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The True Story Of Pocahontas

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A Native American woman who fostered peace between the Powhatan people and English settlers in the 1600s, Pocahontas paid dearly for her kindness.

Throughout history, countless stories have been told about Pocahontas, the brave daughter of a Native American chief. 

In the 17th century, the English called Pocahontas a “noble savage,” praising her as a selfless heroine who had risked her life to save Captain John Smith. When she sat for the only portrait ever created during her lifetime, she wore European clothes, including a neck ruff that was popular at the time.


Library of Congress/Wikimedia CommonsA 19th-century depiction of Pocahontas (also known as Matoaka) saving the life of Captain John Smith.

In the 19th century, painter John Gadsby Chapman created a famous artwork that depicted Pocahontas at her Christian baptism. And in the late 20th century, a blockbuster Disney film portrayed Pocahontas as a free-spirited Native American “princess” who was wise beyond her years. 

But who was Pocahontas? Why did she become famous? And is it possible to separate the real Powhatan woman from the myths about her?

The Early Life Of Pocahontas

Born around 1596, Pocahontas was the favorite daughter of Chief Powhatan — the leader of the Powhatan tribal nation in modern-day Virginia. But interestingly enough, Pocahontas wasn’t actually her real name. Her name was Amonute, and she also had the more private name of Matoaka. 

Pocahontas was simply a nickname for Matoaka that meant “playful one.” Her family probably couldn’t have guessed that this name would be the one that would stick with her for the latter half of her life.

Growing up, Pocahontas dressed like other Powhatan children, which meant wearing minimal clothing. At a young age, she shaved most of her head. Among her people, only adult women could grow their hair long. She also learned how to farm, cook, build baskets, and tend fires. 

Matoaka And English Ships

Elmer Boyd Smith/Wikimedia CommonsA 1906 depiction of the moment English ships appeared on the horizons of Virginia.

But life for the Powhatan would change forever in 1607 when about 100 English settlers landed in Virginia to establish Jamestown. One of these colonists was a man named Captain John Smith. 

Though Smith is portrayed as Pocahontas’s love interest in the famous Disney movie, there’s no evidence of any real-life romance between the two of them. In fact, Pocahontas was just 11 years old when she met him. 

Despite the fact that their real relationship differed greatly from the movie, Smith did portray Pocahontas in an extremely favorable light to the English. In fact, Smith’s tales of Pocahontas were the reason why she became famous. However, his stories may have been far from truthful.

Matoaka And The English Captain John Smith

In John Smith’s narrative — the story that made Pocahontas famous — the Powhatan tribe captured him and threatened to kill him. But then, the chief’s brave daughter intervened to save his life at the last moment.

“At the minute of my execution,” Smith wrote in 1616, “[Pocahontas] hazarded 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.”

But even Smith told this story inconsistently. In his 1608 account, Smith didn’t meet the chief’s daughter until months after he met other members of the tribal nation. Pocahontas only appeared as the heroine of the story years later, when Smith wrote to Queen Anne. And when he wrote his book, Smith transformed the brief tale into something even more dramatic.

John Smith

Unknown/Houghton LibraryAn engraving of John Smith from his 1624 book, where he wrote about Pocahontas saving his life.

Yet the oral traditions passed down by the Powhatan tell a different story. 

According to the oral history, the Powhatan never tried to execute John Smith. Instead, they performed a tribal ritual to formalize Smith’s place among the Powhatan. A symbolic death and rebirth transformed Smith into a chief. And after that day, Chief Powhatan referred to Smith as his son.

As for the relationship between Pocahontas and Smith, evidence shows that the chief’s daughter befriended Smith and brought supplies to the starving Jamestown settlers. In 1609, Smith returned to England for medical care — but Pocahontas and her family were told by the settlers that he was dead.

The Kidnapping And Captivity Of Pocahontas

The major event of Pocahontas’s life was not saving John Smith. Instead, it was her kidnapping — which was done by Smith’s fellow colonists.

The once-friendly relationship between the English and the Powhatan had begun to sour when the English demanded more supplies from the Powhatan, even during droughts that left the nation vulnerable.

By 1613, Pocahontas was a wife. She had married a warrior named Kocoum — with whom she may have had a child. But she was also still known as the chief’s favorite daughter. Tragically, Pocahontas became a bargaining chip for the English in the midst of their conflict with the Powhatan. Captain Samuel Argall plotted to kidnap Pocahontas and hold her for ransom. 

