National Native History Month: Pocahontas

Written by: Emily Vargo

Growing up, if your childhood was anything like mine, then you watched a ton of Disney princess movies. A movie that most people know is Pocahontas. However, Pocahontas was an actual person, but her story is much different than the Disney version.

Pocahontas was born in 1596 and was the daughter of Chief Powhatan. Her father was the Chief of Tsenacommacah.

Pocahontas is linked to John Smith in serval versions of her story. There was no love story between them like the Disney movie portrays, but she did save John’s life. The Native Americans captured John, and right before he would be clubbed to death, Pocahontas threw herself onto John and wrapped her arms around him so her father wouldn’t kill him.

In 1613 Pocahontas was captured by colonists, where she was held for ransom. The ransom was that she would be returned to her father if he released colonial prisoners. While in captivity, she was taught about Christianity, learned English, and changed her name to Rebecca upon her baptism.

In 1614 Pocahontas had a chance to talk to her tribe during a violent confrontation between the Native Americans and colonists. She told her tribe that she didn’t want to go back and that the colonists loved her.

On April 5, 1614, Pocahontas married John Rolfe, who was an English man. Their marriage created peace between the Native Americans and the colonists for eight years. The couple had a child named Thomas in January 1615.

However, their marriage was controversial in the British court at the time because a commoner dared to marry a “princess.” Pocahontas is referred to as a princess in serval accounts by the British, but it’s all meant in a demonizing way.

On June 12, 1616, Pocahontas was taken to England to be brought before the king to be shown as an example that the so-called “savages” could be tamed.

On January 5, 1617, Pocahontas and her husband were presented in front of King James. In March 1617, Pocahontas and her husband boarded a ship to go back to Virginia. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it far till Pocahontas became gravely ill and was taken to shore, where she died at the age of 21.

Today she is known as one of our beloved Disney princesses, and in my book, she deserves the right to that title.

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