Don Luís de Velasco / Paquinquineo (fl. 1561–1571)

Download 33.28 Kb.
Size33.28 Kb.
Don Luís de Velasco / Paquinquineo (fl. 1561–1571)title: john smith captures opechancanough source: the colonial williamsburg foundation

Paquinquineo, later Don Luís de Velasco, likely was a Paspahegh Indian who encountered Spanish explorers on the Chesapeake Bay in 1561 and volunteered to return to Spain with them. There, he appeared before King Philip II and was granted permission to lead a Catholic mission back to the Chesapeake. A brief stop in Mexico City, Mexico, turned into a years-long stay after Paquinquineo became ill, and during that time he converted to Christianity, taking the name of the Spanish viceroy, Don Luís de Velasco. After two failed attempts to return home with Dominican missionaries, Don Luís sailed again to Spain, joined with a group of Jesuit priests, and finally landed on the James River in September 1570, or more than nine years after he had left. He initially aided the Jesuits, but quickly reunited with his Paspahegh family and led an ambush that killed the missionaries save for a boy, Alonso de los Olmos. In 1572, the Spanish dispatched soldiers to the Chesapeake; they hanged a handful of Paspaheghs and took two prisoners but could not find Don Luís, who subsequently disappeared from history. Virginia Indian oral tradition does not mention him, although slightly garbled rumors have led some to claim that Paquinquineo and Opechancanough, who led an assault on the Jamestown colonists in 1622 that began the Second Anglo-Powhatan War (1622–1632), were the same person. Evidence suggests that this is not true.

Early Years

Paquinquineo likely belonged to a small chiefdom known as Paspahegh. Being Algonquian speakers, the Paspaheghs lived on the north side of the James River with their principal town at the confluence of the James and Chickahominy rivers near what later became Williamsburg. Nothing is known of Paquinquineo until June 1561, when he encountered a party of Spaniards who had anchored somewhere near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Paquinquineo, whom the Spanish described as a "youth," probably had friends in the area; the Paspahegh and the local Chesapeake people shared a style of pottery known as Roanoke simple-stamp, suggesting close contact and probably intermarriage (pottery-making was women's work).

At the time, King Philip II of Spain claimed as La Florida the entire coast from present-day Florida north to the Chesapeake Bay and competed with the French and Portuguese to exploit its resources. Besides gathering information about the coastline, the Spanish were interested in finding Indians to serve as interpreters and missionaries. Ship captains looked especially for children and adolescents, who were more adept at learning new languages; they preferred to take on volunteers but were infamous for kidnapping whomever they wanted. Paquinquineo appears to have volunteered, along with an unnamed companion who acted as his servant.

Two Failed Missions

The Spanish captain, Antonio Velázquez, sailed the men to Spain, arriving in Seville in September 1561. Traveling overland, Paquinquineo stopped in Córdoba before proceeding north to Madrid, where he was presented to the king under the auspices of the House of Trade. Paquinquineo remained at the royal court until late in February 1562, when Philip II arranged for him to lead a mission back to the Chesapeake Bay, or what the Spanish called Bahía Santa María. (They called the land to which the bay gave entrance Ajacán.) First, though, Paquinquineo and his party traveled to Mexico City, where they intended to meet briefly with the provincial viceroy, Don Luís de Velasco, pick up some Dominican missionaries, and sail north to the Chesapeake. However, shortly after his arrival in Mexico in August 1562, Paquinquineo fell ill. His life in jeopardy, he repeatedly asked for and finally received a Catholic baptism, taking the viceroy's name. In 1564, the new Don Luís de Velasco, now fully recovered, joined a Dominican mission bound for La Florida, but the group never reached farther than Santo Domingo, Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic).

This first failed mission had been launched under the authority of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the powerful adelantado, or military commander, of La Florida. Since 1563, he had been engaged in a religious and territorial war against French and English interests in the region, founding St. Augustine in 1565 and shortly thereafter destroying the nearby French settlement at Fort Caroline. Menéndez soon recognized the value of Don Luís as a potential missionary to the Indians and, in the summer of 1566, called for him to come to Havana, Cuba. There, the adelantado organized a new mission to Bahía Santa María, one that combined a small Spanish military force with two Dominican monks and Don Luís. But that mission also failed when Don Luís could not identify the mouth of the bay. Each time the ship approached the coast, a fierce storm blew it out to sea again. Finally, the pilot gave up and, despite the Dominicans' protests, sailed to Cádiz, Spain, rather than back to Havana, arriving late in October 1566.