Baptism Of Pocahontas

John Gadsby Chapman/U.S. CapitolThe famous painting of Pocahontas’s baptism leaves out the fact that she was held captive beforehand.

Argall carried out his plan. He tricked Pocahontas into visiting his ship and refused to let her leave. For about a year, Pocahontas was a prisoner of the English. And even though Pocahontas’s father soon agreed to the settlers’ demands, his daughter still remained a captive.

In captivity, Pocahontas learned about the beliefs and practices of the English people. She also learned their language. By 1614, she had converted to Christianity and taken the name Rebecca. And later that year, she married a settler named John Rolfe. (What happened to Kocoum remains unknown, but he may have been killed, or he may have simply divorced his wife.)

While Pocahontas was being held prisoner, most English accounts claim that she was treated well by her captors. But tribal oral traditions tell a different story — a far more disturbing version of her transformation.

Matoaka Visits England

The English treated Pocahontas’s marriage and conversion as a victory. The Virginia Company of London, which had funded the settling of Jamestown, used “Rebecca Rolfe” to encourage more settlers to travel to Virginia.

But the Powhatan saw the kidnapping in very different terms. According to oral traditions, Pocahontas suffered a mental breakdown and even told her sister that she had been raped while in captivity. And she only went along with the marriage and conversion because she had little choice.

At some point, Pocahontas gave birth to a son, Thomas Rolfe. While most English accounts state that Pocahontas had her son after marrying John Rolfe, the Powhatan oral history says that she had him before the wedding.

Matoaka Portrait

Unknown/Wikimedia CommonsA colorized image of “Princess” Matoaka, based on the only portrait she posed for in life.

In 1616, Pocahontas and John Rolfe crossed the Atlantic and met with the king and queen of England. The trip was meant to show off Pocahontas as a “tamed savage.” Though she was not considered a princess in Powhatan culture, she was presented as the “princess” Matoaka to the English.

On that trip, she also saw John Smith for the first time in several years. During their brief meeting, Pocahontas reprimanded Smith for the way he had treated the Powhatan people. She also told him that her father, Chief Powhatan, had said of the English, “your countrymen will lie much.”

During her journey back to Virginia, Pocahontas suddenly fell violently ill and died soon afterward. She was only about 21 years old at the time of her death. And to this day, it’s still unclear what killed her. 

While some think that she came down with a disease like tuberculosis, pneumonia, or smallpox, the Powhatan oral history has suggested that she may have been poisoned — especially since her death was so sudden.

Fact And Fiction In The Life Of Pocahontas

What’s true and what’s false in the story of Pocahontas? Four centuries later, it’s easier to call out fiction — there was no great love story between the chief’s daughter and the English captain — than it is to find the truth.

Yet the fictional version of Pocahontas is largely why we know her name today. Historian Camilla Townsend argues that the story of Pocahontas endured for so long because it flattered white settlers. 

“I think the reason it’s been so popular — not among Native Americans, but among people of the dominant culture — is that it’s very flattering to us,” Townsend told Smithsonian Magazine. “The idea is that this is a ‘good Indian.’ She admires the white man, admires Christianity, admires the culture, wants to have peace with these people, is willing to live with these people rather than her own people, marry him rather than one of her own.” 

But that narrative twists and distorts reality. 

Pocahontas did not choose Jamestown over the Powhatan. That choice was taken from her. She became little more than a symbol of “the good Indian” for John Smith, the Virginia Company of London, and English settlers.

The story of Pocahontas may have shown that peace was possible — but it also showed that this peace very quickly disintegrated and then almost completely vanished shortly after Pocahontas’s death. 

Centuries of stories have tried to define the chief’s daughter. But Pocahontas would not recognize the fictional character she’s become today. 

Who was the real Matoaka? What happened to her first husband? And how did she really feel about her marriage to a settler, her conversion to Christianity, and her trip to England? We may never know the full story. Still, by separating fact from fiction, we can honor Pocahontas’s place in history.

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The true story of Pocahontas is not the story most people know. Here are the oral histories as told by the descendants of Pocahontas.

Despite what many people believe due to longstanding and inaccurate accounts in history books and movies such as Disney’s Pocahontas, the true story of Pocahontas is not one of a young Native Powhatan woman with a raccoon friend who dove off of mountain-like cliffs off the coasts of Virginia. (Note: there are no cliffs on the coast of Virginia.)

The true story of Pocahontas is a tale of tragedy and heartbreak. 

