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Pocahontas

Pocahontas

Born: c. 1595
Virginia
Died: 1617
Gravesend, Kent, England

Native American princess

Pocahontas was the daughter of a Native American chief in Virginia at the time when the British came to settle in the area. Her marriage to an English settler brought eight years of peace between the Indians and the British.

The "playful one"

Pocahontas's real name was Matoaka. As a child, she was also called Pocahontas, meaning "playful one," and the name stuck. Her father was Powhatan (c. 15501618), the chief of a group of tribes that bore his name and spoke the Native American Algonquian language.

In 1607 English colonists founded Jamestown. They had been sent by the Virginia Company, a company in London that had the English king's permission to set up a colony in the area for trade with England. As a young girl, Pocahontas often played at the Jamestown fort. She became friends with some of the boys there and charmed the settlers by turning cartwheels with the boys in the Jamestown marketplace.

Relations between the Native Americans and the settlers were not always smooth, but Pocahantas's friendship with the settlers may have helped keep peace. Captain John Smith (c. 15801631), who was the leader of the Jamestown colony until 1609, reported that Pocahantas saved his life when he was captured by Powhatan's warriors in 1608. According to Smith, whose story is not believed by all historians, Pocahantas's actions kept Smith from being killed by Powhatan's men. Saving John Smith also saved the Jamestown colony.

Life with the English

Despite the incident with Smith, tensions between the Native Americans and the colonists in Virginia remained. In 1613, while Pocahontas was visiting the village of the Potomac Indians, she was taken prisoner by Samuel Argall, captain of a ship named Treasurer. Argall wanted to use Pocahantas as a hostage to exchange for Englishmen who were held by Powhatan's group, and for tools and supplies that the Native Americans had stolen. She was taken to Jamestown, where she was treated with respect by the governor, Sir Thomas Dale (1619). Dale was touched by her intelligence and by her proper behavior. After being instructed in the Christian religion, she was baptized (admitted to Christianity and given a Christian name) with the name Rebecca.

John Rolfe (15851622), a gentleman at Jamestown, fell in love with Pocahantas and asked Dale for permission to marry her. Dale readily agreed in order to win the friendship of the Indians, even though Pocahontas may have already been married to a chief named Kocoum. Chief Powhatan also consented, and the marriage took place in June 1614 in the church at Jamestown in an Anglican service, following the Anglican branch of Christianity that had been developed in England. Both Native Americans and Englishmen apparently considered the union a bond between them. Pocahantas's marriage to Rolfe brought eight years of peaceful relations in Virginia.

A princess visits England

In 1616 the Virginia Company invited Pocahontas to visit England, thinking that her visit would aid the company in securing investments from the British. Rolfe, Pocahontas, her brother-in-law Tomocomo, and several Indian girls sailed to England. There Pocahontas was a great success. She was treated as a princess, entertained by the Anglican bishop of London, and introduced to England's King James I and Queen Anne.

Early in 1617 Pocahontas and her party prepared to return to Virginia. However, she became ill while in the village at Gravesend. Pocahantas had developed a case of smallpox, an infectious and dangerous disease caused by a virus and leading to high fever. Pocahantas died from the disease and was buried in Gravesend Church. Her only child, Thomas Rolfe, was educated in England, and later returned to Virginia.

Lasting contribution

Pocahantas was one of the first women to play an important role in what became the United States. Her friendship with the English settlers helped ensure the success of Jamestown, which became the first permanent English settlement in America.

For More Information

Fritz, Jean. The Double Life of Pocahontas. New York: Putnam, 1983.

Holler, Anne. Pocahontas: Powhatan Peacemaker. New York: Chelsea House, 1993.

Mossiker, Frances. Pocahontas: The Life and the Legend. New York: Knopf, 1976. Reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1996.

Woodward, Grace Steele. Pocahontas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969.

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Pocahontas

Pocahontas

Pocahontas (ca. 1595-1617) was the daughter of a Native American chief in Virginia at the time of its colonization by the British. Her marriage to an English settler brought 8 years of peace between the Indians and the British.

The real name of Pocahontas was Matoaka. As a child, she was called Pocahontas, meaning "playful one, " and the name stuck. Her father was Powhatan, chief of a confederation of Algonquian tribes that bore his name.

In 1607 English colonists sent by the Virginia Company founded Jamestown. Pocahontas often played at the fort. In 1608, according to a story of debated authenticity, she saved the life of Capt. John Smith, who had been captured by Powhatan's warriors and was to be clubbed to death. The salvation of John Smith was the salvation of Jamestown colony.

Relations between the Native Americans and the colonists were not smooth in Virginia, however. In 1613, while Pocahontas was visiting the village of the Potomac Indians, Capt. Samuel Argall of the vessel Treasurer took her prisoner as security for Englishmen in Indian hands and for tools and supplies which the Indians had stolen. She was taken to Jamestown as a hostage. There she was treated with courtesy by the governor, Sir Thomas Dale, who was touched by her gentility and intelligence. After instruction in the Christian religion, she was baptized and took the name Rebecca.

