A Native American Legend
Pocahontas, also known as Matoaka, was the daughter of a Native American chief. The story of this young girl’s courage has spawned many tales and legends. Many movies have attempted to portray a historically accurate version of her story, Disney’s being the most popular version. Read on to discover the history behind this real-life princess.
Capture or Ceremony?
According to the legend, when John Smith was captured by the men of her tribe, Pocahontas threw herself over his body to save his life. Others say that John Smith was not captured, and the tribesmen were performing a ceremony to welcome him. The argument is if they were honoring him with a place among their chiefs, why would they try to kill him. What do you think really happened?
All in the Name
Some argue that Pocahontas was too young to be allowed to disrupt a ceremony and save a man’s life. As the chief’s daughter, she would have been kept away from such events under watchful eyes. Based on her nickname, Pocahontas, which means “naughty,” “ill-behaved child,” and also “playful,” she might have done just that.
John Smith’s Diary
While there are many conflicting views drawn from sparse historical evidence, here is what we do know. Pocahontas taught John Smith some of her tribe’s language and paved the way for communication with the British. His diary contains a few entries of Pocahontas teaching him how to say sentences in her language. One such entry is, “Pocahontas has white beads,” recorded side by side in English and the Powhatan language.
That a chief’s daughter, who had known only one way of life, saw beyond the invader and found something in common with him shows wisdom beyond her years. Being able to communicate at such a young age and against the traditions of her people shows great courage. Unlike the movie, much of Pocahontas’ story is sad. She was taken forcibly from her husband and child to spend the rest of her life in England. Pocahontas later married Sir John Rolfe, and no information exists about what her life was like. Still, her own brave actions paved the way, not only for her people’s future but also for the land she called home.
A Savage Ambassador
Pocahontas married Sir John Rolph and became an ambassador for her people in a strange land. She learned how to dress and behave according to the customs of her new home. While some still saw Pocahontas as a savage, her dignity and bravery changed the course of history. That is the story worth remembering.
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