perspective on the earliest days of the English settlements in North America. As the title suggests, the lens is on a group of young people, and these children acted as go-betweens between the adults of both of their cultures. Pocahontas, as the beloved daughter of Chief Powhatan, was often sent to the English settlements as an emissary and message bearer. The English boys referred to in the title are less well-known to history. These young boys were specifically given to the Native Americans. Usually, these children were seen almost as adopted children of the tribal leaders and were treated with kindness and honor. In fact, there is some description of how these children would join the tribe, learning the language and culture and even dressing as Native Americans. They were treated well by the Native Americans, probably better than they would have fared in the English settlement, where they would have been seen more like servants.

Despite the title of the book, very little emphasis is actually given to Pocahontas and the English boys. Much of the book sets up the historical and cultural contexts of both the peoples (English and Native American) and the places. There is some discussion of the social milieu of England itself, the structure of Native American culture around the Jamestown area and the Algonquin tribes, and descriptions of early life in a variety of settlements, including some predating Pocahontas. Interactions between the native tribes and the Europeans are described in detail, with quotes from the sources themselves.

I found this to be a very fascinating look at the very earliest days of European settlement on the Eastern seaboard.