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Pocahontas & The Virginia Indians Online Course

Class #9 - Pocahontas and After

In this class students will have the opportunity to expand their awareness and understanding of other indigenous cultures beyond the Virginia Indians through the eyes of a London, England based theatre company called Border Crossings - here is a link to their UK website (in 2019 they welcomed an affiliate organization in the Republic of Ireland):

Border Crossings creates new intercultural, multi-media theatre in response to the contemporary globalized world. The company works across the borders between cultures and art forms, and between nations and peoples. Since 1995, Border Crossings has collaborated with artists and companies from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, France, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, India, Ireland, Lebanon, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palestine, Sweden, the USA and Zimbabwe, as well as the diverse communities of the UK.

Every two years Border Crossings presents a festival of the arts celebrating the native, indigenous and First Nations peoples of the world called the ORIGINS Festival. In 2017 the ORIGINS Festival drew inspiration from the 400th anniversary of the death of Pocahontas in Gravesend, England in March 1617. Class #9 allows students the opportunity to take part in the opening ceremony of ORIGINS 2017 as well as the component called Pocahontas and After which involved both a ceremony at Syon House, where Rebecca Rolfe lived with her husband John Rolfe and her son Thomas for 6 months, and a publication of photographs of the same name offering archived images of Native Americans from across the Americas side-by-side with contemporary Londoners representing a broad array of cultures. Through a wonderful on-line story about ORIGINS 2017 by Open University, the UK's largest academic institution, students will see and learn about Border Crossings and about the power and importance of ritual and ceremony in the indigenous world.


Rick Tatnall

Formal Class Content

We start Class #9 with an on-line post from the Open University, which is the UK’s largest academic institution and a world pioneer in distance learning, having taught more than two million students worldwide.  Professor Graham Harvey considers how rituals have been explored in television and film, and how they relate to theatrical performances. He explores how rituals can enable indigenous groups to engage with global audiences and aid understanding between peoples, with specific attention to UK based theatre company Border Crossings and their 2017 ORIGINS Festival.  In his post Professor Harvey offers three Border Crossings videos connected to ORIGINS 2017 including Remembering Pocahontas (2nd video) which sets the stage (pun intended) for the reading portion of Class #9 course content.

As a complement to the 2017 ORIGINS Festival and involving a formal exhibition at Syon House and Park in 2018, Border Crossings created the Pocahontas and After publication (see pdf document below).  The publication begins with thoughts from Sierra Tasi Baker and Stephanie Pratt, two of the Native American participants students saw in the healing ceremony at Syon House (for more info on Syon House go to  Students are asked to consider the powerful statements being made with the collection of side-by-side photographic images, as well as consider the thoughts and inspirations of the participants and scholarly observers.

Class #9 Thoughtwork

(to be done after reviewing all class content)

  • The Pocahontas and After publication features many side-by-side photographic expressions. Which set of images resonate most with you? Why? Does it inspire you to do your own side-by-side photographic expression?

  • From Pocahontas and After: Native Americans (those Indigenous peoples who are the original inhabitants of the Americas) have had their images taken, their faces and bodies captured in paint and print, their lives and cultures imagined and represented in a number of different media since their very first encounter with Europeans. Personal rights and liberties are at the core of current conversations around the globe – what rights do you believe you have to your own image? Do you feel your rights have ever been infringed upon? How did that make you feel? What roles and responsibilities do you have towards respecting and protecting the images of others?

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