The Great Chief Opechancanough and the War for America (Christian Lecture 2022)

Time Period
16,000 BCE to 1622 CE
Media Type
American Indian History
Military History
Politics & Government
James Horn

Historian James Horn delivered the 2022 Stuart G. Christian, Jr. Lecture on the subject of his newest book, A Brave and Cunning Prince: The Great Chief Opechancanough and the War for America.

In 1561, an Indian youth was abducted from Virginia by Spanish explorers and taken to Spain. Called by the Spanish Paquiquineo and subsequently Don Luís, he was introduced to King Philip II in Madrid, as well as to influential Catholic prelates and courtiers, before being sent back to America to help with the conversion of Indian peoples. In Mexico City, he converted to Catholicism and after many years was eventually able to secure his return to his homeland on the York River as a guide to a small group of Jesuits. There, he quickly organized a war party to destroy the mission and everyone associated with it. During the remainder of the sixteenth century, he and his brother, Powhatan, built a massive chiefdom that stretched from the James River to the Potomac, and from the coast to the piedmont. When the English arrived in Virginia in 1607, he and his brother chief launched a series of attacks on the settlers in an attempt to drive them out. These wars, the first Anglo-Indian wars in North America, spanned the greater part of the next four decades. Known by the English as Opechancanough, he was ultimately unsuccessful but would come closer than any of his peers in early America to succeeding. He survived to be nearly 100 years old and died, as he lived, fighting European colonists.

James Horn is the president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation at Historic Jamestowne, the original site of the first permanent English settlement in America. He is author and editor of eight books on early America, including 1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy and A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America. His most recent book, A Brave and Cunning Prince: The Great Chief Opechancanough and the War for America, was published in November 2021.

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