Gloucester Tourism

 

Pocahontas Statue
Gloucester Court House, Virginia

"Baptism of Pocahontas"
US Capitol, Washington DC

 
About Pocahontas

I.) Life

II.) Relationship with John Smith

III.) The 'First Rescue'

IV.) The 'Second Rescue'

V.) Smith's Departure

VI.) Nature of the Relationship

VII.) Pocahontas Kidnapped

VIII.) John Rolfe

IX.) Journey To England

X.) Descendants

XI.) After Her Death

XII.) Pocahontas' Title and Status

XIII.) Status Among The Powhatan

XIV.) Status Among The English

XV.) Mistaken Assumption About A Bush Family Relation

XVI.) Pocahontas Legacy and Disambiguation

XVII.) Notes

XVIII.) Further Reading

XIX.) Story Source Credit

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I.) Life

Little is known about Pocahontas' early childhood. She was the daughter of Chief Powhatan by one of his many wives and was brought up in his household; her mother was sent away after giving birth to her, as was traditional with Powhatan's wives.[2]

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II.) Relationship with John Smith

The records of the Jamestown settlers indicate that Pocahontas had a friendship of some kind with Captain John Smith, and may have saved him from death more than once. The exact nature of this relationship is open to debate due to the sparse historical records and the lack of Pocahontas's own voice. The relationship has been romanticized in subsequent fictionalized retellings.

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III.) The 'First Rescue'

In 1607, when the English colonists arrived in Virginia and began building settlements, Pocahontas was about 10 or 12 years old[3], and her father was the leader of the Powhatan Confederacy. One of the leading colonists, John Smith, was captured by a group of Powhatan hunters and brought to Werowocomoco, one of the chief villages of the Powhatan Empire. According to Smith, "at the minute of my execution, she hazarded [i.e. risked] the beating out of her own brains to save mine; and not only that, but so prevailed with her father, that I was safely conducted to Jamestown".[4]

Smith's version of events is the only source, and its veracity is debatable. One reason is that despite publishing two earlier books about Virginia, Smith's earliest surviving account of his rescue by Pocahontas dates from 1616, nearly 10 years later, in a letter entreating Queen Anne to treat Pocahontas with dignity [1]. The time gap in publishing his story raises the possibility that Smith could have exaggerated or invented the event to enhance Pocahontas's image. However, it has been pointed out that Smith's earlier writing was primarily geographical and ethnographic in nature and did not dwell on any of his personal experiences, hence there was no reason for him to write down the story until this point.[5]

Some experts have suggested that Smith did experience what he thought to be a rescue, but that he was actually involved in a ritual intended to symbolise his death and rebirth as a member of the tribe [6]. However, in Love and Hate in Jamestown, David A. Price points out that this is only guesswork, since little is known of Powhatan rituals, and there is no evidence of any similar rituals among other North American tribes (p. 243-4).

Whatever really happened, a friendly relationship with Smith and the rest of the colony of Jamestown was initiated, and Pocahontas would often come to the settlement and play games with the boys there.[7] However, as the colonists expanded further, some of the Native Americans felt that their lands were threatened, and conflicts occurred.

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IV.) The 'Second Rescue'

In 1608, Pocahontas apparently saved Smith a second time. Smith and some other colonists were invited to Werowocomoco by Chief Powhatan on friendly terms, but Pocahontas came to the hut where the English were staying and warned them that Powhatan was planning to kill them. Thanks to this warning, the English stayed on their guard, and the attack never came.[8]

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V.) Smith's Departure

An injury from a gunpowder explosion forced Smith to return to England in 1609. The English told the natives that Smith was dead; Pocahontas believed this for many years until she met Smith several years later in London.[9]

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VI.) Nature of the Relationship

There is no suggestion in any of the historical records that Smith and Pocahontas were lovers; this romantic version of the story appears only in fictionalized versions of their relationship, in which Pocahantas is made to appear older than she really was. According to Smith, when she met him again in London, Pocahontas called him 'father'.[10]

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VII.) Pocahontas Kidnapped

According to William Strachey, Pocahontas married a Powhatan warrior called Kocoum at some point before 1612; nothing more is known about this marriage.[11]

In March, 1613, Pocahontas was residing at Passapatanzy, a village of the Patowomec (or Potomac) people, who lived on the Potomac River about a hundred miles from Werowocomoco. It is not known why she was there. Two English colonists began trading with the Patawomec and discovered Pocahontas's presence. With the help of the Patawomec chief, Japazeus, they tricked Pocahontas into captivity. Their purpose, as they explained in a
letter, was to ransom her for some English prisoners held by Chief Powhatan, along with various weapons and tools that the Powhatans had stolen.[12]. Powhatan returned the prisoners, but failed to satisfy the colonists with the amount of weapons and tools he returned, and a long standoff ensued.

