January 29

Jamestown – Three Cultures, One Land

Students are carried on a dynamic, inquiry-based exploration of the three cultures that converged at Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America. Using reproduction artifacts and primary sources, students compare and contrast the cultures of the Powhatan Indians (an Eastern Woodlands tribe), west central Africans and English who lived in early America during the beginning of the 17th century. Using this knowledge, students examine the interrelations between the three groups and discover how the legacies of each culture live on in 21st-century America.

About the presenters:
This session is led by Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Distance Learning Specialist Jessica Pedrick and Outreach Education Supervisor Sally Stook. They lead inquiry-based educational programs designed to be interactive and thought provoking, allowing students to explore the past while honing their skills in critical thinking, communication, and historical thinking.

Click below to see additional responses to students’ questions submitted during our Jan. 29 program.

Suggested Classroom Activities

A. Jamestown Unearthed

Colonial Williamsburg Resource Library:  Jamestown Unearthed

Take a look at how history is written and reevaluated as new methods of study are introduced. Explore the myths and misconceptions of Jamestown in 1607: revisit the documents, artifacts, and other evidence through archaeology. Learn how every generation sees the evidence in new ways, and how this affects our understanding of the past.

B. Comparing Cultures:  Period Quotes


The story of Jamestown is the story of the interaction among three cultures – the Powhatan Indians, the English and the Africans – each of whom had their own unique way of life.  The ancestors of the Powhatans had lived in eastern Virginia for thousands of years and had formed a hierarchical political structure and complex trade relationships.  The English had begun to explore westward, looking for new lands and resources partly due to economic events.  In 1619 Africans were transported to Virginia against their will.  In Africa, they had been part of a highly developed culture in what is present-day Angola.  The story of Jamestown is the meeting and interaction of these three distinct cultures.  See the Cultures at Jamestown background essay for more information.  Go through the entire lesson or use step 7 with the link above.

C. Primary Source Gallery Walk

Primary Source Gallery Walk 

Students will analyze primary sources for the three groups of people who converged at Jamestown – the Powhatan Indians, the English (and other Europeans), and the West Central Africans – and describe similarities and differences between the three cultures.

D. Make Cordage with Your Students

Colonial Williamsburg Resource Library:  Making Cordage or Rope

In this lesson, students will learn through participation about the materials, manufacture and uses of Powhatan cordage.