Watercolors of Algonquian Peoples in North Carolina, 1585
Use this primary source imagery to analyze major events in history.
- Use this activity after students have read the First Contacts Narrative.
Tales of Spanish riches in the New World quickly spread throughout Europe. With the support of Queen Elizabeth I, English adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh wanted to establish a permanent North American settlement as a harbor for English privateers to prey upon Spanish galleons hauling riches back to Spain. Raleigh also hoped to discover gold and silver in his own right, to find a water passage through the New World on to the riches of India and China, and to Christianize the Native Americans. Raleigh sponsored several voyages to achieve this goal. John White was an English artist who accompanied one of these expeditions looking for a place to establish Raleigh’s colony. White’s voyage took him to Roanoke Island in present-day North Carolina in 1585. The group failed to establish a colony, but White produced many watercolor portraits of the Algonquian Indians he encountered during the year-long expedition. Two years later, Raleigh again attempted to establish a settlement at Roanoke Island. Raleigh’s colony had disappeared by 1590 and came to be known as the Lost Colony.
- Why did Sir Walter Raleigh want to set up a colony in North America?
- Who was John White?
- (Figure 1) Look carefully at this image. List three or four things that strike you.
- (Figure 1) What does this image tell you about the role of men in this society?
- (Figure 1) White’s paintings would have been viewed by a European audience. How do you think they would react to this image?
- (Figures 2 and 3) Look carefully at these images. List three or four things that strike you.
- (Figures 2 and 3) What do these images reveal about women and children in this society? White’s paintings would have been viewed by a European audience. How do you think they would react to this image
Historical Reasoning Questions
- John White’s images were painted in the early stages of Raleigh’s attempt to set up a colony. Why might an artist accompany a colonizing expedition?
- Based on these images and your knowledge of early contact between English settlers and native people, what generalizations can you make about these first encounters between cultures?
Watercolors of Algonquian Peoples in North Carolina, John White, 1585
Mother and Child: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_White_(colonist_and_artist)#/media/File:North_carolina_algonkin-kleidung04.jpg
A Cheifie Herowans Wyfe: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=southern+Algonquian+Indians+&title=Special:Search&go=Go&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns12=1&ns14=1&ns100=1&ns106=1#/media/File:A_Cheife_Herowans_Wyfe.jpg