During the year-long wait, Pocahontas was kept at Henricus, in modern-day Chesterfield County. Little is known about her life there although colonist Ralph Hamor wrote that she received "extraordinary courteous usage."[13] An English minister, Alexander Whitaker, taught her about Christianity and helped improve her English.

In March, 1614, the standoff built to a violent confrontation between hundreds of English and Powhatan men on the Pamunkey River. At the Powhatan town of Matchcot, the English encountered a group that included some of the senior Powhatan leaders (but not Chief Powhatan himself, who was away). The English permitted Pocahontas to talk to her countrymen. However, according to the deputy governor, Thomas Dale, Pocahontas rebuked her father (who was not present) for valuing her "less than old swords, pieces, or axes" and told them that she preferred to live with the English.[14]

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VIII.) John Rolfe

During her stay in Henricus, Pocahontas met John Rolfe, whom she eventually married on April 5, 1614. It is not known whether the couple's reported affection for each other was genuine; while some sources indicate that Pocahontas truly loved Rolfe, others suggest that the marriage was coerced as part of her "release" agreement [2]. After marriage, her name was changed to Rebecca Rolfe. The minister who officiated at their wedding was Reverend Buck, father of Marah Buck, the wife of Dr. Henry Lee of Kiskiak, Virginia.

Rolfe, whose English-born wife had died, had successfully cultivated a new strain of tobacco in Virginia and spent much of his time there tending to his crop. He was a pious man who agonized over the potential moral repercussions of marrying a heathen. In a long letter to the governor requesting permission to wed her, he wrote, "It is Pocahontas to whom my hearty and best thoughts are, and have been a long time so entangled, and enthralled in so intricate a labyrinth that I could not unwind myself thereout."

Chief Powhatan gave the newlyweds property that included a small brick house. Today, Fort Smith is in Surry County, just across the James River and was used as a home or cottage by Pocahontas and John Rolfe when they were first married.

Later, and for several years, Rebecca and John Rolfe lived together at Rolfe's plantation, Varina Farms, which was located across the James River from the new community of Henricus. They conceived a child,Thomas Rolfe and appear to have lived happily. Their marriage was unsuccessful in winning the English captives back, but it did create a climate of peace between the Jamestown colonists and Powhatan's tribes for several years.

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IX.) Journey to England

The Virginia Colony's sponsors found it difficult to lure new colonists to Jamestown, and to find investors for such ventures and so used Pocahontas as a marketing ploy to convince people back in Europe that the New World's natives could be tamed, and the colony made safe. In 1616, The Rolfes traveled to England, living in Brentford between 1616 and 1617, to meet King James I and his court. There she was promoted as an "Indian princess", causing a sensation in England, and becoming America's first international celebrity from the New World. The plan to win more backing for the Virginia Colony and to gain royal favor was a great success.

Rolfe was eager to return to Virginia to raise tobacco but Pocahontas became ill, and died in Gravesend of Smallpox, Pneumonia, or Tuberculosis (accounts differ). She was interred in England, and John Rolfe returned to Virginia without her.

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X.) Descendants

Rebecca and John Rolfe had only one child, Thomas Rolfe, who was born at Varina Farms before his parents left for England. Through this son, she has living descendants. Many First Families of Virginia trace their roots to Pocahontas and Chief Powhatan through her son, Thomas Rolfe, and his descendants. Notable individuals include Edith Wilson, wife of Woodrow Wilson, and George Wythe Randolph. Another descendant is the author of Princess Pocahontas.

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XI.) After Her Death

While in England, Simon Van de Passe engraved Pocahontas' portrait on a copper plate. This engraving is the only portrait of Pocahontas made during her lifetime. Despite being dressed in European clothing to signify her acculturation, her Native American features remained evidence of her race. To Americans, as they battled Natives who were defiantly resisting assimilation, the success of Pocahontas' transformation validated the mission of the colonists. This can be seen in an 1840 painting by John Chapman called The Baptism of Pocahontas, which was hung in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol. A government pamphlet went into circulation entitled The Picture of the Baptism of Pocahontas, explaining the characters in the painting and congratulating the Jamestown settlers for introducing Christianity to the "heathen savages", thus doing more than just to "exterminate the ancient proprietors of the soil, and usurp their possessions".

