Smithsonian

Robert Beverley on Virginia Indians in The History and Present State of Virginia, 1706

Beverly’s description of Virginia Indians is more flattering that those of many of his contemporaries, but also shows the great physical differences and the feeling of “otherness” that colonists perceived between themselves and Native Americans.

The Indians are of the middling and largest stature of the English: they are straight and well proportioned, having the cleanest and most exact limbs in the world: they are so perfect in their outward frame, that I never heard of one single Indian, that was either dwarfish, crooked, bandy-legged, or otherwise misshapen. But if they have any such practice among them, as the Romans had, of exposing such children till they died, as were weak and misshapen at their birth, they are very shy of confessing it, and I could never yet learn that they had.

Their color, when they are grown up, is a chestnut brown and tawny; but much clearer in their infancy. Their skin comes afterwards to harden and grow blacker, by greasing and sunning themselves. They have generally coal black hair, and very black eyes, which are most commonly graced with that sort of squint which many of the Jews are observed to have. Their women are generally beautiful, possessing an uncommon delicacy of shape and features, and wanting no charm, but that of a fair complexion.

Credit: Robert Beverley on Virginia Indians in The History and Present State of Virginia, 1706.