Reporters and Mythmakers: Depicting Virginia Indians

A Festive Dance by John White (ca. 1585)

Much can be learned from viewing White's watercolors and de Bry's engravings in tandem. The above watercolor depicts a dance from a religious ceremony in the town of Secotan, which White visited in July 1585. Both men and women dance, some shaking rattles and clutching arrows, some holding hands, some embracing. Many carry plumes of grain, suggesting that perhaps the ceremony was connected to a harvest. Most interesting are the wooden posts around which they dance: the tops are carved in the shapes of heads, which Hariot likened to nuns draped in veils.

As is typical of White's work, he gives us no background: the event occurs without interpretive context. This is never the case with de Bry's interpretations of White's originals.

A Festive Dance

A Festive Dance by John White (ca. 1585)