James Horn. A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America. New York: Basic Books, 2005. xi + 289 pp. Illustrations, notes, and index. $26.00 (cloth); $15.95 (paper)
Horn announces that "the English were not the first Europeans to discover Virginia" (p. 1). In the summer of 1561, a Spanish ship was driven by storms into the Bay.
Proceeding inland, the Spaniards anchored along a river in order to gather supplies and repair their vessel, and there, on the banks of what may have been the Chickahominy, they encountered a small group of Indians, two of whom apparently "agreed" to board the ship and sail back to Europe with its crew.
One of these two, Paquiqueneo, was given the name of Don Luis de Velasco, under which title he was presented at Philip II's court in Madrid. Anxious to return to his homeland, Don Luis sailed to Mexico, where he accepted the Christian faith and spent several years living amongst Dominican friars.
Expressing a desire to establish a mission among his own people, Don Luis gained the support of the governor of Florida, Pedro Menendez de Aviles, and in 1570, accompanied by dozen Jesuits, he at last returned to his home. Once resettled among his people, Don Luis soon turned his back upon the missionaries, who struggled to survive a harsh winter, and in February 1571 the apostate and his supporters attacked the mission, killing all but one of its residents.
An enraged Menendez dispatched an expedition against his former comrade; unable to find Don Luis, he settled for unleashing a "chastisement" upon the Indians before returning to Florida.
Although the Spanish mission met a quick and brutal end, in Horn's view it cast a long shadow over future relations between Europeans and Virginia Indians. Menendez's attack acquainted the Indians with the fearsome nature of European warfare, and simultaneously served as a warning to rival European powers that Spain had laid its claims to North American territories as well as those to the south.
Perhaps more importantly, this moment of contact gave rise to tantalizing tales of the alleged wealth of this land, which Spanish mariners claimed was filled with easily accessible lodes of jewels and precious metals. All of these results were to have significant impact upon the next century's English colonial endeavors.
From this arresting opening, Horn moves on to examine the principal players and events that led to and followed the arrival of the small English fleet in 1607. He analyzes the statecraft of Wahunsonacock (whom the English knew as Powhatan) and Opechancanough, the pre-eminent leaders of the region that the Powhatans called Tsenacommacah and he provocatively argues that Opechancanough may have been none other than Don Luis/Paquiquineo (!) and lauds the skill by which these two brothers gained control of "great and spacious Dominions" (p. 20).