Saturday, May 14, 2016

Jamestown: "Savages" and "Foreigners" meet.

        Four hundred and nine years ago this month, in May 1607, a small group of Englishmen exploring Virginia met an Indian werowance (or chief). This werowance had invited them to visit him, and he came out to meet them. One of the Englishmen, George Percy, wrote that this chief wore  “a crown of deer’s hair colored red in fashion of a rose fastened about his knot of hair, and a great plate of copper on the other side of his head, with two long feathers in fashion of a pair of horns placed in the middle of his crown, his body was painted all with crimson, with a chain of beads about his neck, his face painted blue, besprinkled with silver ore as we thought, his ears all behung with bracelets of pearl, and in either ear a bird’s claw through it beset with fine copper or gold. . . .”  
         --George Percy, “Observations . . . in Virginia . . .  1606.
        Besides that, this werowance was walking to meet them and playing a flute made of a reed.
         Seventeenth-century Englishmen weren’t the only ones who liked ceremonies and dressed elaborately. Yet the English colonists called the Indians “savages.”
         The Indians, more politely, called the English “foreigners.” 

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