John Rolfe, a gentleman at Jamestown, fell in love with her and asked Dale for permission to marry her. Dale readily agreed in order to win the friendship of the Indians, although Pocahontas may have been married earlier to a chief named Kocoum. Powhatan also consented, and the marriage took place in Jamestown in June 1614 in the Anglican church. Both Native Americans and Englishmen apparently considered this a bond between them, and it brought 8 years of peaceful relations in Virginia.

In 1616 the Virginia Company wished Pocahontas to visit England, thinking that it would aid the company in securing investments from British financiers. Rolfe, Pocahontas, her brother-in-law Tomocomo, and several Indian girls sailed to England. Pocahontas was received as a princess, entertained by the bishop of London, and presented to King James I and Queen Anne. Early in 1617 Pocahontas and her party prepared to return to Virginia, but at Gravesend she developed a case of smallpox and died. She was buried in the chancel of Gravesend Church. Her only child, Thomas Rolfe, was educated in England, and he returned to Virginia to leave many descendants bearing the name Rolfe.

Further Reading

The best biography of Pocahontas is by Grace Steele Woodward, Pocahontas (1969). Other interesting works are John G. Fletcher, John Smith—Also Pocahontas (1928) and W. M. Murray, Pocahontas and Pushmataha (1931). Philip L. Barbour's Pocahontas and Her World (1970) is essentially a history of the early years of Virginia and written from the Indian point of view. □

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Pocahontas (1596?-1617)

Pocahontas (1596?-1617)

Powhatan princess

Sources

European Connections. The daughter of Wahunsunacock, chief of the Powhatan people, Pocahontas (the Playful One) is remembered as the first native woman to marry an Englishman in the North American colonies. Her connection to the Europeans arose in the context of Native American foreign relations. In the autumn of 1607, when the newly arrived colonists at Jamestown were starving, the Powhatan chief sent corn to help them. The Powhatans viewed the English as potentially powerful allies although Capt. John Smith and the other colonists felt so powerless that they considered all native peoples as threatening.

Smith. In December 1607 Smith was captured during an exploratory expedition. The Powhatans staged a mock execution ceremony (designed to dramatize native power and friendship) by pretending to cut off Smiths head. At the crucial moment, Pocahontas, then age twelve, intervened, throwing herself on Smiths body. Smith and the other Virginians interpreted this as a spontaneous demonstration of love (probably divinely inspired) while recent historians see it as part of a cultural drama of power and an offer of alliance.

Rolfe. In 1613 Capt. Samuel Argall, a member of the Virginia council, led a raid against the Powhatans and captured Pocahonatas. John Rolfe, a prosperous tobacco planter, fell in love with the young Indian woman and asked permission from Gov. Sir Thomas Dale to marry her. Their union occurred during a time of few white women in Virginia. It also served as an attempt to improve relations between the whites and native peoples.

England. In 1616 Rolfe and Pocahontas traveled to England on a voyage to encourage future colonization of Virginia. The following spring, as they were preparing to return to North America, Pocahontas became ill, probably from pneumonia, and died at the approximate age of twenty-two. A statue in the cemetery of Saint Georges Church at Gravesend in Kent is believed to mark her grave. Her death, and that of her father, led to a deterioration of relations that resulted in war and the destruction of the Powhatan people.

Sources

Frances Mossiker, Pocahontas: The Life and the Legend (New York: Knopf, 1976);

Grace Steele Woodward, Pocahontas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969).

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Pocahontas

Pocahontas (pōkəhŏn´təs), c.1595–1617, Native North American woman, daughter of Chief Powhatan. Pocahontas, meaning "playful one" (her real name was said to be Matoaka), used to visit the English in Virginia at Jamestown. According to the famous story, she saved the life of the captured Capt. John Smith just as he was about to have his head smashed at the direction of Powhatan. In 1613, Pocahontas was captured by Capt. Samuel Argall, taken to Jamestown, and held as a hostage for English prisoners then in the hands of her father. At Jamestown she was converted to Christianity and baptized as Rebecca. John Rolfe, a settler, gained the permission of Powhatan and the governor, Sir Thomas Dale, and married her in Apr., 1614. The union brought peace with the Native Americans for eight years. With her husband and several other Native Americans, Pocahontas went to England in 1616. There she was received as a princess and presented to the king and queen. She started back to America in 1617 but was taken ill and died at Gravesend, where she was buried. Pocahontas bore one son, Thomas Rolfe, who was educated in England, went (1640) to Virginia, and gained considerable wealth.

See P. L. Barbour, Pocahontas and Her World (1969); G. S. Woodward, Pocahontas (1969).

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Pocahontas

Pocahontas (c.1595–1617), American Indian princess, daughter of an Algonquian chief in Virginia. According to an English colonist, John Smith, Pocahontas rescued him from death at the hands of her father. In 1613 she was seized as a hostage by the English and she later married another colonist, John Rolfe. In 1616 she and her husband visited England, where she died.

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Pocahontas

Pocahontas (1595–1617) Native American princess and early colonial heroine. According to legend, she saved the life of John Smith, leader of the Jamestown colonists, when he was about to be killed by her father, Powhatan. Captured by the colonists in 1613, she adopted their customs and in 1614 married John Rolfe. She died during a visit to England.

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Pocahontas

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