Representing Native American women in early colonial American writings: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Juan Ortiz and John Smith


  • Mª del Carmen Gómez Galisteo University of Alcalá de Henares


Native American women, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, The Account, Naufragios, Juan Ortiz, Captain John Smith, Pocahontas


Most observers of Native Americans during the contact period between Europe and the Americas represented Native American women as monstrous beings posing potential threats to the Europeans’ physical integrity. However, the most well known portrait of Native American women is John Smith’s description of Pocahontas, the Native American princess who, the legend goes, saved Smith from being executed. Transformed into a children’s tale, further popularized by the Disney movie, as well as being the object of innumerable historical studies questioning or asserting the veracity of Smith’s claims, the fact remains that the Smith-Pocahontas story is at the very core of North American culture. Nevertheless, far from being original, John Smith’s story had a precedent in the story of Spaniard Juan Ortiz, a member of the ill-fated Narváez expedition to Florida in 1527. Ortiz, who got lost in America and spent the rest of his life there, was also rescued by a Native American princess from being sacrificed in the course of a Native American ritual, as recounted by the Gentleman of Elvas...


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