Payton Slover

Professor Ramos

English 260

September 18, 2017

Cultural Conflict Paper


The Merriam-Webster defines a cultural conflict as “a conflict of behavior patterns and values that results when different cultures are incompletely assimilated.” In John Smith’s The Third Book, there was a specific cultural conflict between John Smith, his colonists, and the Indians that inhabited the land they voyaged to. In The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, John Smith’s recollection allowed readers to understand just how significant the nature of the problem, the groups involved, the causes of, and the consequences of the conflict all were.


In The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, John Smith and the Powhatan Indians were the groups involved. This cultural conflict was naturally expected to happen because of the two completely different groups of people that convened. John Smith was known as an explorer but many fail to know his back story. In the fullness of time, he would eventually lead an extensive exploration and in time, save the expedition from extinction. However, he would be imprisoned by his fellow explorers, sentenced twice to hang, and spared from ritual Algonquian execution by an enchanting woodlands princess whose memory would haunt him the rest of his life (Deans 60). The Powhatan Indians were a tribe of 14,000-21,000 Indians whose lives mainly flourished by growing crops, especially maize, but also found success through fishing and hunting in the great forest in their area (Wikipedia 1). Unfortunately, the impending future of colonialism “into which the Powhatans would, to some degree, willingly plunge” was near (Dowd 418).

In The General History of Virgina, New England, and the Summer Isles, the nature of the cultural conflict had a lot to do with the fact that John Smith made his way to the Great New World, or America, unannounced with a very high head on his shoulders. Smith was a European man entering an Indian world without a care for the change in culture and ideas. Smith marched his way into America expecting simple colonization of the land; this led to the Powhatans capturing him and bringing him to their Chief to unveil his true intentions. John Smith, born 1580 and died 1631, was an English explorer and author. John Smith is widely known for the role he played in the exploration of the New World. Because of his key role, he is almost solely responsible for the settlement and survival of Jamestown; which came to be England’s first surviving and permanent colony in America. According to the National Park Service, “[during] the winter of 1607… Captain John Smith was captured by Chief Powhatan’s brother Opechancanough; and once captured, Smith was displayed at several Powhatan Indian towns before being brought to the capital of the Powhatan Chiefdom, Werowocomoco, to Chief Powhatan,” (NPS 1). When John Smith was brought to Chief Powhatan, he was supposedly faced with an awful situation of life or death which eventually led to survival because of the Chief’s daughter intervention. The Chief’s daughter, Pocahontas, was said to have laid her own body across him in order to successfully save Smith’s life: “Pocahontas, the King’s dearest daughter, when no entreaty could prevail, got his head in her arms and laid her own upon his to save him from death,” (W.W. Norton & Company 66).

The cause of this cultural conflict was clear: John Smith had over stepped his boundaries when he came to America, the home of the Powhatan Indians. John Smith was a European man who came into Indian boundaries and he did not have any courtesy when it came to this. John Smith was known to have act “rash” which in turn tended to offend others all while never really “work[ing] well with the rest of the Jamestown leadership (Credo Reference 1). Unfortunately, the relationship that minimally existed between the Jamestown colonists and the indigenous people of Virginia was not smooth from the start. Although the settlers may have come to America with a willing attitude to work towards unity and progression and introduce the natives to European tools and Christianity ideology, this implication made no sense to the natives. According to, “The settlers failed to realize that the Indians lived very close to the subsistence level by hunting and gathering little more than their immediate needs required. Additional pressure on their food supply raised a real possibility of starvation” (USHistory 1).


The consequences of this cultural conflict were devastating. John Smith and other European explorers, like Christopher Columbus and John Cabot, are all solely responsible for the exclusion and deaths of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people. Like Christopher Columbus, John Smith encouraged the swarm of people looking for the Great New World, or America. They both encouraged people to come to America, forced themselves onto the native people and their land, and forced anyone and anything standing in their way of inhabiting this new country. The unexpected or unannounced arrival of European explorers, their team, and their families forced indigenous people to the edge of their wits which led to violence and wars.

From the beginning of America’s time all the way through the 1700’s, many can plainly see the way our country was shaped through the literary pieces of very few authors. We are able to relive the triumphs, the successes; as well as the the collapses and the crashes that are country experienced in just two hundred short years. Unfortunately, our country had to go through some challenging, culturally conflicted times to get to the chapter of its life it’s currently living; but, without the trying times, our country wouldn’t be half of what it is today.


Works Cited


Deans, Bob. “Captain John Smith.. (Cover Story).” [“Time”]. Time, vol. 169, no. 19, 07 May 2007, pp. 60-62.

Dowd, Gregory Evans. “The Powhatan Indians of Virginia: Their Traditional Culture.” [“American Indian Quarterly”]. American Indian Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 4, Fall90, pp. 418-419.

Hanna, Mark G. “Smith, John.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History, edited by CQ Press, 1st edition, 2010. Credo Reference, Accessed 18 Sep 2017.

National Park Service “Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 17 July 2015,

Smith John, et al. “The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature, W.W. Norton & Company, 2013, pp. 59-71

“John Smith.” United States History, USHistory,

“The Powhatan Confederacy .” United States History, USHistory,

“Powhatan.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Sept. 2017,