Launchpad: Images of the New World

Images of the New World

Section:  A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H

Early English Ideas about the Natives of North America

Look at the 16th-century images below and describe what you see in detail i.e. clothing, jewelry or body decoration, what they are doing. Make some inferences about these people based on the image. Compare the watercolors to the engravings.

A. Indian Man and Woman Eating

  • What has been changed in the image?
  • Why might these changes have been made?
  • Draft a new title and caption for each of the two images.

Read the description below provided by Thomas Harriot in his A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, published in 1588. Note how accurately his description matches up with the drawn images.

Harriot's 1588 Description of Native Americans

THEIR manner of feeding is in this wise. They lay a matt made of bents one the grownde and sett their meate on the mids therof, and then sit downe Rownde, the men uppon one side, and the woemen on the other. Their meate is Mayz sodden, in suche sorte as I described yt in the former treatise of verye good taste, deers flesche, or of some other beaste, and fishe. They are verye sober in their eatinge, and drinkinge, and consequentlye verye longe lived because they doe not oppress nature.

B. Indian Woman and Young Girl & Indians Dancing Around a Circle of Posts

  • What has been changed in the image?
  • Why might these changes have been made?
  • Draft a new title and caption for each of the two images.

Read the description below provided by Thomas Harriot in his A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, published in 1588. Note how accurately his description matches up with the drawn images.

Harriot's 1588 Description of Native Americans

They are a people clothed with loose mantles made of Deere skins, & aprons of the same rounde about their middles; all els naked; of such a difference of statures only as wee in England; having no edge tooles or weapons of yron or steele to offend us withall, neither know they how to make any: those weapons that they have, are onlie bowes made of Witch hazle, & arrowes of reeds; flat edged truncheons also of wood about a yard long, neither have they any thing to defend themselves but targets made of barcks ; and some armours made of stickes wickered together with thread.

C. Indian Village of Pomeiooc

  • What has been changed in the image?
  • Why might these changes have been made?
  • Draft a new title and caption for each of the two images.

Read the description below provided by Thomas Harriot in his A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, published in 1588. Note how accurately his description matches up with the drawn images.

Here is Harriot's 1588 Description of a Native American village:

Their townes are but small, & neere the sea coast but few, some containing but 10 or 12 houses: some 20. the greatest that we have seene have bene but of 30 houses: if they be walled it is only done with barks of trees made fast to stakes, or els with poles onely fixed upright and close one by another.

Their houses are made of small poles made fast at the tops in rounde forme after the maner as is used in many arbories in our gardens of England, in most townes covered with barkes, and in some with artificiall mattes made of long rushes; from the tops of the houses downe to the ground. The length of them is commonly double to the breadth, in some places they are but 12 and 16 yardes long, and in other some wee have seene of foure and twentie.

In some places of the countrey one onely towne belongeth to the government of a Wiróans or chiefe Lorde ; in other some two or three, in some sixe, eight, & more; the greatest Wiroans that yet we had dealing with had but eighteene townes in his governmet, and able to make not above seven or eight hundred fighting men at the most: The language of every government is different from any other, and the farther they are distant the greater is the difference.

D. Indian Priest

  • What has been changed in the image?
  • Why might these changes have been made?
  • Draft a new title and caption for each of the two images.

Read the description below provided by Thomas Harriot in his A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, published in 1588. Note how accurately his description matches up with the drawn images.

Here is Harriot's 1588 Description of Native American religion:

Some religion they have alreadie, which although it be farre from the truth, yet beyng as it is, there is hope it may bee the easier and sooner reformed. They beleeve that there are many Gods which they call Montóac, but of different sortes and degrees; one onely chiefe and great God, which hath bene from all eternitie. Who as they affirme when hee purposed to make the worlde, made first other goddes of a principall order to bee as meanes and instruments to bee used in the creation and government to follow; and after the Sunne, Moone, and Starres, as pettie goddes and the instruments of the other order more principall. First they say were made waters, out of which by the gods was made all diversitie of creatures that are visible or invisible.

