Extracts from ‘A Description of the now discouered Riuer and Country of Virginia, with the liklyhood of ensuing ritches, by Englands ayd and industry’, 1607. Catalogue Ref: CO 1/1 f.53-7.
These extracts come from a document that was written in May-June 1607. They show how an English author viewed the land of Virginia and hoped for the successful growth of new crops for export. It also describes the practices and customs of the Native American tribes who were already living there when the English arrived. It is does not reflect the perspectives of the indigenous peoples of Virginia.
They are naturally given to treachery, how
ever we could not finde it in our travell up the
Riuer [river], but rather a most kind and loving people.
They sacrifice Tobacco to the sunn fayre [indigenous religious ceremony]
Picture or a harmefule thing, as a foord or
Peece [?] also; they sprincle [sprinkle] some into the water
In the morning before they wash. They have
Many wives, to whome as neare as I could
Prove they keep constant. The great king
Pawatah had most wives; These they abide
Not to be toucht [touched] before ther face [in front of them?]. The great
Disease reignes in the men genereally, full
Fraught with nodes [swelling], botches and palpable [noticeable]
Apparaunces [appearing] in their forheads [foreheads], we found aboue [above]
A hundred. The women are very cleanly [skilled]
in making their bread and prepareing [preparing] meat.
I found they account after death to goe into
another world pointing eastward to the Element,
and when they saw us at prayer they observed
us with great silence and respect, especially those
to whome I had imparted [told] the meaning
of our reverence [prayer]. To conclude they are a very
witty and ingenious people, apt both to
understand and speake our language, so
that I hope in god as he hath miraculously
preserved us hither from all dangers both
of sea and land & their fury so he will make
us authors of his holy will in converting
them to our true Christian faith by his owne
inspireing [inspiring] grace and knowledge of his deity [godliness].
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- How are the society and the religious beliefs of the indigenous peoples described?
- What are the religious beliefs of the writer? Why do you think the colonists wanted the Native Americans to convert to Christianity?
- What attitude is inferred by the writer towards the peoples of Virginia?
- How is tobacco being used according to this account? Is it different to the way tobacco is being used in the illustration image for this lesson?
- What might this suggest about who first had knowledge about the smoking of tobacco and its potential trade value, the Native Americans, or the English?
- Why is important to consider what is missing from all of these extracts describing early contact between indigenous people and European colonists?
- This document comes from a The National Archives collection CO, which stands for Colonial Office. Why might the National Archives hold a collection of documents under this name?