It is time to bust up the misconceptions perpetuated over 400 years regarding the young daughter of Powhatan chief Wahunsenaca. The truth—gathered from years of extensive research of the historical record, books, and oral histories from self-identified descendants of Pocahontas and tribal peoples of Virginia —is not for the faint of heart.

A Warning To Our Readers: Mature Subject Matter Not Suitable for Children

The story of Pocahontas is a tragic tale of a young Native girl who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and allegedly murdered by those who were supposed to keep her safe.


Pocahontas’ Mother, Also Named Pocahontas, Died While Giving Birth to Her

This is in many historical accounts, though not always. It is important to note that Pocahontas was born to her mother, named Pocahontas and her father Wahunsenaca, (sometimes spelled Wahunsenakah), who later became the paramount chief.

Her name at birth was Matoaka, which means “flower between two streams,” and according to Mattaponi history was likely given to her because she was born between the two rivers of Mattaponi and Pamunkey (York). 

Due to his wife’s death, Wahunsenaca was devastated and little Matoaka became his favorite because she looked like her mother. She was raised by her aunts and other women of the Mattaponi tribe at Werowocomoco.

As was the custom at the time, as the Paramount Chief of the Powhatan Chiefdom, Wahunsenaca had other wives from the other villages and little Matoaka had many loving brothers and sisters.

Because of his lingering grief and due to the reminder she gave to him of her mother, Wahunsenaca often called his daughter the endearing name of Pocahontas. 

John Smith Came to the Powhatan When Pocahontas Was about 9 or 10

According to Mattaponi oral history, little Matoaka was possibly about 10 years old when John Smith and English colonists arrived in Tsenacomoca in the spring of 1607. John Smith was about 27 years old. They were never married nor involved.

Pocahontas Never Saved the Life of John Smith

The children of the Powhatan were very closely watched and cared for by all members of the tribe. Since Pocahontas was living with her father, Chief Powhatan Wahunsenaca, at Werowocomoco, and because she was the daughter of a chief, she was likely held to even stricter standards and provided with more structure and cultural training.

When she was a child, John Smith and English colonists stayed near the Powhatan on the nearby Jamestown Island, but later began to explore outlying areas. Smith was feared by many Native people because he was known to enter villages and put guns to heads of chiefs demanding food and supplies.

In the winter of 1607, the colonists and Smith met with Powhatan warriors and Smith was captured by the chief’s younger brother. 

Because the English and Powhatan feared the actions of the Spanish, they formed an alliance. Eventually and according to oral history and contemporary written accounts by the Mattaponi, Wahunsenaca grew to like Smith, eventually offering him the position of ‘werowance’ or leader of the colonists as recognized by the Powhatan as well as a much more livable area for his people with great access to game and seafood.

Years later, Smith alleged that Pocahontas saved his life in the four-day process of becoming a werowance. But according to Mattaponi oral and contemporary written accounts, there would be no reason to kill a man designated to receive an honor by the chief.

Additionally, children were not allowed to attend any sort of religious ritual similar to the werowance ceremony. 

She could not have thrown herself in front of John Smith to beg for his life for two reasons: Smith was being honored, and she would not have been allowed to be there.

Pocahontas Never Defied Her Father to Bring Food to John Smith or Jamestown


Some historical accounts claim Pocahontas defied her father to bring food to the colonists of Jamestown. According to the history of the Mattaponi tribe as well as simple facts, these claims could not be true.

Jamestown was 12 miles from Werowocomoco and the likelihood that a 10-year-old daughter would travel alone are inconsistent with Powhatan culture. She as well as other tribal members did travel to Jamestown, but as a gesture of peace. 

Additionally, travel to Jamestown required crossing large bodies of water and the use of 400-pound dugout canoes. It took a team of strong people to lift them into the water.

It is likely Pocahontas served as a symbol of peace by simply being present as a child among her people to show no ill intentions when her people met with the Jamestown settlers. 

Pocahontas Did Not Sneak Into Jamestown to Warn John Smith About a Death Plot

In 1608 and 1609, John Smith’s role as the werowance (chief) of the colonists had taken an ugly turn. The colonists made inadequate attempts to plant crops to harvest, and Smith violently demanded supplies from surrounding villages after once again holding a gun to the heads of village leaders. 

Accounts from Mattaponi histories tell of one tribal woman proclaiming to Smith, “You call yourself a Christian, yet you leave us with no food for the winter.”

Pocahontas’ father, who had befriended Smith, once said to him, “I have not treated any of my werowances as well as you, yet you are the worst werowance I have!”

Smith claimed Wahunsenaca wanted to kill him, and asserted he knew of the plot because Pocahontas had come to warn him.

