Digital Paxton: Digital Collection, Critical Edition, and Teaching Platform

Portrayal and Popular Opinion

This lesson asks students to consider how portrayals of Algonquians shaped popular opinion.

Lesson Objectives:
Grade Level: Grade 10

Historical Background: Gaudio and Tucker readings (Materials).

  1. Have students read Gaudio and Tucker readings as homework. Teacher may also assign textbook reading on European exploration and interaction with Native Peoples.
  2. Opener Activity: Have students primary source image (van Meurs) with secondary source context (Martin).
    1. Johannes van Meurs, Susquehannock Fort, 1671
    2. Darvin L. Martin, A History of Conestoga Indiantown: "Captain John Smith referenced the Susquehannock in his account of exploration regarding the Chesapeake Bay in 1608…Smith was surprised to find the Susquehannocks trading French goods from Quebec, a colony founded just a few years earlier. The Susquehannocks were also noted by the Swedish missionary Johannes Campanius, in 1645, when he described a fort located twelve Swedish miles (about 80 English miles) from New Sweden (now Wilmington, Delaware). 'They came daily to trade with us…They live on a high mountain…there they have a fort, a square building surrounded with palisades…They have guns and small iron canon.'"
  3. Split students into three groups. Give each group two of the six John White and De Bry engravings and watercolors. Only after students examine all six separately may they compare images.
    1. John White, Indian Village of Pomeiooc (1585)
    2. Theodor de Bry, The Tovvne of Pomeiooc (1590)
    3. John White, Indian Village of Secoton (1585)
    4. Theodor de Bry, The Tovvne of Secota (1590)
    5. John White, Indian Man and Woman Eating (1585)
    6. Theodor de Bry, Their sitting at meate (1590)
  4. Have students discuss the following questions in groups:
    1. What aspects of Algonquian life does John White stress in his watercolors? Does de Bry change emphasis at all? If so, how?
    2. How do White's descriptions and labels help you understand Algonquian life? Does your reading of the portrayals change when de Bry alters labels and descriptions? If so, how?
    3. Why do you think de Bry would alter White's images for English readers? What is his goal in doing this?
    4. Have students share their answers with the class. Then discuss portrayal and public opinion as a class.

Assessment and Extensions: Have students a 1-2 paragraph reflection that responds to this essential question: How can images shape popular opinion? Students should use the historical examples from class (White and De Bry) as well as images from news that may be currently shaping popular opinion.

This lesson was created during the 2019 Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Teacher Seminar, "Native Peoples, Settlers, and European Empires in North America, 1600-1840" (July 28-August 3, 2019). You may also download a printable version of this lesson.

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