The Spanish at Ajacan

the Spanish established a military garrison at St. Augustine and a capital at St. Elena, before Jesuit monks attempted to establish a settlement on the Bahia de Santa Maria (Chesapeake Bay) in 1570
the Spanish established a capital at St. Elena and a military garrison at St. Augustine, before Jesuit monks attempted to establish a settlement on the Bahia de Santa Maria (Chesapeake Bay) in 1570
Source: Library of Congress, Americae sive qvartae orbis partis nova et exactissima descriptio (Diego Gutierrez, 1562)

Spanish activity in Virginia in the 1560's, like its efforts to create settlements further south, was spurred by the international rivalry between separate nations on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Spanish officials took advantage of an unplanned visit to the Chesapeake Bay to expand their defensive perimeter further north. In 1561, a Spanish ship was blown off course and sailed into what the Spanish named the Bahia de Santa Maria (Chesapeake Bay). The captain convinced - or more likely, seized - two Native Americans in order to obtain exhibits for display back in Spain, and potentially future translators.

The captured Virginia natives were Paquiquino, the 17-year old son of the werowance at "Ajacan," and a companion. They may have come from the Kiskiack (Chiskiak) town, which is now on the grounds of the US Naval Weapons Station on the York River, or they may have been members of the Paspahegh living at the confluence of the Chickahominy and James rivers.

The Spanish ship sailed back to Europe with its two captives, the first Virginians to visit the Old World. Thanks to the Spanish, Virginia natives explored Europe before the English explored Virginia. Exploration in the colonial era was a two-way discovery process between two societies.1

John Smith mapped the location of Kiskiack on the York River and Paspahegh on the James River, one of which may have been the home of Paquiquino
John Smith mapped the location of Kiskiack on the York River and Paspahegh on the James River, one of which may have been the home of Paquiquino
Source: Library of Congress, Virginia (by John Smith, 1624)

Paquiquino and his fellow captive were taken to Madrid, where they were exhibited to the Spanish royal family. Priests belonging to the Dominican order taught him the Spanish language and trained him in European culture. They shared the fundamentals of the Catholic faith, but he resisted religious conversion.

Displaying the two Native Americans to the royal family and key leaders helped to gain support for colonial investment. Exhibiting the two exotic men also gave Spain an opportunity to demonstrate to other countries that it was a leader in Europe, with uncontested capability for exploring the New World.

Four centuries later, the United States used its success in landing men on the moon to demonstrate its world leadership during the Cold War. When American astronauts returned from the moon in 1969, President Nixon sent slices of the moon around the world to highlight the American success. Paquiquino was a 1560's equivalent of a moon rock.

Paquiquino's "freshman year of college" in Spain lasted from September, 1561 to May, 1562, before he was sent back to the New World. A ship took him to Mexico for what was supposed to be a short stop. He and a group of Dominican priests were supposed to start a new settlement at the Bahia de Santa Maria, which Paquiquino had known as the Chesapeake.

Paquiquino became ill once he reached Mexico. Reportedly thinking he was about to die, he adopted the Catholic faith. Paquiquino recovered from his illness and took a new name, Don Luis de Velasco. The planned short stop ended up being four years in Mexico City.2

His requests to be taken home were declined, until Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arranged for it in 1566. Menéndez had the political authorization from King Philip II to settle Florida. To the Spanish, their claim to "Florida" extended north beyond the Bahia de Santa Maria.

Menéndez was responsible for growing the Spanish presence on the mainland, expanding from the base at Havana. In 1565, he had started St. Augustine and expelled the French from their fort at La Caroline near modern Jacksonville). St. Augustine remains as the oldest continuously-occupied town founded by Europeans in North America.

In 1566, Menéndez moved north and established his main base of Santa Elena at what today is Parris Island, South Carolina. He also made plans to start another settlement further north at the Bahia de Santa Maria.

He hoped the northern base would find the entrance to the Strait of Anian, which the English called the Northwest Passage. The probability of finding a shortcut to the Spice Islands and China was low, but the rewards of a direct route would be extraordinarily high.

Expansion to the north also allowed the Spanish to assert greater control over the North American coastline. A base north of the 36th parallel of latitude might deter the French from starting yet another colony.

