The Algonquian Exchange

The Other Jamestown
Indian Towns


In 1608, John Smith left Jamestown with a crew of men and a barge and made two exploratory voyages up the rivers surrounding Chesapeake Bay. In the course of his journeys, he mapped Virginia and identified several hundred Indian towns. Part of Smith’s legacy is his famous Map of Virginia. Most of the Indian groups or tribes spoke the Algonquian language; a few were of Sioux or Iroquois origin.

I have created “The Algonquian Exchange ” to focus attention on all Indian tribes in the Jamestown area. This is the “Other Jamestown” that deserves more attention. I use this term in contradistinction to the well-known “Columbian Exchange,” named after Christopher Columbus to highlight the widespread transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, technology, diseases, and ideas between Indians and Native populations. Widely studied by historian Alfred Crosby, the Columbian Exchange served as an heuristic device for learning and discovery. Similarly, the Algonquian Exchange is meant to explore these exchanges but from the Native peoples perspectives. For an expansive treatment of this concept and how it fits into the historiography of Indians in Colonial America, see my essay on Virtual Jamestown.

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