Don Luís spent nearly four years in Spain, possibly in Seville. During that time he abandoned the Dominican monks for Jesuit priests, who also wanted to establish New World missions and who also were able to enlist Menéndez's support. His companion having since disappeared from the records, in 1570 Don Luís was again summoned to Havana where, with the intention of returning home, he organized a third mission.

Return to Bahía Santa María

The Spanish attitude toward the communities in which they proselytized was marked by intolerance and incuriosity. Believing that American Indians possessed no real culture, the Spanish recorded few observations of their lifeways. In New Spain (later Mexico), former Aztec Indian leaders worked as servants and were legally barred from dressing like Spaniards, riding horses, or carrying firearms. Compared with the conquistadors, the Jesuits were slower to resort to violence, but they still expected to assert their culture and, for the "gift" of religious teaching, be supported economically. From the Indians' perspective, that expectation was fairly tolerable when times were good. However, tree-ring studies in the Mid-Atlantic have indicated that Don Luís's arrival coincided with a seven-year drought, a fact that presaged disaster.

On September 10, 1570, the ten-man Jesuit mission, consisting of a half-dozen priests, several lay catechists, Don Luís, and a youth named Alonso de los Olmos, landed on the shore of the James River, likely near the mouth of modern-day College Creek. The site lay within Don Luís's native territory, but the Jesuits decided to move across the peninsula to a spot on the York River, the home of a small chiefdom that would later be known as Chiskiack. In retrospect, it seems counterintuitive for the Jesuits to abandon the relative safety of their guide's home territory, and they may not have understood the consequences of their move. It also could have been true that Don Luís was informed of the famine by his Paspahegh relatives and he encouraged the Jesuits to establish themselves—and demand support—elsewhere. In any case, the decision was made and the priests instructed the ship's departing captain where to meet a messenger the next year to deliver supplies.

When he first arrived, the Paspaheghs welcomed Don Luís back; his elder brother, a weroance, or chief, had died, and Don Luís was the heir. His next younger brother was ruling in the interim and invited Don Luís to take the chief's position, but he declined. Instead, Don Luís helped the Jesuits build their mission and even allowed a priest to baptize his dying three-year-old brother. Still, he didn't remain with the Jesuits long. The boy Alonso later recalled that Don Luís "did not sleep in their hut more than two nights nor stay in the village where the Fathers made their settlement for more than five days" before going to live with a Paspahegh uncle on the Chickahominy River. He married multiple wives, as members of chiefly families were expected to do, and, presumably, resumed his identity as Paquinquineo. In the meantime, the Jesuits struggled to survive without an interpreter or guide and were forced either to send their former protégé messages or to travel a day and a half to visit. Paquinquineo had promised the Spaniards that he would deliver students to learn the catechism and help forage for food, but they never appeared. And as time went by, he turned increasingly resistant to their entreaties. Having sold their tools, the missionaries were now at the mercy of the Chiskiacks, and they were starving.

The Mission Ends

Paquinquineo came from what anthropologists call a shame culture, or one in which harsh public ridicule and shaming motivate members to conform. The Jamestown colonist William Strachey later wrote that wars among Virginia Indians were made "principally for revenge, so vindictive and jealous they be, to be made a derision of and to be insulted upon by an enemy." If the Virginia Algonquian speakers were like the better-recorded Eastern Woodland peoples, then they were equally anxious to avoid being ridiculed by their own people. As such, Paquinquineo found himself in an untenable position. If he did what the Jesuits wanted, he would have been taunted as acting the servant to negligible, if starving, foreigners. But if he ignored their pleas, he would have borne the guilt of knowing he had brought them to Ajacán only to let them die a slow death. He might even have endured more teasing for breaking his word to them.

In February 1571, when the Jesuits sent him yet another message, Paquinquineo took action. After cordially receiving three of the missionaries, he and some Paspahegh men ambushed and killed them on the trail back to the mission. According to Alonso, who could not have seen it because he was away from the mission at this time, Paquinquineo "sent an arrow through the heart of Father Quirós" and then hastened to the mission, where he and his men finished off the rest of the Jesuits "with great quiet and dissimulation." In the words of Alonso, who, again, was not an eyewitness, "Don Luís himself was the first to draw blood with one of those hatchets which were brought along for trading with the Indians; then he finished the killing of Father Master Baptista with his axe, and his companions finished off the others." Only Alonso was left alive—according to the Indian custom of taking women and children captive rather than killing them—and he was sent to the household of a chief allied with the Paspaheghs. The missionaries' possessions were then taken as trophies.

