Blonde Indians?

GRADES: 4 and 8
DURATION: 45 minutes



In the painting entitled “An Indian Painted for the Hunt”, a man is shown decorated with tattoos, wearing three feathers and carrying a bow and quiver. This painting was painted by John Whyte, who visited several Algonquian villages in 1585. 
The prints entitled “Native American in Body Paint” “Native American Woman and Baby” were engraved by Theodor de Bry in 1590, who based it on Whyte’s painting.  It was then included in the book A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. This book was written by Thomas Hariot, another member of the same group of explorers that included Whyte. After publication, a few copies of the book were hand colored by still another artist.
Thede Bry version shows both the front and back sides of the warrior, holding both a bow and an arrow.  Several other archers are also featured in the background, which de Bry added. The artist, who had apparently never visited the New World, made the warrior fair-skinned and colored his hair blonde. He also used several bright colors for the body paint and colored the “quivers” bright colors.
This lesson will show your students why primary sources are so important. None of the Indians shown in the paintings would have had light colored skin, blonde or red hair, but because the artist had never seen Indians he gave them the wrong color skin tones and hair.

Guiding Question:

  • How can information from a secondary source differ from that in a primary source?


  • Students will compare and contrast a painting and a hand-colored engraving based on the painting.
  • Students will identify some inaccuracies in the hand-colored version of the engraving.


  • Project, display, or pass out copies of other de Bry image and have students guess if this was a primary source or not.


  1. Have the children work individually or in groups of four. Pass out copies of the Whyte painting and the de Bry engraving of hunters along with the student worksheet.
  2. Have students carefully compare the two images and list on the worksheet the differences they find.
  3. Have students/groups share the differences they found as you make a composite list on the board.
  4. Check the KEY to make sure all differences were noticed.
  5. Explain that one of the images was used as the “model” for creating the other.
  6. Ask students to guess which version is the model and which is the “copy”.
  7. Have them explain their reasoning. (They may assume that the De Bry image must be the model because it has more details. They may realize that the Whyte version seems more accurate and is therefore the model.)
  8. Explain how the two images are related.
  9. Point out that the Whyte painting is an example of a primary source, based on “first-hand observation”. The uncolored De Bry engraving and the colored version are both examples of secondary sources, but the engraving is “second-hand” and the colored version is “third hand”!
  10. Pass out or project image of the woman with a child.  [Note: We have provided only half of this print—we cropped out another woman in the image who was partially unclothed. If you are having your students access the images on the website, you should know that we have the entire image there.]  Ask the class if they think it is a primary or secondary source. Have them point out the inconsistencies in the hand-coloring. (blond hair on woman, red hair on baby, light skin on both)



Tennessee Social Studies Standards:
Grade 8 History:
  • Differentiate between a primary and secondary source.
K-8 Social Studies Process Standards:
The student will use social studies process standards to acquire information, analyze, problem solve, communicate, and develop a historical awareness.
  • Discover resources available from museums, historical sites, presidential libraries, and local and state preservation societies to acquire information.
  • Critically examine data from a variety of sources to problem solve and analyze data.
  • Utilize community resources such as field trips, guest speakers, and museums for historical awareness.
  • Incorporate the use of technological resources for historical awareness.
  • Utilize primary and secondary source material such as … artwork for historical awareness.
National History Standards: K-12 Historical Thinking Standards
STANDARD 2: Historical Comprehension
The student comprehends a variety of historical sources:
Therefore, the student is able to
  1. Identify the author or source of the historical document or narrative.
  1. Appreciate historical perspectives--the ability (a) describing the past on its own terms, through the eyes and experiences of those who were there, as revealed through their … arts, artifacts, and the like;
  1. Draw upon the visual … sources including: (a) photographs, paintings, …to clarify, illustrate, or elaborate upon information presented ….