E. Indian Charnal House

  • What has been changed in the image?
  • Why might these changes have been made?
  • Draft a new title and caption for each of the two images.

Read the description below provided by Thomas Harriot in his A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, published in 1588. Note how accurately his description matches up with the drawn images.

Here is Harriot's 1588 Description of Native American burial practices:

For the confirmation of this opinion, they tolde mee two stories of two men who had been lately dead and revived againe, the one happened but few yeres before our comming in the countrey of a wicked man which having beene dead and buried, the next day the earth of the grave beeing seen to move, was taken up againe ; Who made declaration where his soule had beene, that is to saie very neer entring into Popogusso, had not one of the gods saved him & gave him leave to returne againe, and teach his friends what they should doe to avoid that terrible place of torment.

The other happened in the same yeere we were there, but in a towne that was threescore miles from us, and it was tolde mee for straunge newes that one beeing dead, buried and taken up againe as the first, shewed that although his bodie had lien dead in the grave, yet his soule was alive, and had travailed farre in a long broade waie, on both sides whereof grewe most delicate and pleasaunt trees, bearing more rare and excellent fruites then ever hee had seene before or was able to expresse, and at length came to most brave and faire houses, neere which hee met his father, that had beene dead before, who gave him great charge to goe backe againe and shew his friendes what good they were to doe to enjoy the pleasures of that place, which when he had done he should after come againe.

F. Indians Fishing

  • What has been changed in the image?
  • Why might these changes have been made?
  • Draft a new title and caption for each of the two images.

Read the description below provided by Thomas Harriot in his A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, published in 1588. Note how accurately his description matches up with the drawn images.

Harriot's 1588 Description of Native American fishing methods:

Of Fishe.

For foure monethes of the yeere, February, March, Aprill and May, there are plentie of Sturgeons: And also in the same monethes of Herrings, some of the ordinary bignesse as ours in England, but the most part farre greater, of eighteene, twentie inches, and some two foote in length and better; both these kindes of fishe in those monethes are most plentifull, and in best season which wee founde to bee most delicate and pleasaunt meate.

There are also Troutes , Porpoises, Rayes , Oldwives, Mullets, Plaice, and very many other sortes of excellent good fish, which we have taken & eaten, whose names I know not but in the countrey language; wee have of twelve sorts more the pictures as they were drawn in the countrey with their names. The inhabitants use to take then two maner of wayes, the one is by a kind of wear made of reedes which in that countrey are very strong. The other way which is more strange, is with poles made sharpe at one ende, by shooting them into the fish after the maner as Irishmen cast dartes ; either as they are rowing in their boates or els as they are wading in the shallowes for the purpose.

There are also in many places plentie of these kindes which follow.

Sea crabbes , such as we have in England.
Oystres , some very great, and some small; some rounde and some of a long shape: They are founde both in salt water and brackish, and those that we had out of salt water are far better than the other as in our owne countrey.
Also Muscles, Scalopes , Periwinkles, and Creuises.
Seekanauk, a kinde of crustie shell fishe which is good meate, about a foote in breadth, having a crustie tayle, many legges like a crab; and her eyes in her backe. They are founde in shallowes of salt waters; and sometime on the shoare.
There are many Tortoyses both of lande and sea kinde, their backes & bellies are shelled very thicke ; their head, feete, and taile, which are in appearance, seeme ougly as though they were membres of a serpent or venemous: but notwithstanding they are very good meate, as also their egges. Some have bene founde of a yard in bredth and better.

And thus have I made relation of all sortes of victuall that we fed upon for the time we were in Virginia, as also the inhabitants themselves, as farre foorth as I knowe and can remember or that are specially worthy to bee remembred.

G. Indian Village of Secotan

  • What has been changed in the image?
  • Why might these changes have been made?
  • Draft a new title and caption for each of the two images.