Around this time, romantic stories about Pocahontas would often adapt her vague story to fit their own beliefs. Her marriage to Rolfe when it was Smith whom she rescued, did not seem right to some, and so at least one author, John R. Musick, retold the story to "clarify" the relationship between the three. In Musick's account, Rolfe is a back-stabbing liar who, seeing the opportunity to marry "royalty," tells "The Indian princess," Pocahontas that her true love, Smith, is dead. She then reluctantly agrees to marry Rolfe. After the two begin preparations to leave for England, Pocahontas encounters Smith, still alive. Overcome by emotion and recollections, she dies of a broken heart three days later.

Like much of the 19th-century poetry and novels surrounding Pocahontas, The Walt Disney Company's 1995 animated feature Pocahontas presents a highly-romanticized and fictional view of the events surrounding Pocahontas' meeting with John Smith. The sequel, Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, loosely depicts her journey to England. See Pocahontas (movie) for a list of films surrounding this story.

Pocahontas is played by Q'Orianka Kilcher in The New World by writer/director Terrence Malick, a live-action film version of the story starring Colin Farrell as John Smith and Christian Bale as John Rolfe. It was released in January, 2006.

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XII.) Pocahontas' Title and Status

Pocahontas is commonly referred to as an 'Indian princess' in contemporary and modern writing about her; however, there is debate over whether she actually merits the title or style of 'Princess'.

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XIII.) Status Among the Powhatan

Pocahontas was the daughter of Wahunsunacock or Wahunsenacawh (spellings vary), chief or leader of the Native American confederation who are now known as the Powhatan. Wahunsunacock referred to himself as 'Powhatan', and thus is commonly known in English as Chief Powhatan, but 'Powhatan' was not a personal name, but a title. As John Smith explained in A Map of Virginia, "Their chiefe ruler is called Powhatan, and taketh his name of the principall place of dwelling called Powhatan. But his proper name is Wahunsonacock." Wahunsunacock was not only the chief of his own people; he also ruled numerous neighbouring peoples in the tidewater region of Virginia (known in his own language as Tenakomakah). The native inhabitants of Tenakomakah thus considered Wahunsunacock to be the supreme ruler of a significant area and to merit recognition as such.

However, although the young Pocahontas was a favorite of her powerful father - described as his "delight and darling" by one of the colonists [15] - it is not certain that her society regarded her to have a high social rank. This is because Powhatan society was structured differently to that of Europe. While women could inherit power in Powhatan society, Pocahontas herself could not have done so, because the inheritance of power was matrilineal. In A Map of Virginia John Smith explains:

"His [Powhatan's] kingdome descendeth not to his sonnes nor children: but first to his brethren [i.e. his brothers], whereof he hath 3 namely Opitchapan, Opechancanough, and Catataugh; and after their decease to his sisters. First to the eldest sister, then to the rest: and after them to the heires male and female of the eldest sister; but never to the heires of the males.".

Because of this, Pocahontas, as daughter of Wahunsunacock, would not have inherited his power under any circumstances. Furthermore, her mother's status was probably lowly. In his Relation of Virginia (1609), Henry Spelman explains that Wahunsunacock had many wives and always sent them away after they had given birth to their first child, so that they resumed their commoner status.[16] It is not certain whether Pocahontas's status would have been regarded as equal only to her mother's.

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XIV.) Status Among the English

Regardless of the exact nature of Pocahontas's status among the Powhatan, it is clear that many English people regarded her as a princess in the European sense. One example of a contemporary English view is the 1616 engraving of Pocahontas (see above) the inscription to which reads "MATOAKA ALS REBECCA FILIA POTENTISS : PRINC : POWHATANI IMP:VIRGINIÆ". This translates as: "Matoaka, alias Rebecca, daughter of (filia) the most powerful (potentiss[imi]) prince (princ[eps] - a word that could refer to many types of ruler at the time) of the Powhatan Empire (imp[erii]) of Virginia." Thus, at least some contemporary English recognised Wahunsunacock as ruler of an empire, and presumably accorded what they considered as appropriate status to Pocahontas (Matoaka). This is supported by Captain John Smith's 1616 letter of recommendation to Queen Anne (King James' wife) concerning Pocahontas, which refers to "Powhatan their chief King". [3]. Samuel Purchas recalled Pocahontas in London, saying that she impressed those she met because she "carried her selfe as the daughter of a king".[17] A more ambivalent English view of Wahunsunacock's status can be seen in the description of him as a "barbarous prince" by Lord Carew on 20th June 1616 (as reported by Charles Dudley Warner in his essay on Pocahontas).

