Successes in Early Colonial Affairs and African Migration

Based upon the initial reading of the Introduction to the Jamestown Project by Karen Kupperman and the Ecological Perspectives on the Mande Population Movements… by George E Brooks, one would think that these two readings have nothing in common. After closely analyzing the texts, we could find that the success or failure of a group of people is dependent on their survival skills and being able to negotiate the changes in their environment.

Before Jamestown, English ventures into the North American continent for the purposes of setting up a permanent colony of Roanoke in 1585 and then again in 1587, were met with failure (Kupperman 4). So how did the Jamestown colony become the model for later English settlements? My colleague Matthew Liivoja states that the relationship between the Algonquian people and the newly arrived English were uneasy until trade relations were established. While that might be true, the fact is the Algonquian people allowed Jamestown to survive (Kupperman 7). Now if the relations between the Algonquian people and the English settlers were tense, why didn’t the Algonquin people leave the Jamestown colony to their devises and fail as they did with the Roanoke colony? The reason might be Powhaten. Powhaten was no stranger to European men visiting the Virginia area. Hence he and his people knew of ways to handle the European invaders. What he did not expect was for Jamestown to become successful and the Europeans staying for the duration. Also since the Jamestown colony was dependent on the Algonquian people for their survival (Kupperman 8), the English started to improvising their relationships with the Native peoples (Kupperman 10).

Talking about survival, we now look at the Ecological Perspectives on the Mande Population Movement, Commercial Networks, and Settlement Patterns from the Atlantic Wet Phase by George E Brooks. In this article, Brooks looks at the migration habits of the Mande-speaking people as they lived and thrived during the eight climate periods that affected Africa from 5500 B.C. until now. Brooks suggest the origin of the Mande-speaking people began as small dispersed groups living in the area between the Senegal and Niger river (Brooks 26). I share my colleague Robert Deleon’s assessment of the Mande-speaking people. As the climate changed (either it got wetter or dryer), the Mande-speaking people would migrate to different areas in southwestern/southeastern Africa. One interesting fact I found about the Mande-speaking people was the emergence of a tradesman class called the nyamakalaw. It appears that these “occupational specialists” helped facilitate the inter-African and trans-Saharan commercial networks with their formation of commercial hubs in the savanna-woodland areas of Africa (Brooks 34).

Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. Jamestown Project. Harvard University Press: Feb. 2009

Brooks, George. “Ecological Perspectives on Mande Population Movements, Commercial Networks, and Settlement Patterns from the Atlantic Wet Phase (Ca. 5500-2500 B.C.) to the Present” History of Africa. 16, (1989), pp. 23-40.

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