Due to the icy conditions at the time and because of the many watchful eyes attending to the daughter of a chief, as well as gestures of peace by the Powhatan to include additional provisions, Native historians rebuff the historical claims of Smith as completely fabricated.

To further prove Smith’s tale was a fabrication, a letter by Smith written in 1608 was published without Smith’s knowledge. The letter makes no claim of Pocahontas trying to save his life on two separate occasions. It wasn’t until Smith published his book General Historie of Virginia in 1624 that he claimed Pocahontas had twice saved his life. Any of the people who could have refuted Smith’s claims by that time were no longer alive.

As Colonists Terrorized Native People, Pocahontas Married and Became Pregnant

The early 1600s were a horrible time for tribes near Werowocomoco. Native tribes once comfortable wearing clothing suitable for summer — including exposed breasts for Native women and little or nothing for children — found themselves being sexually targeted by English colonists.

Young children were targets of rape and Native women in the tribe would resort to offering themselves to men to keep their children safe. The Powhatan people were shocked by the behavior and were horrified that the English government offered them no protections.

In the midst of the horrible and atrocious acts committed by the colonists, Matoaka was coming of age. During a ceremony, Matoaka was to choose a new name, and she selected Pocahontas, after her mother. During a courtship dance, it is likely she danced with Kocoum, the younger brother of Potowomac Chief Japazaw.

She married the young warrior at about 14 and soon became pregnant.

It was at this time rumors began to surface that colonists planned to kidnap the beloved chief’s daughter Pocahontas.

Pocahontas Was Kidnapped, Her Husband Was Murdered and She Was Forced to Give Up Her First Child 

When Pocahontas was about 15 or 16, the rumors of a possible kidnapping had become more of a threat and she was living with her husband Kocoum at his Potowomac village. 

An English colonist by the name of Captain Samuel Argall sought to find her, thinking that a captured daughter of the chief would thwart attacks by Natives.

Hearing of her whereabouts, Argall came to the village and demanded Chief Japazaw, brother of Pocahontas’ husband, to give up Pocahontas or suffer violence against his village. Overcome with grief at a horrible choice, he relented with a hopeful promise that she would only be gone temporarily. That was a promise Argall quickly broke.

Before Argall left the village, he gave Chief Japazaw a copper pot. He later claimed to have traded it for her. This “trade” is still taught by historians. This is akin to the way that Smith ‘traded’ for corn by holding a gun to the heads of chiefs. 

Before leaving the village, Pocahontas had to give her baby (referred to as little Kocoum) to the women of the village. Trapped on board an English ship, she was not aware that when her husband returned to their village, he was killed by the colonists.

The tribal chiefs of the Powhatan never retaliated for the kidnapping of Pocahontas, fearing they would be captured and that the beloved daughter of the chief and the “Peace Symbol of the Powhatan” might be harmed.

Pocahontas Was Raped While in Captivity and Became Pregnant With Her Second Child

According to Dr. Linwood Custalow, a historian of the Mattaponi Tribe and the custodian of the sacred oral history of Pocahontas, soon after being kidnapped, she was suffering from depression and was growing more fearful and withdrawn. Her extreme anxiety was so severe her English captors allowed Pocahontas’ eldest sister Mattachanna and her husband Uttamattamakin to come to her aid.

Dr. Custalow writes in his book, The True Story of Pocahontas, The Other Side of History, that when Mattachanna and her husband Uttamattamakin, a spiritual advisor to Chief Wahunsenaca, Pocahontas confided in her sister. 

When Mattachanna and Uttamattamakin arrived at Jamestown, Pocahontas confided in that she had been raped. Mattaponi sacred oral history is very clear on this: Pocahontas was raped. It is possible that it had been done to her by more than one person and repeatedly. My grandfather and other teachers of Mattaponi oral history said that Pocahontas was raped. 

The possibility of being taken captive was a danger to be aware of in Powhatan Society, but rape was not tolerated. Rape in Powhatan Society was virtually unheard of because the punishment for such actions was so severe. Powhatan society did not have prisons. Punishment for wrongful actions often consisted of banishment from the tribe.

Historians differ on where Pocahontas was held, but tribal historians believe she was likely held in Jamestown, but was relocated to Henrico when she was pregnant.

Pocahontas had a son, Thomas. 

John Rolfe Married Pocahontas to Create a Native Alliance in Tobacco Production

Mattaponi history is clear that Pocahontas had a son out of wedlock, Thomas, prior to her marriage to John Rolfe. Prior to that marriage, the colonists pressed Pocahontas to become “civilized” and often told her that her father did not love her because he had not come to rescue her. 

