FOCUSED: What Can Images of Virginia Indians Tell Us About Cultural Resilience?

Pamunkey school children posed in front of clapboard school building on the Pamunkey Reservation, Virginia. 1919; Frank Speck photograph collection, N12754; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.


Grade Level
Upper Elementary, Middle

Standards and Skills
Virginia Standards of Learning: Virginia Studies, US History to 1865
Standards of Learning: VS.2e, VS.2g, VS.8b, US1.3c
Using information sources, questioning and critical thinking, comparing and contrasting, making connections, demonstrating comprehension

Meets National Standards of Learning for Social Studies


According to Barry Bass of the Nansemond, one major challenge facing Virginia Indians is “educating the public that Virginia Indians still exist.” By examining images and photographs of and by Virginia Indians from the period of initial English colonization to the present, students will observe that despite the discrimination they have faced over time, Virginia Indians not only exist but have maintained their distinct culture and heritage while also remaining a part of the fabric of modern American society.



Students will understand that those who create an image and their unique perspective influences what the image can tell us and how we view it.

Warm Up
Teaming Drawing Activity: This activity is designed to get students interested in looking at the images more closely and thinking about what the images convey.

Take a Deeper Look
Now that students have been introduced to the images and have developed a curiosity about what they show, you’ll take a deeper look at each image as a class.

Image 1
Theodor de Bry Image: Pull up the image and title so that the whole class can see it. Go through the following questions as a class.

Image 2
Frank Speck Photograph: Pull up the image and title so that the whole class can see it. Go through the following questions as a class.

Image 3
Contemporary Image: Pull up the image and title so that the whole class can see it. Go through the following questions as a class.

Students will discuss how the creator of a piece of art (a drawing or a photograph) and their perspective influences what they choose to create and how that perspective influences how a piece of art is interpreted.


Students will understand that Virginia Indians exist today. By examining images depicting Virginia Indian culture from three separate centuries, students will understand continuity and change in Virginia Indian culture.

Step One
Watch the video below.


Step Two
Divide the class into small groups of 3-4 students. Give each group the primary sources and 2 “panels” worksheets (see “Primary Source Set”).

Step Three
Tell the students that they are using primary sources to make an exhibit. They will look at the images and think about what stories the images can tell. Have them create 3 “panels”- for each panel, they will choose three images that relate somehow and write a “label”- one sentence that tells the viewer how the three images relate and what they tell us about Virginia Indian culture. Remind students to think about who created the image.

Step Four
Have the groups switch so they look at another group’s “exhibit.” Have the students discuss amongst themselves: What did the other group include? Was it different or similar to their own exhibit? What new information did the other group find?

Step Five
Have a class discussion to summarize aspects of Virginia Indian culture that did and didn’t change based on what they saw in the images.


Sandra F. Waugaman and Danielle Morette-Langholz, We’re Still Here: Contemporary Virginia Indians Tell Their Stories (Richmond, VA: Palari Publishing, 2000).

Helen C. Rountree, Pocahontas’s People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990).