The Forgotten Genocide in Colonial America: Reexamining the 1622 Jamestown Massacre within the Framework of the un Genocide Convention

In: Journal of the History of International Law / Revue d'histoire du droit international
John T. Bennett Fayetteville, nc United States

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In 1622, in Jamestown, Virginia, Powhatan warriors launched a surprise attack against English settlements. In terms of the percentage of a group or tribe killed in a single massacre, the 1622 attack was the deadliest attack committed by either side – Native Americans or English settlers – in early American history. The Powhatan attempted to wipe out every English person, combatant or non-combatant. They killed at least one-quarter of the English in the Jamestown region. Historians label this event a ‘massacre’ or ‘uprising’, which are inaccurate analytical labels. Scholars have not analysed the 1622 attack within the appropriate framework of genocide. To remedy that omission, this article reexamines the attack within the un Genocide Convention framework. The Convention provides methodological, empirical, and normative benefits for understanding past conflict. In planning and executing the attack, the Powhatan had the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the English colonists as such.

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