The 1566 Spanish expedition took Paquiquino/Don Luis to serve as an interpreter. Apparently his Native American companion had died, or was not selected for the trip.

The ship sent by Menéndez with Dominicans and Paquiquino/Don Luis sailed up the Atlantic Coast, but missed the entrance to the Bahia de Santa Maria. The captain found Chincoteague Bay, but September storms forced the ship to go to Spain. As a result, Paquiquino/Don Luis got a third trip across the Atlantic Ocean and a second exposure to life in Europe.

Back in Spain, the Dominicans were accused of conspiring with Paquiquino/Don Luis to avoid finding the Bahia de Santa Maria/Chesapeake Bay. Royal officials put the Jesuits in charge, and kept Paquiquino/Don Luis in Seville. In 1570, he was finally brought to Havana. He was to be part of a new expedition in 1570 to the Bahia de Santa Maria led by Father Juan Baptista de Seguera, the Jesuit leader in La Florida.

Paquiquino/Don Luis was carried from the Bahia de Santa Maria to Madrid and then to Mexico City (white line), sent to the Bahia de Santa Maria but forced by storms back to Spain (yellow line), and then shipped from Seville to Havana and finally home (red line)
Paquiquino/Don Luis was carried from the Bahia de Santa Maria to Madrid and then to Mexico City (white line), sent to the Bahia de Santa Maria but forced by storms back to Spain (yellow line), and then shipped from Seville to Havana and finally home (red line)
Source: Google Earth

That 1570 attempt to establish a Jesuit settlement was caught up in the rivalry between the Catholic church and Spanish colonial government officials. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the adelantado or governor of La Florida, wanted to add soldiers to the expedition. The Jesuits insisted on a journey without soldiers. They chose to rely upon their negotiating powers, their faith, and their connection with Paquiquino/Don Luis.

Though Menéndez was unable to get the Jesuits to add soldiers to their expedition, he still wanted a new northern base. He knew that the 1565 defeat of the French at La Caroline was not the end of that threat:3

Menéndez believed that this region was the northernmost habitable area south of Newfoundland, separated from it by a mountain range but connected to it by a large inlet known to the Spanish as the Bahia de Santa Maria, the modern Chesapeake Bay. The Bahia de Santa Maria, the Spanish believed, was the natural boundary of La Florida, and defense of the bay was imperative to prevent French intrusion from the north...

Spanish occupation and fortification of both the Bahia de Santa Maria and Santa Elena [were essential], in Menéndez's view, to keep them out of the hands of the French, who might use them as a base from which to attack the Mexican mines.

The Spaniards sailed up what later would be called Powhatan's River, and would then be named after King James 35 years later.

Father Seguera and his small band of six other Jesuits plus three lay teachers (catechists) and a teenage altar boy landed on September 10, 1570 at what today is the Kingsmill resort, or perhaps at College Creek about 5 miles downstream from what later would be called Jamestown.

In 1570, the territory there may have been controlled by the Chickahominy. In 1614, that tribe made a peace with the settlers at Jamestown and committed to furnish 300-400 bowmen if the colonists were attacked by the Spanish, "whose name is odious amongst them."4

Paququino/Don Luis led the group of 11 Spanish immigrants across the Peninsula, to a river the English would later name after the Duke of York. There they discovered that the werowance of an Algonquian-speaking town was a younger brother of Paququino/Don Luis.5

the Spanish walked from their 1570 landing site (x) across the Peninsula to Kiskiack, perhaps to be close to the Native American religious center at Werowocomoco
the Spanish walked from their 1570 landing site (x) across the Peninsula to Kiskiack, perhaps to be close to the Native American religious center at Werowocomoco
Source: Library of Congress, Virginia / discovered and discribed by Captayn John Smith, 1606

The Spanish expected to rely upon their convert to negotiate with the Algonquian-speakig natives to obtain food. In all the time with Paquiquino/Don Luis, no missionary had learned the local language of the Algonquians while he learned Spanish. Native Americans were expected to become Catholic converts and supply the mission with food, and to acculturate to a European lifestyle.

