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Strachey's A Dictionarie of the Indian Language

Smith's Vocabulary of Indian words

Weroances and Their Tribes

English Observers

William Strachey' s Description of Critters in the Chesapeake Bay

Henry Spelman, Relation of Virginia, 1609


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Henry Spelman, Relation of Virginia, 1609

Of their service to their gods

And therefore first, concerning their gods, you must understand that for the most part they worship the devil, which the conjurers, who are their priests, can make appear unto them at their pleasure. Yet, nevertheless, in every country they have a several image whom they call their god. As with the Great Pawetan. He hath an image called cakeres which most commonly standeth at Yaughtawnoone or at Oropikes in a house for that purpose... In the Patomeck's country they have another god whom the call Quioquascacke; and unto their images they offer beads and copper, if at any time they want rain or have to much. And though they observe no day to worship their god but upon necessity, yet once in the year their priests, which are their conjurers, with the men, women, and children, do go into the woods, where their priests makes a great circle of fire in the which, after many observances in their conjurations, they make offer of 2 or 3 children to be given to their god, if he will appear unto them, and show his mind whom he desire... After the bodies which are offered are consumed in the fire, and their ceremonies performed, the men depart merrily, the women weeping.

Of the country of Virginia

The Country is full of wood in some parts, and water they have plentiful. They have marish ground, and small fields for corn, and other grounds whereon their deer, goats, and stags feedeth. There be in this country lions, bears, wolves, foxes, musk cats, hares, flying squirrels and other squirrels being all gray like conies, great store of fowl (only peacocks and common hens wanting), fish in abundance whereon they live most part of the summertime.

Of their towns & buildings

Places of habitation they have but few, for the greatest town have not above 20 or 30 houses in it. Their building are made like an oven with a little hole to come in at, but more spacious within, having a hole in the middest of the house for smoke to go out at. The king's houses are both broader and longer than the rest, having many dark windings and turnings before any come where the king is. But in that time when they go a-hunting, the women goes to a place appointed before to build housed for their husbands to lie in at night, carrying mats with them to cover their houses withal.

Their manner of marrying

The custom of the country is to have many wives, and to buy them, so that he which have most copper and beads may have most wives. For if he taketh liking of any woman, he makes love to her, and seeketh to her father or kinsfolk to set what price he must pay for her; which being one agreed on, the kindred meet and make good cheer. And when the sum agreed on be paid, she shall be delivered to him for his wife.
The ceremony is thus: The parents brings their daughter between them. For the man goes not unto any place to be married, but the woman is brought to him where he dwelleth. At her coming to him, her father or chief friends joins the hands together; and then the father or chief friend of the man bringeth a long string of beads, and measuring his arm's length thereof, doth break it over the hands of those that are to be married, while their hands be joined together; and gives it unto the woman's father of him that brings her.

How they name their Children

After the mother is delivered of her child, within some few days after, the kinsfolk and neighbors, being entreated thereunto, comes unto the house where, being assembled, the father takes the child in his arms and declares that his name shall be. As he then call him, so his name is. Which done, the rest of the day is spent in feasting and dancing.

Their Manner of visiting the Sick, with the Fashion of their Burial if they die

When any be sick among them, their priests comes unto the party, whom he layeth on the ground upon a mat. And having a bowl of water set between him and the sick party, and a rattle by it, the priest, kneeling by the sick man's side, dips his hand into the bowl, which taking up full of water, he sups into his mouth, spouting it out again upon his own arms and breast. Then takes he the rattle. And with one hand shakes that, and with the other he beats his breast, making a great noise; which having done he easily riseth. And being now got up, he leisurely goeth about the sick man, shaking his rattle very softly over all his body. And with his hand he stroketh the grieved parts of the sick. Then doth he besprinkle him with water, mumbling certain words over him; and so for that time leave him.

But if he be wounded, after these ceremonies done unto him, he with a little flintstone gasheth the wound, making it to tun and bleed; which he setting his mouth unto it sucks out, and then applies a certain root beaten to powder unto the sore.

If he dies his burial is thus: There is a scaffold built about 3 or 4 yards high from the ground, and the dead body wrapped in a mat is brought to the place where, when he is laid thereon, the kinsfolk falls a-weeping and make great sorrow... This finished, they go to the party's house, where they have meat given them; which being eaten, all the rest of the day they spend in singing and dancing, using then as much mirth as before sorrow. Moreover, if any of the kindreds' bodies which have been laid on the scaffold be so consumed as nothing is left but bones, they take those bones from the scaffold, and putting them into a new mat, hangs them in their housed, where they continue while their house falleth, and then they are buried in the ruins of the house. What goods the party leaveth is divided among his wives and children. But his house he giveth to the wife he liketh best for life; after her death, unto what child he most loveth.

The Justice and Government

For the time I was with the Patomecke I saw 5 executed: 4 for murther of a child, id est, the mother and two other that did the fact with her, and a 4 for concealing it as he passed by; and one for robbing a traveler of copper and beads. For to steal their neighbor's corn or copper is death; or to lie one with another's wife is death, if he be taken in the manner.

The manner of setting their corn with the gathering and dressing

They make most commonly a place about their housed to set their corn, which, if there be much wood in that place, they cut down the great trees some half a hard about the ground. And the smaller they burn at the root, pulling a good part of bark from them to make them die. And in this place they dig many holes which, before the English brought them scavels and spades, they used to make with a crooked piece of wood, being scraped on both sides in fashion of a gardener's paring iron.

They put into these holes ordinarily 4 or 5 kernels of their wheat and 2 beans like French beans, which, when the wheat do grow up, having a straw as big as a cane reed, the beans run up theron like our hops on poles. The ear of the wheat is of great bigness in length and compass, and yet, for all the greatness of it, every stalk hath most commonly some four or five ears on it.

Now after the gathering, they lay it upon mats a good thickness in the sun to dry... and when it is sufficiently weathered, they pile it up in their houses, daily as occasion serveth wringing the ears in pieces between their hands; and so rubbing out their corn do put it to a great basket which taketh up the best part of some of their houses. And all this is chiefly the women's work. For the men do only hunt to get skins in winter, and do tew, or dress, them in summer.

The armor and weapon with discipline in war

As for armor or discipline in war, they have not any. The weapons they use for offense are bows and arrows, with a weapon like a hammer, and their tomahaucks; for defense which are shields made of the bark of a tree, and hanged on their left shoulder to cover that side as they stand forth to shoot.

The pastimes

When they meet at feasts or otherwise, they use sports much like to ours here in England, as their dancing, which is like our Derbyshire hornpipe.

They use, beside, football play, which women and young boys do much play at, the men never. They make their goals as ours, only they never fight nor pull one another down.

The men play with a little ball, letting it fall out of their hand, and striketh it with the top of his foot. And he that can strike the ball furthest wins that they play for.

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