Pocahontas often tore off her English clothes, because they were uncomfortable. Eventually, Pocahontas was converted to Christianity and took the name Rebecca.

In the midst of her captivity, the English colony of Jamestown was failing. John Rolfe was under a 1616 deadline to become profitable or lose the support of England. Rolfe sought to learn tobacco curing techniques from the Powhatan, but curing tobacco was a sacred practice not to be shared with outsiders. Realizing the political strength of aligning himself with the tribe, he eventually married Pocahontas. 

Though some historians claim Pocahontas and Rolfe married for love, it is not a certainty, as Pocahontas was never allowed to see her family, child or father after being kidnapped.

After the two were married, the Powhatan spiritual leaders and family to Pocahontas shared the curing practice with Rolfe. Soon afterward, Rolfe’s tobacco was a sensation in England, which saved the colony of Jamestown, as they finally found a profitable venture. 

The Powhatan tribal lands were now highly sought after for the tobacco trade and the tribe suffered great losses of life and land at the hands of greedy tobacco farmers.

It is worth noting that though it was custom for a Powhatan father to give away his daughter at a marriage, Wahunsenaca did not attend the wedding of his daughter to Rolfe for fear of being captured or killed. He did send a strand of pearls as a gift.

As Dr. Custalow wrote in The True Story of Pocahontas, The Other Side of History:

Although Wahunsenaca did not attend the wedding, we know through sacred Mattaponi oral history that he gave Pocahontas a pearl necklace as a wedding gift. The pearls were obtained from the Chesapeake Bay oyster beds. The necklace was notable for the large size and fine quality of the pearls. Pearls of the size were rare, making them a suitable gift for a paramount chief's daughter. No mention of this necklace has been found in the English writings, but a portrait of Pocahontas wearing a pearl necklace used to hang in the Gov.'s mansion in Richmond.

Pocahontas Was Brought to England To Raise Money and Was Then Likely Murdered

Rumors of the colonist's desire to bring Pocahontas made its way to the Powhatan, who feared for her well-being and considered an attempt to rescue her. But Wahunsenaca feared his daughter might be harmed.

Rebecca “Pocahontas” Rolfe traveled to England with John Rolfe, her son Thomas Rolfe, Captain John Argall (who had kidnapped her) and several Native tribal members, including her sister Mattachanna.

Though many settlers were committing atrocities against the Powhatan, many elites in England did not approve of the mistreatment of natives. The bringing of Pocahontas to England to show friendship with Native nations was a key to continued financial support for the colonists.

According to the accounts of Mattachanna, she realized that she was being used and desperately desired to return home to her father and little Kocoum. During her travels in England, Pocahontas did meet John Smith and expressed outrage due to the mistreatment of his position as leader of the colonists and the betrayal to the Powhatan people.

After the journey and showing off of Pocahontas to the English elites, plans were made to return to Virginia in the spring of 1617. According to a recounting by Mattachanna, she was in good health while in England and on the ship preparing to go home.

Shortly after dinner with Rolfe and Argall, she vomited and died. Those tribal members who were accompanying her, including her sister Mattachanna, said she was in previously good health and assessed she must have been poisoned due to her sudden death.

According to Mattaponi oral history, many of the Native people accompanying Pocahontas were sold as servants or carnival attractions or sent to Bermuda if they became pregnant after being raped and sold into slavery.

Pocahontas was just under 21 at the time of her death. Instead of being taken home and laid to rest with her father, Rolfe and Argall took her to Gravesend, England, where she was buried at Saint George’s Church, March 21, 1617. Though Virginia tribes have requested that her remains returned for repatriation, officials in England say the exact whereabouts of her remains are not known. 

Wahunsenaca learned from Mattachanna that his beloved daughter had died but had never betrayed her people, as some historians claim. Heartbroken that he had not ever rescued his daughter, he died from grief less than a year after the death of Pocahontas.

The Descendants of Pocahontas

Oral histories of both the Mattaponi and Patawomeck and historical references say she mothered two children, Thomas Rolfe, who was left in England after the death of his mother, and ‘little Kocoum.’

According to Deyo, Little Kocoum was the name that Dr. Linwood Custalow used for the purpose of his book to reference a small child whose name was not yet known. In the sacred oral history of the Mattaponi, the child was raised by the Patawomeck Tribe. The name of that child was passed down in the Patawomeck oral history was discovered to be Ka-Okee, a daughter.

