DID YOU KNOW...between the age of 10 and 15, Powhatan boys were expected to pass a trial into manhood called a huskanaw. This several-month ceremony began with a full day of dance and feast involving the entire population, after which the boys were separated from their families and taken into the forest to begin the next step in the process. Robert Beverley described the next phase as “giving them no other sustenance but the infusion…of some poisonous, intoxicating roots (possibly jimsonweed); by virtue of which physic…they became stark, staring mad; in which raving condition, they are kept eighteen or twenty days. During these extremities, they are shut up, night and day, in a strong enclosure…in shape like a sugar loaf.” After completing this huskanaw, the Indian boys had now been ceremonially “killed” and “reborn” as men.
DID YOU KNOW...dugout canoes were some of the most valuable items that the Powhatan Indians had. They were so valuable that John Smith, being attacked by the Nansamonds, started to “cut in pieces their canoes” and threatened to “break all their boats” if they didn’t lay down their weapons and bring him corn. The Indians almost immediately “lay down their bows, making signs of peace” to prevent any further destruction.
DID YOU KNOW...thatched roofs like those at Henricus were common in England for centuries because materials were readily at hand? River reeds and even straw were considerably easier to allocate than wood shingles, which at minimum required tools to make and nails to secure to roof purlins. Also, the cost of appropriate hardwoods like oak – a rapidly shrinking resource – may have influenced material choices. So why did the English continue to roof with thatch upon arriving in heavily forested Virginea Britannia? As late as the mid-1600’s, thatch was still the go-to for many new buildings. Probably it was a case of expediency and familiarity: reeds along the river could be quickly and easily harvested without recourse to carpenter’s tools. Centuries of experience had also taught the English that thatch made for a snug home, having (in modern terms) an R-60 insulation value.
DID YOU KNOW... that one of the reasons the Virginia Company recruited people to come to the New World was to get rid of undesirable English people? In 1610 the Council of Virginia published a letter arguing for why they should keep sending people to Jamestown. As one of their arguments they wanted to stem the “rankness and multitude of increase in our people, of which there is left no vent but age, and [there is the] evident danger that the number and infiniteness of them will outgrow the matter whereon to work for their life and sustentation, and shall one infest and become a burthen to another.”
This ever-growing population of poor people, unable to find work or feed themselves, were doomed to burden each other and die of old age. What better solution, they thought, than to send them to Virginia, where they could potentially start a new life while lessening the burden on English society?