American Indian Drawing by John White (Wife of an Indian werouwance or chief of Pomeiooc, and her daughter)

Source: The American drawings of John White, 1577-1590, with drawings of European and oriental subjects, Joyner Rare Oversize NC 242.W53 H8

Indian woman and young girl.

Indian woman and young girl.

Staff Person: Ralph Scott


The image shown below is a drawing ca. 1585 by the English adventurer John White. White joined the group of colonists who came to North Carolina under the patronage of Sir Walter Raleigh. His drawings are the only surviving sixteenth century watercolors of the people, places, animals, and things that he discovered in “Virginia”. After just staying in the New World about fourteen days, White returned to England. There is some evidence that his original sketches were further enhanced with coloring later in England. The original watercolors were purchased by the British Museum in the mid-nineteenth century and were reproduced here in 1964 in a joint publication by the Museum and the University of North Carolina Press. A number of White’s original watercolors are currently on loan from the British Museum and are on display from October 2007 until January 2008 in an exhibit in the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, North Carolina along with the Joyner Library copy of Thomas Hariot’s A Brief and true relation of the new found land of Virginia, London, 1588.

In the drawing the girl shows her mother a small dressed doll she is holding along with her necklace which appears to be of copper or gold. Both of these items were rather expensive items for a child and it may be an attempt on the part of White to show the riches that the children of the New World owned. The mother displays facial, neck and arm tattoos as well as a decorated apron. She holds in her right arm several necklaces a gesture which Thomas Harriot noted was “particular” to this tribe of Native Americans. In her left hand she holds a gourd which was used to carry water. Kim Sloan, Curator of British Drawings and Watercolours at the British Museum, notes that by carrying this gourd White shows that even the wife of a chief was not free from some of the more routine tasks of the community. Other members of the community are depicted in various tasks in the other watercolors in the book.

Paul Hulton and David Beers Quinn,The American drawings of John White, 1577-1590, with drawings of European and oriental subjects.London and Chapel Hill, the Trustees of the British Museum and the University of North Carolina Press, 1964. 2 v., illus. (part colored), 40 cm. Joyner Rare Oversize NC 242.W53 H8 Purchase 1964 State Funds.

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