Pocahontas


Biography of Pocahontas

For more than two centuries since the death of the Indian princess Pocahontas, legends and stories of romance have been imbedded into our minds, but her dramatic life was more important to the creation of a segment of American history than legend.
Around the year of 1595, Pocahontas was born to chief Powhatan, the powerful chief of a federation of Algonquian Indian tribes who lived in the tidewater region of Virginia. She was but one of the many children of Powhatan, who ruled more than 25 tribes.
Her real name was Matoaka, a name used only within the tribe. Her tribe, the Powhatans, believed that harm would come to them if outsiders learned of their tribal name. Therefore, she went by Pocahontas, a nickname given to her meaning "little wanton" for she was a playful, frolicsome little girl. The settlers believed it to mean "bright stream between two hills."
The Powhatans, were not savages as John Smith would later claim in his General Historie of Virginia...&c. Instead, they were a ceremonious people who greeted important visitors in a formal manner with a large feast and festive dancing. Although they did occasionally put prisoners to death in a public ceremony, it was no more savage than the English customs of public disembowelment of thieves and the burning of women accused of being witches.
In May of 1607, English colonists arrived on the Virginia shoreline with hopes of great riches. They established a settlement that they named Jamestown. Little Pocahontas watched as these strangers built forts and searched for food. She eventually became quite familiar with them and brought the near starving settlement food from time to time.
In December of 1607, Captain John Smith led an expedition and was taken captive by the Indians. He was taken to Werowocomoco, 12 miles from Jamestown and the official residence of chief Powhatan. He was treated kindly and a great feast was prepared in his honor, which he would later record in his report, A True Relation, published in 1608. Smith was injured in a gunpowder accident in 1609 and returned to England. Later in 1612, Smith would publish his Map of Virginia along with a detailed account of his friendly encounter with the Indians titled The Proceedings of the English Colonie in Virginia.
As time slowly passed, relations between the natives and the settlers deteriorated. With the help of Japazaws, a lesser chief of the Patowomeck Indians, Captain Samuel Argall kidnapped Pocahontas and held her for ransom in 1612. He sent word to Powhatan that his daughter would be released only when he received the English prisoners held by the Indians, the weapons they had stolen, and some corn. Some time later, Powhatan sent part of the ransom and asked that his beloved daughter be treated well. Argall returned to Jamestown with Pocahontas still as his captive in April of 1613.
Pocahontas remained Argall?s prisoner for one year afterward. During this time, she became aquatinted with John Rolfe, a pious widower noted as the first colonist to grow tobacco as a crop. Pocahontas converted to Christianity and took the name Rebecca. She then married Rolfe in April of 1614 and from that time forward was known as Rebecca Rolfe.
It is uncertain as to why Pocahontas was wed to John Rolfe. The Powhatan Nation of today profess that she agreed to marry Rolfe, who took a "special interest" in the young hostage, as a condition of her release. Other sources claim that the two fell madly in love and then married. Some disagree because Pocahontas was rumored to be married to an Indian named Kocoum and therefore, could not marry again. Also, she would only have been 17 at the time and would not have had any interest in the 28 year-old Rolfe.
The union of Rolfe and Pocahontas did have some benefits, however. It brought peace between the natives and settlers that would last for eight years. A general peace and spirit of goodwill between the two groups resulted from this marriage.
Shortly after Rolfe and Pocahontas married, they had a son whom they named Thomas. He was the only child born to them and would later become an important member of the Jamestown society.
Sir Thomas Dale, the leader of a new settlement in Virginia, made an important voyage to England to seek financial support for the Virginia Company. To insure publicity, he took Pocahontas with him along with her husband and