This lineage to Ka-Okee includes the world-famous entertainer Wayne Newton, a member of the Virginia state-recognized Powhatan Patawomeck tribe.

Thomas Rolfe stayed in England and was educated there. He later returned to the Powhatan as an adult. He was married and had many descendants. 

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Contrary to Disney’s portrayal of this well-known ‘family film,’ the true story of Pocahontas is not one of a romance, but a tragedy. Pocahontas was one of the first real-life Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).

Historical Inaccuracies and Whitewashing:

While many may know this historical figure as Pocahontas, to family and those around her, she was known by different names. Her primary name at birth was Amonute, and her secondary name was Matoaka, meaning “flower between two streams.” The heartbreaking life of Pocahontas was one of tragedy and violence - the story of a young girl who was brutally raped, kidnapped, and allegedly murdered by those who were meant to keep her safe. 


Disney’s version of Pocahontas centers John Smith, the man Pocahontas supposedly fell in love with. In reality, John Smith came to her town when she was only 9 or 10 years old, while he was 27 years old. Despite Disney’s narrative, the two were never romantically involved. In fact, John Smith was feared by many Indigenous children in the area he was in, and was known to enter villages and hold various chiefs of tribes at gunpoint, demanding food and supplies. 

Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls

The early 1600’s were an incredibly dangerous time period for tribes near Werowocomoco, including Pocahontas’ tribe. When English colonizers arrived in Werowocomoco, they began targeting women and young children, and began sexually assaulting Indigenous girls. Many planned to kidnap Pocahontas, as she was the chief’s daughter. When she was only 15 or 16, the threat of possible kidnapping increased. Sadly, Matoaka ended up being kidnapped and was forced to give up her first child. Her husband, Kocoum, whom she had only been married to recently before, was killed by those who kidnapped her. An English colonist, Captain Samuel Argall sought to find her, thinking that a captured daughter of the chief would prevent attacks from certain Indigenous tribes. Argall threatened the chief that if he didn't relent, he would attack the village. He also told the chief that Pocahontas would only be gone temporarily. This was a promise he quickly broke. 


The disregard white colonists had for Indigenous peoples was shown when Argall, (prior to leaving), gave the chief a pot made of copper, and claimed he traded it for Pocahontas. This essentially meant he equated the value of her life and freedom to that of a copper pot. Prior to leaving her village, Pocahontas had to give her baby (known as little Kocoum) to the women of the village. “Trapped onboard an English ship, she was not aware that when her husband returned to their village, he was killed by the colonists” (Indian Country Today). 


Upon being kidnapped, Pocahontas was brought to England. During this time, she was allegedly raped and abused by her English captors. Later on, she gave birth to another son, Thomas. She was eventually converted to Christianity, and her name was changed to Rebecca. 

Due to the atrocities committed by white settlers against Indigenous peoples, there were many English individuals who disapproved and were against the injustices that Indigenous groups endured at the hands of colonization. As a result, Pocahontas was brought to England as a political symbol, a show of peace between English settlers and Indigenous groups. “According to the accounts of Mattachanna, she realized that she was being used and desperately desired to return home to her father and little Kocoum. During her travels in England, Pocahontas did meet John Smith and expressed outrage due to the mistreatment of his position as leader of the colonists and the betrayal to the Powhatan people” (Indian Country Today). Some time after the journey was made, Pocahontas was set to return to her home in the Spring of 1617. At the time, Pocahontas was perfectly healthy and in good condition to return, according to accounts by Mattachanna. However, shortly after having dinner along with John Rolfe and her Argall, she vomited and died. She had not even turned 21 at the time of her death, and despite her family requesting that her body be laid to rest in her tribe, Rolfe and Argall brought her to Gravesend in England where she was buried at a church. Her father was heartbroken at the news after having learned from Mattachanna that his daughter had died. He ended up dying from grief less than a year after Pocahontas. 


Disney’s Romanticization of Pocahontas

When comparing the portrayal of Pocahontas through Disney’s lens as opposed to the accurate historical accounts, there is a stark difference. Not only has Disney inaccurately portrayed the life of Pocahontas - they have also romanticized her life, and in extension, sugarcoated the trauma Indigenous peoples faced through colonization. The life of Pocahontas was filled with sorrow and is not one that should be seen as a love story. The romanization of Pocahontas’ life is extremely problematic, as it veils many of the harsh realities Indigenous peoples faced at the time. The true story of Pocahontas strays far from her seemingly perfect life.

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