Read the description below provided by Thomas Harriot in his A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, published in 1588. Note how accurately his description matches up with the drawn images.

Harriot's 1588 Description of Native American farming methods:

All the aforesaid commodities for victuall are set or sowed, sometimes in groundes apart and severally by themselves; but for the most part together in one ground mixtly : the manner thereof with the dressing and preparing of the ground, because I will note unto you the fertilitie of the soile ; I thinke good briefly to describe.

The ground they never fatten with mucke, dounge or any other thing; neither plow nor digge it as we in England, but onely prepare it in sort as followeth. A fewe daies before they sowe or set, the men with wooden instruments, made almost in forme of mattockes or hoes with long handles; the women with short peckers or parers, because they use them sitting, of a foote long and about five inches in breadth: doe onely breake the upper part of the ground to rayse up the weedes, grasse, & old stubbes of corne stalkes with their rootes. The which after a day or twoes drying in the Sunne, being scrapte up into many small heapes, to save them labour for carrying them away; they burne into ashes. (And whereas some may thinke that they use the ashes for to better the grounde ; I say that then they woulde eyther disperse the ashes abroade ; which wee observed they doe not, except the heapes bee too great: or els would take speciall care to set their corne where the ashes lie, which also wee finde they are carelesse of.) And this is all the husbanding of their ground that they use.

Then their setting or sowing is after this maner. First for their corne, beginning in one corner of the plot, with a pecker they make a hole, wherein they put foure graines with that care they touch not one another, (about an inch asunder) and cover them with the moulde againe : and so through out the whole plot, making such holes and using them after such maner : but with this regard that they bee made in rankes, every ranke differing from other halfe a fadome or a yarde, and the holes also in every ranke, as much. By this meanes there is a yarde spare ground betwene every hole: where according to discretion here and there, they set as many Beanes and Peaze : in divers places also among the seedes of Macocqwer, Melden and Planta Solis.

The ground being thus set according to the rate by us experimented, an English Acre conteining fourtie pearches in length, and foure in breadth, doeth there yeeld in croppe or of-come of corne, beanes, and peaze, at the least two hundred London bushelles : besides the Macocqwer, Melden, and Planta Solis: When as in England fourtie bushelles of our wheate yeelded out of such an acre is thought to be much.

H. Compare your descriptions with Harriot's descriptions in his text above, and also describe how the engravin exemplify some of the goals and description of circumstances in Harriot's preface to his treatise below.

Treatise to Harriot's Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia 1588:

The treatise whereof for your more readie view & easier understanding I will divide into three speciall parts. In the first I will make declaration of such commodities there alreadie found or to be raised, which will not onely serve the ordinary turnes of you which are and shall bee the planters and inhabitants, but such an overplus sufficiently to bee yelded, or by men of skill to bee provided, as by way of trafficke and exchaunge with our owne nation of England, will enrich your selves the providers; those that shal deal with you; the enterprisers in general; and greatly profit our owne countrey men, to supply them with most things which heretofore they have bene faine to provide either of strangers or of our enemies: which commodities for distinction sake, I call Merchantable.

In the second, I will set downe all the comodities which wee know the countrey by our experience doeth yeld of it selfe for victuall, and sustenance of mans life; such as is usually fed upon by the inhabitants of the countrey, as also by us during the time we were there.

In the last part I will make mention generally of such other commodities besides, as I am able to remember, and as I shall thinke behooffull for those that shall inhabite, and plant there to knowe of; which specially concerne building, as also some other necessary uses: with a briefe description of the nature and maners of the people of the countrey.
  • What do you think Harriot thought of the native people he was encountering? Offer specific evidence from the drawings and captions to support your answer.
  • Can you speculate on what the native peoples would have said about Harriot's commentaries on their lives?
  • What would Europeans of the time viewing your image have inferred about the New World?
  • What would they have found most surprising or amazing?
  • What aspects of native life might they relate to their own?