The Spanish had sailed up the largest river that flowed into the Bahia de Santa Maria; that was a logical decision. However, Father Juan Baptista de Seguera and his other Jesuits did not stay where they landed. They left their landing site, on what was later called the James River, and walked across the peninsula.

They carried everything they owned to what was later called the York River. The Jesuits settled at the Native American town of Kiskiack, possibly near the place where Paququino had been seized with a companion nine years earlier.

Kiskiak meant "broad or wide land." Starting in 2010, William and Mary archeologists began excavating the Native American town there. They found post stains of a palisade protecting Kiskiak, and identified that houses had been built 300 years earlier in the modern yards of officer housing along Mason Row. The original residents of Kiskiak were not the only people who appreciated a waterfront view, and the creation of the military base in 1918 had helped to protect the site.

Professor Martin Gallivan noted:6

Kiskiak is the best preserved Powhatan site in Virginia and its preservation is largely due to the creation of the weapons station in the early 20th century... In addition to limits on residential and commercial development here, there has been no mechanized plowing of the site. As a result, the site contains a series of stratified deposits which preserved layers upon layers of the village's history, dating back centuries.

archeologists from William and Mary have found evidence of Kiskiack at the Mason Row housing area (red circle) on the US Naval Weapons Station at Yorktown
archeologists from William and Mary have found evidence of Kiskiack at the Mason Row housing area (red circle) on the US Naval Weapons Station at Yorktown
Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

Why did the Spanish walk across the peninsula? The shorelines of both rivers offered the same hunting and gathering habitats. The water in each river was brackish. Perhaps Paquiquino/Don Luis was looking for his home village, and realized after landing that he was on the wrong side of the peninsula. Perhaps Kiskiak was a rival of Paquiquino/Don Luis's home town, and he wanted to burden the rivals with the responsibility of feeding and caring for the Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Another possibility is that the foreign missionaries wanted to locate themselves as close as possible to the spiritual center of the Native Americans.

For as much as 200-300 years before the Spaniards arrived, a site on the north bank of the York River (which would later become Powhatan's capital of Werowocomoco) had been special. If the Spanish missionaries intended to confront the pre-existing beliefs of the Algonquians living in Tidewater Virginia, then locating the new Jesuit settlement near the existing spiritual center made sense. The first Catholic chapel in Virginia was built near the center of the power of the Native American religious beliefs.

Choosing to live at Kiskiak put the missionaries lives at greater risk. "Alien immigrants" at that site created a greater threat to the existing Native American culture.

in 1570, Spanish missionaries located Ajacan settlement at Native American village of Kiskiack, close to Algonquian spiritual center at site Powhatan called Werowocomoco
in 1570, Spanish missionaries crossed the Peninsula from their initial landing site, to locate their Ajacan settlement at the Native American village of Kiskiack - close to the Algonquian spiritual center, at the site Powhatan called Werowocomoco
Map Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wetlands Mapper

Paquiquino/Don Luis had been thoroughly exposed to Spanish culture in Mexico, Spain, and Havana before being returned home to the Bahia de Santa Maria with the Jesuits. It is unknown how much he considered Ajacan to be "home." An Algonquian who had spent much of his adolescence, and all of his adult life in Spanish culture, may not have had a strong desire to return to his birthplace.

On the other hand, a return to his native people may have been the driving force in his adult life. One clue: despite all those years in Spain and Mexico, Paquiquino/Don Luis convinced the Spanish to carry him back to the Bahia de Santa Maria twice. If he had no desire to return to Ajacan, he might have avoided those dangerous trips.

We do not know if Paquiquino/Don Luis preferred to use the term Bahia de Santa Maria or Chesapeake, which Algonquian speakers used for "great shellfish bay." We do know that in 1570, no one called any place in the New World "Virginia." Paquiquino/Don Luis, the Spanish, and the Algonquian-speaking residents would not have named any place in the New World after a supposedly-virgin English queen. Elizabeth become ruler of England in 1558 when her half-sister Queen Mary died, but it would be about 25 years before her name was applied to a colony there.

the Spanish term for Chesapeake Bay was Bahia de Santa Maria
the Spanish term for Chesapeake Bay was Bahia de Santa Maria
Source: Library of Congress, Map of America (by Diego Ribero, 1529)

The Jesuits gambled that Paquiquino/Don Luis would follow the Spanish way of life after being reintroduced to his village of Ajacan, but that was the wrong bet. Paquiquino/Don Luis quickly demonstrated that his personal choice was to return to his tribal lifestyle. He moved to another town and took several wives, in accord with his status in Algonquian society and in clear contrast to his Catholic teachings. Obviously nine years in Spain and Mexico had not erased his first 17 years of Native American acculturation.