When a supply ship returned to the area late in the spring of 1571, those aboard ship spied Indians attired in Jesuit cassocks and realized that something must have happened to the mission. As the Spaniards neared the shore, several canoe-loads of men attacked them, but they managed to capture two of the Indians before setting sail to Havana. One of the Indians escaped; the other reported to Menéndez, the adelantado, that Alonso de los Olmos was still alive and that Don Luís's family had ordered the Jesuits killed.

In August 1572, a Spanish military expedition entered the James River. Some of Paquinquineo's people were captured in a skirmish near Paspahegh, and several of them were found guilty of the Jesuits' murder and hanged. By that time, Alonso had been returned in a bid for clemency, but the man the Spaniards had known as Don Luís was nowhere to be found. Several more exploration missions to the Chesapeake Bay over the next two decades failed to turn him up.


Paquinquineo disappeared from European records and is not mentioned in any verifiable oral tradition taken from the Virginia Indians by the Jamestown colonists—although they were not looking for him and likely did not make the relevant inquiries. There were, however, two somewhat garbled rumors among the colonists that may have referred to him. In 1615, the settler Ralph Hamor wrote of "the Spaniards, whose name is odious amongst [the Chickahominies]—for Powhatan's father was driven by them from the West Indies into those parts." Perhaps this is Don Luís, but he was presumably Paspahegh, not Chickahominy, and he was Powhatan's contemporary, not his father's.

In his History and Present State of Virginia, published in 1705, Robert Beverley Jr. wrote that the Indians claimed that Powhatan's brother, Opechancanough, "was a prince of a foreign nation, and came to them a great way from the south-west: and by their accounts, we suppose him to have come from the Spanish Indians, somewhere near Mexico, or the mines of St. Barbe." The Virginia Indians may have said this in an attempt to disavow their association with Opechancanough, whose memory was still so detested by the English due to the attack of 1622. The idea that Opechancanough had Spanish origins, meanwhile, took hold among some scholars. In his book Jamestown: 1544–1699, published in 1981, the respected historian Carl Bridenbaugh popularized the notion that Paquinquineo and Opechancanough were the same person. His theory complemented the widespread belief, established by John Smith in 1624, that Opechancanough had always been hostile to the English, from their landing at Jamestown in 1607 until his death in 1646. Now Bridenbaugh provided an explanation: Opechancanough understood that Europeans could not be trusted because, as Don Luís, he had seen firsthand what they had done to the Indians in New Spain and what they intended to do in Ajacán.

However, there is no documentary proof that Don Luís and Opechancanough were the same person, and available evidence suggests that they were not. It is true that their life spans overlapped and that their names—Paquinquineo, recorded by the Spanish, and Opechancanough, recorded by the English—were similar, though not identical. But even if they had been identical, this was not unheard of among the Virginia Indians. For example, Coquonasum was the name of both the Appamattuck chief in 1607 and, later, a Piscataway chief. But Paquinquineo and Opechancanough hailed from different parts of the James River drainage, the former from the mouth of the Chickahominy, the latter presumably (as with Powhatan) from an area well upriver near the falls—territories that in 1570 were not yet politically united under Powhatan. Both men inherited their right to become a chief from their mothers, as was tradition among the Virginia Indians; therefore, because their mothers came from two different places, Paquinquineo and Opechancanough must have been different people.

So what happened to Paquinquineo? It would not have been easy for an Indian man to return home after a decade among the Spanish. For one, what he told his family about the Spanish likely would have sounded too outlandish to be believed. (The youth Namontack was not believed when he returned from England in 1608, which is why Powhatan sent Uttamatomakkin to England with Pocahontas in 1616.) For another, the occupation of Indian men was hunting, whether of animals or of people, and Paquinquineo would have lost out on years of training and practice. For a time, at least, only his position in a chiefly family, rather than his ability to support wives, would have induced women to take him as a husband.

By the time the English settled Jamestown Island, Paquinquineo would have been about sixty years old—if he were alive at all. The life expectancy of Virginia Indians was somewhere between thirty and forty thanks to the vagaries of war, accident, and disease. Among the Spanish, who saw him as a favorite of the king, he was sometimes said to be arrogant. If he had retained any of that arrogance—bragging, for instance, about Europe and Mexico's huge buildings and the Spaniards' elaborate clothing—he would sooner or later have been involved in quarrels, one of which might have been fatal. On the other hand, he may have been a lesser councillor of Powhatan's, though that is unlikely, considering how, years later, Namontack's observations would be treated. He may have been living in respectable obscurity among his own people. Or he may have been living as a pariah, the man who had brought military retribution upon his people.

