Pocahontas: Queen of Jamestown?

She was mesmerizing yet mysterious. The life of Pocahontas was fascinating. Born the daughter of a noble tribesman, she would be responsible for saving the lives of many English settlers, and being received as a princess before the court of the British Empire.

Matoaka was the beautiful and lively daughter of Powhatan, ruler of the land that the English named Virginia. “Pocahontas” was her childhood nickname, translated as “little wanton,” meaning she was playful and hard to control. When she was born, Powhatan sent her mother home to her own village, to raise Pocahontas. That was his custom. When she was about school age, Pocahontas left her mother to live in her father’s capital, with her older brothers and sisters. As they grew up, Powhatan appointed some as chiefs of his other tribes. Pocahontas became her father’s favorite, “the apple of his eye”.

Pocahontas is most famous for saving the life of Captain John Smith. This story has been retold many times in many ways. Disney’s Pocahontaswas their first attempt to rewrite a historic event, instead of a fairy tale. As usual, the Disney version resembled the original just enough to confuse everyone.

When Smith returned, there were only 38 colonists left (out of 104). Pocahontas kept the colonists from starving to death that first Winter, by visiting regularly with plenty of food. Pocahontas paid regular visits to her friend Captain John Smith, but in October 1609, she was told that Smith was dead. She stopped visiting after that. The following Winter was known as the Starving Time. Actually, Smith wasn’t dead; his leg was badly burned in a gunpowder explosion, and he had returned to England for medical treatment. The colonists thought the death story would work better with the Indians.

Several years passed, with no sign of Pocahontas. Ralph Hamor heard that she had married one of Powhatan’s chiefs, named Kocoum. Captain Argyle discovered that Pochaontas was staying with the Patowamekes, and captured her on June 4, 1613, intending to trade her for concessions from Powhatan. Powhatan only met enough of the demands to keep negotiations open. During her captivity, leading colonists worked to convert her to Christianity. One of those colonists, John Rolfe, fell in love with her, and she with him. Pocahontas was baptised as a Christian, and married John Rolfe in 1614. Her new name was Lady Rebecca Rolfe. She gave birth to a son, Thomas. This marriage created the “Peace of Pocahontas”, six years of peace between the Jamestown colonists and Powhatan’s tribes

For further reading about Life in an American colony please read the Blog “Horrors of the Settler: Living in Jamestown”

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