Thomas Savage left England at the age of 13 to cross the Atlantic with Captain Christopher Newport, arriving in Virginia on the first supply ship in 1608, eight months after Jamestown colony had been established.
Within weeks, he accompanied Newport and Captain John Smith to the village of Chief Powhatan, who welcomed and entertained them lavishly. After days of bargaining, Newport left him “as his son” with the chief in return for an Indian, Namontack, who would accompany Newport on his return voyage to learn the “strength and condition” of the English.
Savage served as interpreter and messenger between Indians and English, which both facilitated trade and raised his status among the colonists. His ability to speak to and for both cultures and share information was key to the survival of the settlement.
Although his knowledge of the Algonquian language helped avoid misunderstandings and distrust between the two cultures, when he was sent to Jamestown fort to secure the release of several captured hostile Indians, the effort failed. Even so, Powhatan asked that “the Boy might come again, which he loved exceedingly.”
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