Time Line

  • June 1561 - Paquinquineo, likely a Paspahegh Indian, meets a party of Spanish explorers near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. He and an unnamed companion, a servant, volunteer to travel with the men to Spain.

  • August 1561 - A Spanish ship captained by Antonio Velázquez and carrying two Virginia Indians, including one named Paquinquineo, arrives in Lagos, Portugal.

  • September 1561 - A party of Spaniards that also includes a Virginia Indian named Paquinquineo travels to Seville, Spain, and then on to the new Spanish capital of Madrid. There, Paquinquineo is presented to King Philip II.

  • February 1562 - Paquinquineo leaves the Spanish capital of Madrid with permission from King Philip II to lead a mission to his home in the Chesapeake Bay.

  • May 1562 - Paquinquineo leaves Cádiz, Spain, for New Spain (later Mexico), where he intends to make only a brief stop before leading a mission to his home in the Chesapeake Bay.

  • August 10, 1562 - After sailing from Spain, Paquinquineo and his Spanish companions arrive in San Juan de Ulúa, New Spain (later Mexico). They intend to stop only briefly in Mexico City before embarking on a mission to the Chesapeake Bay, but Paquinquineo falls seriously ill. He is baptized in Mexico City and takes the name Don Luís de Velasco.

  • 1564 - Paquinquineo, now baptized and called Don Luís de Velasco after the viceroy of New Spain (later Mexico), accompanies a Dominican mission bound for La Florida. He hopes to travel back to his home in the Chesapeake Bay, but the group never reaches farther than Santo Domingo, Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic).

  • Summer 1566 - The Spanish commander of La Florida, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, calls for Don Luís (formerly Paquinquineo) to come to Havana, Cuba, and then sends him with Dominican missionaries to the Chesapeake Bay; however, the Virginia Indian fails to identify the mouth of the bay. The party sails to Spain.

  • October 1566 - After failing to land in the Chesapeake Bay, the Dominican mission that includes the Virginia Indian Don Luís (formerly Paquinquineo), arrives in Cádiz, Spain.

  • 1570 - The Spanish commander of La Florida, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, again summons the Virginia Indian Don Luís (formerly Paquinquineo) to Havana, Cuba. There he organizes a Jesuit mission to his home in the Chesapeake Bay.

  • September 10, 1570 - A Jesuit mission consisting of a half-dozen Spanish priests, several lay catechists, the Virginia Indian Don Luís (formerly Paquinquineo), and a youth named Alonso de los Olmos, lands on the shore of the James River likely near the mouth of modern-day College Creek.

  • February 1571 - Paquinquineo (once Don Luís), a Virginia Indian who has lived in Spain and Mexico and has recently returned to the Chesapeake Bay as part of a Jesuit mission, leads a group of Paspaheghs in an ambush against the Jesuits. All the missionaries are killed, save a young boy.

  • Spring 1571 - A Spanish ship arrives in the Chesapeake Bay to resupply a Jesuit mission there and finds that the priests have been killed. A skirmish leads to the capture of two Indians, one of whom explains that Paquinquineo (once Don Luís), a Virginia Indian who had belonged to the mission, ordered the attack.

  • August 1572 - A Spanish military expedition enters the James River attempting to rescue the Spanish boy Alonso de los Olmos and capture the Virginia Indian and former missionary Paquinquineo (once Don Luís), who had ordered a group of Jesuits killed. Alonso is found but not Paquinquineo.

Further Reading

Lewis, Clifford M., and Albert J. Loomie. The Spanish Jesuit Mission in Virginia, 1570–1572. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1953.

Gradie, Charlotte M. "The Powhatans in the Context of the Spanish Empire." In Powhatan Foreign Relations, 1500–1722. Helen C. Rountree, ed. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993. Pp. 154–172.

Hoffman, Paul E. A New Andalucia and a Way to the Orient: The American Southeast During the Sixteenth Century. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990.

Contributed by Helen C. Rountree, professor emerita of anthropology at Old Dominion University, and author of Pocahontas's People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries (1990) and Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough: Three Indian Lives Changed by Jamestown (2005).


Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page