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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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1. Native Voices   

1. Native Voices

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Chippewa Songs
- Louise Erdrich
- Ghost Dance Songs
- Thomas Harriot
- Black Elk & John G. Neihardt
- Simon J. Ortiz
- Leslie Marmon Silko
- Stories of the Beginning of the World
- Luci Tapahonso
- Roger Williams
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Thomas Harriot (1560-1621)

The Manner of Attire and Painting Themselves, When They Goe to Their General Huntings or at Theire Solemne Feasts (c. 1585)
[7429] John White, The Manner of Attire and Painting Themselves, When They Goe to Their General Huntings or at Theire Solemne Feasts (c. 1585), courtesy of The British Museum.

Thomas Harriot Activities
This link leads to artifacts, teaching tips and discussion questions for this author.
Born in England and educated at Oxford, Thomas Harriot was employed as a young man by the explorer Sir Walter Ralegh. In 1585 he accompanied Ralegh's New World expedition to Roanoke, where, as a naturalist, he collaborated with painter John White to study the landscape and its inhabitants. Although Harriot must have kept notebooks, none survives. The existing record of his observations is A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1588), an optimistic account of native culture that seems to have been written at Ralegh's direction. Although this work lacks candor--Harriot avoids mentioning how the colonists fled a brutal storm by ship--it does acknowledge how the Indians were gradually devastated by disease and provides detailed descriptions of these native peoples in their soon-to-be-changing natural environment.

Harriot's account provides some of the only information we possess on the Roanoke people, who perished from disease soon after the Roanoke colony ceased to exist. South of the Potomac River the Virginian Algonquian peoples were united in the Powhatan Confederacy in the late 1500s. The leader of this confederacy, Powhatan, would eventually pledge his daughter to John Rolfe; and, if we are to believe John Smith, this same Indian princess, Pocahontas, saved Smith's life. Harriot's and John White's accounts provide us with important cultural information. Colonial accounts by travelers such as Harriot contribute to our limited understanding of the Native American communities whose own records have not survived.

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