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James H. Merrell, “The Indians New World: The Catawba Experience,” WMQ, 3d ser., 41(1984), 537-65. Daniel K. Richter, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001).

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The most recent critical appraisal of Atlantic history gives preference to John Elliott’s definition: the study of "the creation, destruction, and re-creation of communities as a result of the movement, across and around the Atlantic basin, of people, commodities, cultural practices, and values." The appraisal list five objections to Atlantic history: 1. lack of coherence or unity; 2. uncertain boundary or entity; 3. imperial history in new clothes; 4. Ignores or deflects attention from indigenous populations; and 5. links areas of Atlantic or transnational relations in border zones at expense of developments in discrete areas.

Tisquantum, one of the Indians Hunt had abducted, survived the plague and made his way from Spain to England where he learned English and signed on with the treasurer of the Newfoundland Company colony as an interpreter and expert on North American natural resources. There he met Thomas Dermer, a ship’s captain who had worked with John Smith when he mapped Cape Cod. The New England Company, headed by Sir Ferdinando Gorges, wanted to reestablish the beaver trade with the Massachusetts Algonquians and realized that Tisquantum could be a valuable asset to smooth the way as a peacemaker; they could use his strong English skills as interpreter with the still angry Patuxets. Like the Atlantic creoles of West Africa who served in the slave trade, Gorges saw that Algonquian creoles like Tisquantum could act to broker trade exchanges between Indians, fur dealers, and the Newfoundland Company. After bringing Dermer and Tisquantum back to England briefly to make plans, he sent them in 1619 to reestablish trade and map out the natural resources that the New England Company hoped to exploit. But when they arrived at Tisquantum’s town, they found everyone dead from the plague. Tisquantum located Massasoit and his brother Quadequina, the heads of the Wampanoag Confederation and took up with them.


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Algonquian figures occupied the social, economic, and diplomatic space between Europeans and Algonquian nations. Often forced to serve two masters, despite being victims at times of colonial imperialism, ironically Algonquian liminals found agency despite their predicament and became vital instruments in the course of colonial American history. This perspectival turn in examining Algonquian history presents an opportunity to privilege agency as the genesis of what may be called here the Algonquian Exchange.

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Tisquantum (“Squanto”), a native Patuxet lived at present-day Plymouth. The Patuxet belonged to the Wampanoag confederation of tribes. His early life is obscure. In 1614, his story begins with the arrival of Captain John Smith and men on several ships who came to map Cape Cod and vicinity. After Smith completed his work, he left for England, leaving in charge, Captain Thomas Hunt with instructions to engage the Indians in trade. But Hunt had other ideas. He lured 24 Nauset and Patuxet Algonquians onto his ship with an offer to trade beaver and took them captive. He stowed them in the hole of the ship and sailed to the Straits of Gibraltar and on to Malaga, Spain, where he sold as many as he could into slavery. Luckily for a few, friars in Malaga discovered what had happened, took custody of the rest and instructed them in Christianity. Back in America, the Nauset and Patuxet tribes were furious. English and French ships were no longer welcomed in Cape Cod and Plymouth and the beaver trade came to a halt. In 1617, an unwitting French captain wrecked his ship on the north shore of Cape Cod. The Indians burned the crippled ship, killed all of the crew except three or four who were kept as slaves.

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In 1570, Spanish Jesuits returned to Chesapeake Bay, with Paquiquineo as an interpreter and guide to establish the Ajacán mission in Virginia to convert the Indians to Christianity. The Jesuit priest Father Juan Rogel headed the Virginia mission and another priest, Father Juan Baptista de Segura, reported to him from the field. Both had worked to establish missions at St. Augustine and Santa Elena. The group also included Father Luis de Quiros, and six lay brothers (Gabriel Gomes, Sancho Cevallos, Juan Baptista Mendez, Pedro de Linares, Gabriel de Solis, and Christobal Redondo). They took with them Paquiquineo and Alonzo de Olmos, son of a Florida colonist and an altar boy who did not want to be separated from the priests he had served. The location of the Ajacán mission was near the Indian town of Kiskiack on the Pamunkey (York) River.