Was Pocahontas a brave young women who defied her father to save the life of Chief John Smith? Or is the story simply a myth, given new credence by Disney, that strengthens our simplistic perception of good Indians and bad Indians? Discover both the fable and the fact in these Pocahontas sites.
The highlights of this official Henrico County, Virginia page are the four Pocahontas portraits painted between 1850 and 1994. "Four hundred years ago she [Pocahontas] lived part of her life in what is present-day Henrico County. Pocahontas forever influenced the history of the County, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and America. It is her image that graces the Henrico seal and flag." The page continues with a short biography.
"Pocahontas was 'the most deare and wel-beloved' daughter of Powhatan, the powerful chief of the Algonquian Indians in the Tidewater region of Virginia. She was born around 1595 to one of Powhatan's many wives. They named her Matoaka, though she is better known as Pocahontas, which means 'Little Wanton,' a playful, frolicsome little girl. Pocahontas probably saw white men for the first time in May 1607 when Englishmen landed at Jamestown." The legendary first meeting of Pocahontas and John Smith is based on a tale romanticized (if not entirely invented) by Smith.
The Powhatan Indian Nation responds to the Disney version of the Pocahontas story by explaining how the animated movie differs from historical fact. In 1607, when legend claims that Pocahontas saved Captain John Smith from death at her father's hand, she would have been about eleven years old. In an account written by Smith in 1608, shortly after his winter with the Powhatan people, he never mentions the incident. It first appears in a letter written seventeen years later, after Pocahontas' death and her considerable fame resulting from her English travels.
In 1614, Pocahontas was kidnaped by the colonists, with the intention of trading her for concessions from Powhatan. During her captivity, she converted to Christianity, married colonist John Rolfe and was baptized Rebecca. This marriage lead to several years of peace between the Jamestown colonists and Powhatan's tribes. In 1616, John and Rebecca Rolfe sailed to England to help raise funds for the struggling Virginia colony. "Lady Rebecca" toured England as a visiting princess. At just twenty-one, Rebecca died of small pox, an old world disease. She is buried in Gravesend, England. This page was written by one of her proud descendants.