Imperialist nostalgia operates in The New World on at least two levels, paradoxically making both the pristine wilderness of America and the as-yet-unacculturated Powhatan objects of the viewers' presumed mourning.
And the film's opening also insists on projecting a Powhatan point of view beginning with Pocahontas's collective address, "Come spirit, help us tell a story of our land," a proclamation that appropriates a Powhatan narrative agency for the film.
Smith is an Englishman caught between his admittedly often-flawed understanding of Powhatan political, economic, and social realities and the political ideals he brings from Europe.
To Malick's credit, the viewers of the film hear Smith's declaration as they watch his crew stumble across Powhatan food stores and raid them without compunction.
And yet, the film's conclusion depicts no renewed contact between the colonists and the Powhatan and none of the industrious activity of Rolfe's plantation (earlier in the film it was represented in emphatically pastoral mode: the growing plantation as a playground for John and Rebecca's budding love rather than the origin of Virginia's leading industry to come).
Symbolically, the film's conclusion is an opportunity to represent the English arrival in Tsenacomoco once again, this time as a discovery of a virgin land rather than as rapacious displacement of the Powhatan depicted in the first half of the film.
Like Smith's account, Malick's film at first pays unwavering attention to the indigenous modes of inhabiting the land, the camera lingering over the well-planted gardens and corn fields and following closely the handsome and strong Powhatan as they go about their daily business.