9780813914220 / 0813914221

Commoners, Tribute, and Chiefs: The Development of Algonquian Culture in the Potomac Valley


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Publisher:Univ of Virginia Pr, 1993



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About the book:

When Captain John Smith explored the Potomac River in 1608, it was a frontier between two of the most politically complex Indian cultures in the Middle Atlantic region - the Conoy chiefdom of southern Maryland and the Powhatan chiefdom of eastern Virginia. Some of these diverse Algonquian-speaking peoples acknowledged the overlordship of the Piscataways, the largest group of the Conoys, others acknowledged no ruler greater than their own. The rise and fall of these polities is the subject of "Commoners, Tribute, and Chiefs". Using a combination of archaeology, anthropology and ethnohistory, Stephen Potter traces the rise of one Indian group, the Chicacoans, whose domain on the south shore of the Potomac straddled the boundary between the Powhatans and the Conoys. By presenting a case study of the Chicacoans from A.D. 200 to the early 17th century, Potter offers readers a window onto the development of Algonquian culture in the Chesapeake and illuminates the responses of its constituent societies to the invading Europeans. He examines the stratification of individual chiefdoms into elites and masses of tribute-paying commoners, and he demonstrates the progressive consolidation of Algonquian peoples in the century preceding the European influx. While most previous scholarship on the Indians of the Potomac has centered on the historic accounts of Captain John Smith and his contemporaries, Potter draws on materials encountered during his years of research. His narrative aims to be both a detailed archaeological and ethnohistorical study of the Chicacoans and a comprehensive interpretation of Algonquian culture.

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