Encountering John White's Watercolors

See video to learn more about Virginia Indian perspectives on White’s illustrations.

White’s watercolors and de Bry’s engravings are important to contemporary Virginia Indians-- these images are the only existing depictions of 16th-century Algonquian peoples. They serve as the sole visual record of important details about native lifeways--attire, accessories, hairstyles--that are not accessible in the archaeological record. Although White and de Bry made efforts to portray their subjects accurately, their depictions are not objective representations. Only by pairing these images with archaeological findings and with voices of descendant communities can a more complete understanding of this history be possible.

A note about the video

Although this video, On the Traces of Pocahontas, states that Virginia Indians were “descendants of Pocahontas,” contemporary Virginia Indian communities are not directdescendants of Pocahontas. Pocahontas, who became Rebecca Rolfe after she married John Rolfe, had no Indian descendants, only English ones. Virginia Indians recognize her for her culturally appropriate adaptation to the English lifestyle after her kidnapping, but she chose to give up her Indian identity. In 2006, the delegation of Virginia Indians visited her grave in England and honored her as one of their ancestors who faced difficult decisions and did her best for her people.