When Paquiquino/Don Luis declined to support the Spanish missionaries; they had to trade their metal tools for essential supplies. The Spanish happened to arrive during a drought, when the capacity of the Native Americans to provide extra food was limited.

Since none of the Jesuits was fluent in the local language, hard bargaining must have been done through gestures. After Paquiquino/Don Luis left, no one at Kiskiak understood the Spanish words of the Jesuits. The Native Americans would have observed Catholic worship rituals, but it is unlikely any came close to making a commitment to Christianity without understanding the religious principles or Bible stories. There was little potential to gain converts willing to supply the Catholic priests and lay catechists with free food or labor.

By December, the Spanish had traded away their tools for food. In February, 1571, Father Seguera sent a priest and two lay catechists to Paquiquino/Don Luis's town. They appealed for aid, but Paquiquino/Don Luis and others killed them instead. The Native Americans then walked to Ajacan and killed the seven remaining the Spanish adults. Only the teenage boy serving as a novice, Alonso de los Olmos, was left alive and incorporated into the Native American community.7

Paquiquino/Don Luis and his fellow Native Americans killed Father Seguera and all but one of the other Jesuits in 1571, ending Spain's only attempt to plant a settlement in Virginia
Paquiquino/Don Luis and his fellow Native Americans killed Father Seguera and all but one of the other Jesuits in 1571, ending Spain's only attempt to plant a settlement in Virginia
Source: Mathias Tanner, Societas Jesu usque ad sanguinis et vitae profusionem militans (p.450, published 1675)

In 1571, a Spanish ship sailed to the Bahia de Santa Maria and discovered the Ajacan settlement had been destroyed. In 1572 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sent another ship to rescue the boy who had not been killed. Alonso de los Olmos returned to Spain as the only survivor of the 11 settlers in the first European colony within what became Virginia.

The Spanish punished Paquiquino/Don Luis and his people for the destruction of Ajacan, and nearly 40 natives were killed. To demonstrate Spanish power, seven captives were hung from the ship's rigging in full view of the Native Americans on the shoreline. The Spanish learned one key lesson at Ajacan: their future attempts at settlement in North America were designed to be self-sufficient in food and translators.

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés used the technology of the Spanish warship to intimidate and seize Native Americans, in clear contrast to the Jesuit approach at Ajacan
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés used the technology of the Spanish warship to intimidate and seize Native Americans, in clear contrast to the Jesuit approach at Ajacan
Source: Wikipedia, Victoria

As a result of the Spanish visits to the Chesapeake Bay in the 1500's, the Native Virginians gained a distinctive understanding of European behavior. Seeing their captured men hung from the ship's masts in 1572 must have left a lingering memory.

Awareness of the Spanish technology and willingness to use it, as well as the dealings with Father Juan Baptista de Seguera, must have affected the way Powhatan dealt with the English who arrived in 1607. The Chickahominy remembered it, perhaps because one of their hunting parties was the victim of the Spanish retaliation in 1572.8

One especially-intriguing but unlikely possibility is that the Native American memory of Europeans in Tidewater Virginia was first-hand in 1607. It is possible that Opechancanough, the war chief under Powhatan and organizer of major attacks in 1622 and 1644, was the same person as Paquiquino/Don Luis. He had been seized by the Spanish as a young man in 1561, and Opechancanough was thought to be 100 years old in 1646.