There is no evidence that Pocahonatas was formally presented to King James and his court, but she was introduced to him at a masque, at which the letter-writer John Chamberlain recorded that she was "well placed" - that is, given a good seat that suited her status [18]. Furthermore, Purchas recorded that the Bishop of London "entertained her with festival state and pomp beyond what I have seen in his greate hospitalitie afforded to other ladies".[19]

Because the Powhatan lands were later forcibly seized by the English without permission or payment, the validity of native governmental systems was later downplayed by the colonizing Europeans, and the use of terms such as 'Emperor' and 'Princess' became rare.

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XV.) Mistaken Assumption About A Bush Family Relation

Although both Presidents Bush are descended from Native Americans, genealogists who have attempted to link George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush with Pocahontas have been in error. Their mistaken assumption was that Robert Bolling Jr. (a 10th generation ancestor of George W. Bush) was the son of Robert Bolling and Jane Rolfe (granddaughter of Pocahontas). This connection has been disproved by many other genealogists, who point out that Jane Rolfe Bolling died in 1676, six years before the birth of the younger Bolling. Robert Bolling Jr. was evidently the son of Anne Stith, whom his father married after Jane Rolfe's death. The Bush family, therefore, is not descended from Pocahontas in this line.

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XVI.) Pocahontas Legacy and Disambiguation

Through their son, Thomas Rolfe, the marriage between John Rolfe and Pocahontas helped bring peace between the tribes and the British settlers of Virginia for a generation. Many First Families of Virginia trace their roots to Pocahontas and Chief Powhatan through Thomas Rolfe, and his descendants. Notable individuals include Edith Wilson, wife of Woodrow Wilson, and George Wythe Randolph. Another descendant is the author of Princess Pocahontas.

There are several notable places and landmarks that take their name from Pocahontas:

* Pocahontas is one of four ferryboats operating the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry Virginia Dept. of Transportation (VDOT)
* Pocahontas was the namesake for one of the richest seams of bituminous coal ever found in Virginia and West Virginia, and the Pocahontas Land Company, a subsidiary of the Norfolk and Western Railway.
* The town of Pocahontas, Virginia is named after her.
* Pocahontas County, West Virginia is also named after her.
* The village of Indian Queens in Cornwall, UK is named after her. She is said to have stayed in an inn there on her way to London.
* The newest of four car-carrying ferryboats, the Pocahontas operates for the Virginia Department of Transportation's Jamestown Ferry service which carries Virginia State Highway 31 (John Rolfe Highway) across the James River between Scotland in Surry County and Jamestown.
* An earlier ferry, S.S. Pocahontas was built in 1941 for the Chesapeake Bay Ferry Service between Little Creek and the Eastern Shore operated by the Virginia Ferry Corporation. At one time, the S.S. Pocahontas reportedly carried onboard a flask containing earth taken from the grave of the Pocahontas in Gravesend, England.
* The Pocahontas Parkway (Virginia State Highway 895) near Richmond is named after Pocahontas, and the
nearby Powhite Parkway is named after a branch of the Powhatan Indian tribe. Powhatan County, Virginia,
although actually lying outside of the tribal lands, was also named by settlers after her tribe.
* Matoaca, Virginia is located in Chesterfield County on the Appomattox River. County historians say this is the site of the Indian village Matoax, where she was raised. It is about three miles from the present city of Petersburg, Virginia, which in 1784 incorporated another village that had been called 'Pocahontas', known as 'Apomattock' in Smith's day. This is still called the 'Pocahontas' neighbourhood of Petersburg today. Matoaca High School is also named after Pocahontas.
* Matoaka, West Virginia named after her, is located in Mercer County.
* Pocahontas, Arkansas named after her is located in Randolph County.
* Pocahontas, Illinois named after her is located in Bond County.
* Po-ca-hon-tas, or The Gentle Savage is a 19th-century burlesque about the woman by John Brougham
* Fort Pocahontas was a American Civil War fortification in Charles City County, Virginia.
* Lake Matoaka, part of the campus of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, is named after her.

