After the release of the Disney movie Pocahontas, many felt the true story was ignored.
The following was written by Chief Roy Crazy Horse and appeared on the www.powhatan.org website that is no longer published. It has been shortened for ease of readability by students, some vocabulary has been simplified, grammar and spelling errors have been fixed, and images added for visual appeal.
"Pocahontas" was a nickname, meaning "the naughty one" or "spoiled child." Her real name was Matoaka. The legend is that she saved a heroic John Smith from being clubbed to death by her father in 1607—she would have been about 10 or 11 at the time. The truth is that Smith's fellow colonists described him as an abrasive, ambitious, self-promoting mercenary soldier.
Of all of Powhatan's children, only "Pocahontas" is known, mostly because she became the hero of Euro-Americans as the "good Indian," one who saved the life of a white man. Not only is the "good Indian/bad Indian theme" given new life by Disney, but the history, as recorded by the English themselves, is false, written more in the name of "entertainment" than truth.
The first time John Smith told the story about this rescue was 17 years after it happened, and it was but one of three reported by Smith [who was known to brag] claiming he was saved from death by a famous woman.
Euro-Americans must ask themselves why it has been so important to raise Smith's fibbing to status as a national myth worthy of being recycled again by Disney. Disney even improves upon it by changing Pocahontas from a little girl into a young woman.
The true Pocahontas story has a sad ending. In 1612, at the age of 17, Pocahontas was treacherously taken prisoner by the English while she was on a social visit, and was held hostage at Jamestown for over a year.
During her captivity, a 28-year-old widower named John Rolfe took a "special interest" in the attractive young prisoner. As a condition of her release, she agreed to marry Rolfe, who the world can thank for commercializing tobacco. Thus, in April 1614, Matoaka, also known as "Pocahontas," daughter of Chief Powhatan, became "Rebecca Rolfe." Shortly after, they had a son, whom they named Thomas Rolfe. The descendants of Pocahontas and John Rolfe were known as the "Red Rolfes."
Two years later on the spring of 1616, Rolfe took her to England where the Virginia Company of London used her in their propaganda campaign to support the colony. She was wined and dined and taken to theaters. It was recorded that on one occasion when she encountered John Smith (who was also in London at the time), she was so furious with him that she turned her back to him, hid her face, and went off by herself for several hours. Later, in a second encounter, she called him a liar and showed him the door.
History tells the rest. Chief Powhatan died the following spring of 1618. The people of Smith and Rolfe turned upon the people who had shared their resources with them and had shown them friendship. During Pocahontas' generation, Powhatan's people were killed by warfare and disease and those left were forced to leave their lands. A clear pattern had been set which would soon spread across the American continent.
Chief Roy Crazy Horse