What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Encounters

In Colonial Virginia It Was the Kids Who Mixed the Cultures That Became American

Both the English and the Native Americans Used Children to Learn the Mysterious Ways of Their New Neighbors

In 1608, Thomas Savage, age 13, arrived on the first ship from England bringing supplies to the newly founded Jamestown colony. He had been in Virginia just a few weeks when he was presented as a gift to Wahunsenaca, the great Powhatan who ruled over most of the people along the rivers leading into the lower Chesapeake Bay area. In return, Powhatan gave the English a young man named Namontack.

Such exchanges of young people were considered normal. As English …

Identities

Why America’s First Saint Stopped Trying to Convert Her Neighbors to Catholicism

In the Early 19th Century, Elizabeth Seton Concluded That Proselytizing Undermined Social Harmony

by Catherine O’Donnell

Elizabeth Seton, for whom hundreds of Catholic parishes and schools are named, was the first native-born American citizen to be made a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Her 1975 canonization was the result of decades of labor by admirers who sought evidence of Seton’s “heroic virtue”—and miracles. Those admirers, who oversaw Seton’s presentation in Rome, also shaped an enduring story about the society in which Seton, who was born in 1774 and died in 1821, lived.

Emphasizing Seton’s courage …