In Henrico County, Virginia, where Pocahontas and John Rolfe lived together at the Varina Farms Plantation, a middle school has been named after each of them. Pocahontas Middle School and John Rolfe Middle School thus reunite the historic couple in the local educational system -- Henrico being one of 5 remaining original shires that date to the early 17th century of the Virginia Colony.

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XVII.) Notes

1. ^ William Strachey, The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Brittania. c1612. Repr. Boston: Elibron Classics, 2001. p. 111
2. ^ David A. Price, Love and Hate in Jamestown. New York: Vintae, 2003. p. 154.
3. ^ John Smith, A True Relation. 1608. Repr. in The Complete Works of John Smith (1580-1631). Ed. Philip L. Barbour. Chapel Hill: University Press of Virginia, 1983. vol. 1, p 93.
4. ^ John Smith. Letter to Queen Anne. 1616. Repr. as 'John Smith's Letter to Queen Anne regarding Pocahontas'. Caleb Johnson's Mayflower Web Pages. 1997. Accessed 23 April, 2006.
5. ^ J. A. Leo Lemay. Did Pocahontas Save Captain John Smith? Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 1992, p. 25.
6. ^ Frederic W. Gleach, Powhatan's World and Colonial Virginia. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997. 118-21.; Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000. 114, 174.
7. ^ William Strachey, The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Brittania. c1612. Repr. Boston: Elibron Classics, 2001. p. 65
8. ^ William Symonds, The Proceedings of the English Colonie in Virginia. 1612. Repr. in The Complete Works of Captain John Smith. Ed. Philip L. Barbour. Chapel Hill: Univesity of North Carolina Press, 1986. Vol. 1, pp. 251-2; John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles. 1624. Repr. in Jamestown Narratives, ed. Edward Wright Haile. Champlain, VA: Roundhouse, 1998. pp. 198-9, 259.
9. ^ John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles. 1624. Repr. in Jamestown Narratives, ed. Edward Wright Haile. Champlain, VA: Roundhouse, 1998. p. 261.
10. ^ John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles. 1624. Repr. in Jamestown Narratives, ed. Edward Wright Haile. Champlain, VA: Roundhouse, 1998. p. 261.
11. ^ William Strachey, The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Brittania. c1612. Repr. Boston: Elibron Classics, 2001. p. 54.
12. ^ Letter from Samuel Argall to Nicholas Hawes. June 1613. Repr. in Jamestown Narratives, ed. Edward Wright Haile. Champlain, VA: Roundhouse, 1998.p. 754.
13. ^ Ralph Hamor, A True Discourse. 1615. Repr. in Jamestown Narratives, ed. Edward Wright Haile. Champlain, VA: Roundhouse, 1998.p. 804.
14. ^ Thomas Dale, letter to 'D.M.' 1614. Repr. in Jamestown Narratives, ed. Edward Wright Haile. Champlain, VA: Roundhouse, 1998. p. 843-44.
15. ^ Ralph Hamor, A True Discourse. 1615. Repr. in Jamestown Narratives, ed. Edward Wright Haile. Champlain, VA: Roundhouse, 1998. p. 802
16. ^ Henry Spelman, A Relation of Virginia. 1609. Repr. in Jamestown Narratives, ed. Edward Wright Haile. Champlain, VA: Roundhouse, 1998. pp. 488-9.
17. ^ Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes. 1625. Repr. Glasgow: James MacLehose, 1905-7. vol. 19 p. 118.
18. ^ Quoted in C.H. Herford and Percy Simpson, eds. Ben Jonson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925-52), vol. 10, 568-9.
19. ^ Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes. 1625. Repr. Glasgow: James MacLehose, 1905-7. vol. 19 p. 118.

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XVIII.) Further Reading

* Barbour, Philip L. Pocahontas and Her World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1970. ISBN 0709121881
* Neill, Rev. Edward D. Pocahontas and Her Companions. Albany: Joel Munsell, 1869.
* Price, David A. Love and Hate in Jamestown. Alfred A. Knopf, 2003 ISBN 0375415416
* Rountree, Helen C. Pocahontas's People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990. ISBN 0806122803
* Sandall, Roger. 2001 The Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism and Other Essays ISBN 0813338638
* Woodward, Grace Steele. Pocahontas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969. ISBN 0806108355 or ISBN 0806116420

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XIX.) Story Source Credit

All facts and references made on this page are from the main Pocahontas article on Wikipedia.org. Click HERE to access the original article page.

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