Yesterday, we began our journey winding down the James at Rockett’s Landing. Traveling in sea kayaks, we gained the rare opportunity to witness turtles, cormorants, heron, osprey, and our nation’s pride and joy: the bald eagle, all within their natural habitat. After paddling along 11 miles of lovely river we arrived at a replica of the colonial settlement of Henricus. Established in 1611, it was home to John Rolfe and his future wife, captive Powhatan princess Pocahontas, proving the establishment to be a place of relative intercultural complacency. While the Native Americans and English were somewhat peaceful exchanges, things would eventually take a turn for the worse.
In 1622, tensions boiled over between Pocahontas’ uncle Opechancanough and the English. He led twelve sequential attacks against them, one of which wiped out nearly two-thirds of Henricus’ population (according to a Henricus re-enactor). Shortly thereafter, the settlement failed and was abandoned.
While exploring the replica village[s], we discovered many aspects of the everyday lives of both Virginia colonists and the Powhatan Indians. The colonists subsisted mostly on homegrown vegetables, herbs, and livestock brought over from England. Being more skilled in surviving off of the land, Powhatans grew squash, corn, and beans, all from the Americas, hunted for their meats, and foraged for a plethora of plant yields such as berries. Despite their methods of acquiring food being drastically different colonists and natives had one thing in common- they wanted to trade goods.
I absolutely loved my experience at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. The afternoon we arrived, we set up our bunks at the Presquile NWR Ecology School and were given an introduction to the James River NWR Sytem by Wildlife Refuge Specialist Cyrus Brame. We then took a walking tour, ending up at a small, pebbly beach while a great view of the historic town of Hopewell. I took many pictures of the Arum plant, Peltandra virginica, a wetland plant that looks quite like an elephant-ear plant. My fellow student, Taylor, a Biology major, found a shark’s took in the beach’s mud with ease. That evening, we attended a lecture by Biology graduate student Nick Moy on bird migration, behavior, and ecological niches followed by a flashing terrestrial constellation of lightning bugs.
– Lelia Overton