The Algonquin Indian's Law of Hospitality
Law of Hospitalty
One of the earliest notices of the hospitality of the Indian tribes of the United States was by the expedition of Philip Amidas and Arthur Barlow, under the auspices of Sir Walter Raleigh, which visited the Algonkin tribes of North Carolina in the summer of 1584. They landed at the Island of Wocoken, off Albemarle Sound, when "there came down from all parts great store of people," whose chief was Granganimeo. "He was very just of his promises, for oft we trusted him, and would come within his day to keep his word. He sent us commonly every day a brace of ducks, conies, hares, and fish, sometimes melons, walnuts, cucumbers, pease, and divers roots…. After this acquaintance, myself, with seven more, went thirty miles into the river Occam, that runneth toward the city Skicoack, and the evening following we came to an isle called Roanoak, from the harbor where we entered seven leagues: At the north end were nine houses, builded with cedar, fortified round with sharp trees [palisaded] and the entrance like a turnpike [turnspit]. When we came towards it, the wife of Granganimeo came running out to meet us (her husband was absent) commanding her people to draw our boat ashore for beating on the billows. Others she appointed to carry us on their backs aland, others to bring our oars into the house for stealing. When we came into the other room (for there were five in the house) she caused us to sit down by a great fire; and after took off our clothes and washed them, of some our stockins, and some our feet in warm water, and she herself took much pains to see all things well ordered and to provide us victuals. After we had thus dried ourselves she brought us into an inner room, where she sat on the board standing along the house, somewhat like frumenty, sodden venison and roasted fish; in like manner melons raw, boiled roots, and fruits of divers kinds. Their drink is commonly water boiled with ginger, sometimes with sassafras, and wholesome herbs…. A more kind, loving people cannot be. Beyond this isle is the main land, and the great river Occam, on which standeth a town called Pomeiok." [Footnote: Smith's History of Virginia, &c. Reprint from London edition of 1627. Richmond edition, 1819, i, 83, 84. Amidas and Barlow's account is also in Hakluyt's Coll. of Voyages, iii, 301-7.]
This is about the first, if not the first, English picture we have of Indian life and of English and Indian intercourse in America. It is highly creditable to both parties; to the Indians for their unaffected kindness and hospitality, and to the English for their appreciation of both, and for the absence of any act of injustice. At the same time it was simply an application by the natives of their rules of hospitality among themselves to their foreign visitors, and not a new thing in their experience.