Ralph Hamor reported that the Chickahominy hated the Spanish in part because "Powhatan's father was driven by them from the west-Indies into those parts." If that statement was accurate, then the arrival of Paquiquino/Don Luis could have triggered formation of the paramount chiefdom led by Powhatan in 1607. The unusual political sophistication of the Native Americans encountered by the Jamestown settlers may reflect a unique understanding of European culture provided by whatever Virginian who spent nine years living among the Spanish.9

If Opechancanough was Paquiquino/Don Luis, he would have been nearly 100 years old before the Engish murdered him in retaliation for leading a major uprising in 1644. More likely, Paquiquino/Don Luis died in the gap between the departure of the Spanish in 1572 and the arrival of the English in 1607. The memory of the Ajacan settlement and the Spanish attack in 1572, rare events in Tidewater Virginia, still would have affected the Native American reaction to the settlement at Jamestown.

The Spanish did not attempt to settle the Bahia de Santa Maria after Ajacan's failure. They focused military resources on the continuing wars on the European continent against France, and the emerging conflict with England.

the Bahia de Santa Maria was on the periphery of Spain's profitable settlements in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America
the Bahia de Santa Maria was on the periphery of Spain's profitable settlements in the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America
Source: Google Earth

Catholics in Virginia

The First Catholic Church in Virginia

Spanish Exploration and Settlement in the Southeast

Spain and Jamestown

Virginia - An International Frontier With French, Spanish, Swedish, and Dutch Involvement

even after Spanish explorers mapped the Atlantic Ocean coastline, they thought North America was connected by land to Asia
even after Spanish explorers mapped the Atlantic Ocean coastline, they thought North America was connected by land to Asia
Source: Library of Congress, Vniversale descrittione di tvtta la terra conoscivta fin qvi (by Ferrando Bertelli in 1565, reprinting a 1546 map by Giacomo Gastaldi)

Links

References

1. Sturtevant, William C., Spanish-Indian Relations in Southeastern North America, Duke University Press, 1962, p.55; Helen C. Rountree, "Opechancanough (d. 1646)," Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, May 7, 2015, https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Opechancanough_d_1646 (last checked June 26, 2017)
2. Brendan Wolfe, "Don Luís de Velasco / Paquiquineo (fl. 1561–1571)," Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, March 18, 2019, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/don_lua (last checked June 7, 2019)
3. Charlotte M. Gradie, "Spanish Jesuits in Virginia: The Mission That Failed," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 96, No. 2 (April 1988), p.133, p.135, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4249006; Wolfe, Brendan, "Don Luís de Velasco / Paquiquineo (fl. 1561–1571)," Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/don_lua (last checked September 30, 2016)
4. Ralph Hamor, "A true discourse of the present state of Virginia," 1614, republished by Virginia State Library, 1957, p.13, https://archive.org/details/truediscourseofp1957hamo; Brendan Wolfe, "Don Luís de Velasco / Paquiquineo (fl. 1561–1571)." Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, March 18, 2019, https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/don_lua (last checked June 9, 2019)
5. Clifford M. Lewis, Albert J. Loomie, The Spanish Jesuit Mission in Virginia, 1570-1572, Virginia Historical Society, 1953, p.viii, http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001263567 (last checked July 1, 2014)
6. "Archeologists Excavate Powhatan Village At Yorktown Weapons Station," US Navy, July 23, 2010, http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=54750; "College of William and Mary Digs for History at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown ," US Navy, July 7, 2015, http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=90034 (last checked June 22, 2017)
7. Brendan Wolfe, "Don Luís de Velasco / Paquiquineo (fl. 1561–1571)," Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, March 18, 2019, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/don_lua (last checked June 7, 2019)
8. Helen C. Rountree (editor), Powhatan Foreign Relations, 1500-1722, University Press of Virginia, 1993, p.211, https://books.google.com/books?id=64ZiQgAACAAJ (last checked August 31, 2017)
9. Brendan Wolfe, "Don Luís de Velasco / Paquiquineo (fl. 1561–1571)," Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, March 18, 2019, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/don_lua; Ralph Hamor, "A true discourse of the present state of Virginia," 1614, republished by Virginia State Library, 1957, p.13, https://archive.org/details/truediscourseofp1957hamo (last checked June 7, 2019)

William and Mary Professor Martin Gallivan guided archeology students as they excavated at Kiskiack in 2015
William and Mary Professor Martin Gallivan guided archeology students as they excavated at Kiskiack in 2015
Source: US Navy (150615-N-PK884-002)


Exploring Land, Settling Frontiers
Virginia Places