Reporters and Mythmakers: Depicting Virginia Indians

Secoton by John White (ca. 1585)

In this watercolor, John White provides a bird's-eye view of Secotan so we might see the larger geographical context of the festive dance. He also gives us his own description of the dance: "A Ceremony in their prayers with strange iesturs and songs dancing about post carved o the topps lyke mens faces."

White disagreed with his companion Hariot about whether the faces on the posts were men or women. Or perhaps he just changed his mind; after all, the faces on the posts in his painting "A Festive Dance" do look female. What White really wanted to emphasize, though, was the dancers' gestures, which he captures even in his rough sketch.

Those very gestures are the ones that de Bry seizes upon in his engraved interpretation of this image.


Secoton by John White (ca. 1585)