Powhatan agreed to trade with the colo- nists but as other colonists arrived later that year the English began to demand more and more food. Captain John Smith who assumed leadership of the colony tried to establish trade with the Indians. Smith believed that the English colonists should live like soldiers and force the Indians to supply them the food they needed. When Powhatan re- fused to continue trading with the En- glish, Captain Smith took food from the Indians by force. On one raid in De- cember 1607 only a few months after arriving, Captain Smith was captured and brought to Powhatan.
Powhatan ordered that Captain Smith be killed. According to legend Powhatan’s favorite daugh- ter Pocahontas, who was about 12 years old, threw herself on the prisoner to save him. Some historians believe that Powhatan arranged a fake execution in order to show his power and impress the English with his mercy. It is commonly believed that this was Powhatan’s way of using Smith’s capture and release to get better relations with the English and stop the raids on his confederation. The colonists, on the other hand, believed that Smith had been saved by God intervening to direct Pocahontas, out of her love for the English, to stop the execution.Powhatan Speaks to Captain John Smith, 1609
Captain Smith, you may understand that I having seen the death...of my people...I know the difference of Peace and War better than any in my Country. ...What will it avail you to take ... by force what you may quickly have by love... What can you get by war, when we can hide our provisions and fly to the woods... Think you I am so simple, not to know it is better to eat good meat, ...sleep quietly..., laugh and be merry with you...then be forced to flee from all, to lie cold in the woods, feed upon Acorns, roots, and such trash, and be so hunted by you, that I can neither rest, eat, nor sleep....Let this therefore assure you of our loves, and want of that, every year our friendly trade shall furnish you with Corn; and now also, if you would come in friendly manner to see