Pocahontas: Lesson Two


Students analyze a painting of Pocahontas to determine the effects English culture had on this Native American woman.

Materials Subject

U.S. History


Primary source
Secondary source

  1. Enlarge The Baptism of Pocahontas and print it out on an overhead transparency. View painting on overhead and use the viewing frame to isolate areas of the painting. Do not reveal the identity of the kneeling woman. Probing questions to ask:
    • What is the focus of this painting? What event is taking place?
    • Who are the participants?
    • Who are the onlookers?
    • Why are some individuals standing and others kneeling?
    • Could a kneeling, as opposed to standing, stance suggest anything about the participants’ status?
    • Is everyone focused on the main event in the painting? Why or why not?
  2. Reveal the subject’s identity: Pocahontas. Explain that this is a portrait of her baptism. It is a secondary source – the painter was not present at the baptism. However, does this portrait suggest any effects of the Western European culture on this Native American woman? Probing questions:
    • Does the subject look Native American? Why or why not?
    • Why would Pocahontas be baptized? (She had to convert to Christianity before she could marry John Rolfe.)
    • What was a secondary purpose of colonization in the New World? (Converting the Native people to Christianity.)
  3. Exit written assessment: Explain the personal effects of English colonization on Pocahontas, a Native American.