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The Deadly Politics of Giving

Exchange and Violence at Ajacan, Roanoke, and Jamestown

Written by Seth Mallios

Publication Year: 2006

A clash of cultures on the North American continent.
With a focus on indigenous cultural systems and agency theory, this volume analyzes Contact Period relations between North American Middle Atlantic Algonquian Indians and the Spanish Jesuits at Ajacan (1570–72) and English settlers at Roanoke Island (1584–90) and Jamestown Island (1607–12). It is an anthropological and ethnohistorical study of how European violations of Algonquian gift-exchange systems led to intercultural strife during the late 1500s and early 1600s, destroying Ajacan and Roanoke, and nearly destroying Jamestown.


Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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List of Illustrations

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p. ix


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pp. xi-xii

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-24

Over half a century before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and more than two decades before Captain John Smith laid eyes on Jamestown Island, a young Virginia Indian single-handedly altered the course of European colonization in North America. “Don Luis” was the name Catholic missionaries gave to this native Algonquian; his indigenous name would forever elude the...

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2. Gifts and Commodities

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pp. 25-36

Whereas a gift is a simple and direct something-for-nothing offering, gift exchange is part of an elaborate social and economic system with rules and consequences. Gift exchange dictates that there is no such thing as a free gift. There are always strings attached. Of the many scholars who have studied exchange, none figure more prominently here than anthropologist Marcel Mauss. ...

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3. Ajacan

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pp. 37-57

An understandably defeatist attitude permeates many scholarly discussions of Ajacan. This stems from a variety of factors, but it is primarily due to the paucity of historical records that exist regarding this attempted settlement and the questionable details within them. To begin with, the Jesuits resided at Ajacan for less than six months, which included a period of isolation for nearly half...

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4. Roanoke

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pp. 58-79

The first English attempts at settling North America occurred in Carolina Algonquian territory during the 1580s. Neither the 1584 precolony venture nor the three subsequent colonies resulted in permanent English settlement. The local Ossomocomuck Algonquian tribes that the English engaged maintained separate identities and frequently antagonized one another. ...

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5. Jamestown

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pp. 80-106

Undeterred by three failed colonies in the Carolinas, England attempted another Middle Atlantic settlement in the early 1600s. This Jamestown colony would succeed in becoming the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. Much like the ill-fated European colonies at Ajacan and Roanoke, socioeconomic clashes contributed to intercultural hostilities at early James-...

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6. Conclusion

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pp. 107-123

Europeans and Algonquians maintained different motivations and tactics in their political and socioeconomic dealings with one another. In the course of discussing their differences, this analysis has endeavored to show how socio-economic violations were one of a handful of likely catalysts for conflict. ...


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pp. 125-143


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pp. 145-150

E-ISBN-13: 9780817382056
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817353360

Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 426545157
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Deadly Politics of Giving

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • South Atlantic States -- History.
  • Great Britain -- Colonies -- America.
  • Spain -- Colonies -- America.
  • Ceremonial exchange -- South Atlantic States.
  • Algonquian Indians -- Wars -- South Atlantic States.
  • Indians of North America -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
  • Algonquian Indians -- First contact with Europeans -- South Atlantic States.
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