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What Happened at Roanoake

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The story of Roanoke is one that speaks deeply to themes of conquest, power, and perception. Preceding Raleigh’s initial voyage is a story of Queen Elizabeth’s growing concern over the power and influence of Spain. Spain had already at the time conquered parts of the Americas and was gaining tremendous wealth in Gold and Silver. Additionally, Spain posed a religious threat to the English given that the English were Protestant and not recognized by the Church. Money going from the Americas to Spain only stronger solidified the power of the Church which threatened both religion and economy in England. Envy and concern over the wealth of Spain served as the catalyst for what would lead to Raleigh’s eventual journey to the Americas.

Raleigh, and his “West Country Men”, all connected in some way to the Queen were granted permission to make expansionary efforts and Raleigh personally had a lot hedging on this expedition because he was promised powers of governance under the Queen. The initial impression of Roanoke to the explorers and specifically Hakluyt, seamed extremely promising. In an except he lists what he believes could be achieved if as colony be established. He speaks of spreading the Christian faith and buffing trade routes along with establishing a presence, but the semantics used seem to suggest that it was meaning to speak to a certain audience and in a way that speaks to their desires. Those people being the English, seemed to be concerned with security, religion, and resources which he assures them.

Now the reputation Roanoke received ultimately was not from the initial voyage but for the ones that followed and were a lot less pleasant for the people involved. The stories and English accounts of the voyages to Roanoke tell a story of both trial and tribulation but ultimately mystery. Underneath the story told by the English, another story can be inferred that is the result of Indian life in Roanoke after interacting with the English. Through looking at the accounts of Roanoke from an English perspective, it is easy to spot a theme of exploitation by the English. Most explicitly noted in Ralph Lane’s account of the Events in Roanoke in 1586 he writes “whereupon I sent to Pemisapan to put suspicion out of his head, that I meant presently to go to Croatoan,1 for that I had heard of the arrival of our fleet, (though I in truth had neither heard nor hoped for so good adventure,) and that I meant to come by him, to borrow of his men to fish for my company, &to hunt for me at Croatoan, as also to buy some four days provision to serve for my voyage.“ (Discovering the American Past, pg 14). This obvious trend of manipulation and exploitation leads me to believe that life after English interaction was brutal for the Indians and the extent of their oppression may in ways be underreported or unrecorded given the perception the English had of the Indians.



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