The Algonquian Exchange: Introduction to the Site

Welcome to The Other Jamestown

Voyage to Jamestown, 1609-1610. Basis of Shakespeare’s
The Tempest

Purpose of Site

The Other Jamestown site is designed to allow viewers to explore the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement from the perspectives of the Indians of Early Virginia. How did the Algonquian-speaking Indians of Early Virginia help the English survive and build a nation? What is their legacy and heritage in national life and culture? The Algonquian Exchange is a device to identify and analyze how Indian traditions, customs, practices, knowledge and understandings conditioned native responses to the invaders and influenced the invaders’ history and culture.


For teachers, students, and the general educated public interested in exploring the Jamestown story from the vantage point of Virginia Indians


The site uses the tools and techniques of modern technology to create new knowledge and knowledge in new ways. The Algonquian Exchange is a conceptual (heuristic) device that encourages users to discover and learn something themselves. Focus upon the interchanges: the transfer of plants, culture, technology, diseases, and ideas between the Algonquians and the invaders, with the emphasis upon the contributions of Native Americans to American life and culture.

Central Theme: The Algonquian Exchange

The contributions of the Algonquian Indians of Early Virginia to the creation of a nation. Algonquian Exchange is not a new phrase. Stephen Potter analyzed the Algonquian tradition of gift exchanges using this phrase.

The way to understand the Algonquian Exchange: it builds upon the Columbian Exchange, the imaginative and profusely instructive contribution of Alfred Crosby’s device for identifying the biological and cultural consequences of America’s colonial settlement. But as used here, it turns the Columbian Exchange on its head, challenging us to examine the settlement from a different perspective: through the eyes of Indians themselves, in this case the Algonquians.

Myth of American Exceptionalism

Beware of viewing Jamestown as an experiment in democracy: Europeans come, cultures clash, the superior culture prevails, and American exceptionalism is born as a false narrative. Concepts like equality, representative government, universal suffrage, natural rights, and majority rule take another century or more to develop. Instead, Jamestown’s narrative: a group of white male gentry who worshipped hierarchy, saw themselves as models of culture, and embraced privilege. Our democracy developed slowly, over time, and under specific circumstances. History is process, not a series of epochal events.

Getting Started:


  • The Other Jamestown: Begin here with about 15 topical entries on the Virginia Algonquians. The author created this web site with text, images, links to primary documents, sources, and other web sites.
  • A web site on the Jamestown founding based upon original documents, maps, artifacts, images, laws, labor contracts, and colonial records in searchable databases
  • a large and authoritative archive of topical entries, primary documents, and biographies on Virginia Indians
  • The World Wide Web: Web browsers like Google and Bing, when used with caution, provide access to a vital global library of data. For example, Richard Hakluyt’s 1584 Discourse of Western Planting is a famous document laying out England’s 20 reasons for exploring the “New World.” The document is a good starting point for the English perspective on colonization.