The Millstone Times September 2021

Interesting People throughout History The True Story of Pocahontas By Pam Teel

Distorted history and Disney managed to turn the true story of Pocahontas it into a fairy tale, but the true story reads more like a tragic tale of a young native girl who was kidnapped, raped, and allegedly murdered by those who were sup- posed to keep her safe. Her given birth name was Matoaka, which means the flower between two streams. Her mother’s name was Poca- hontas. She died giving birth to her daughter. Her father, Wahunsenaca, who later became the Powhatan chief and formidable ruler of more than 30 Algonquian speaking tribes, was so distraught by his wife’s death that he began doting on his new daughter and often called her Pocahontas, after his wife. Wahunsenaca had other wives and children, but Pocahontas became his favorite. According to Mattaponi oral history, Little Matoaka was just about 10 years old when John Smith and the English col- onists arrived in Tsenacomoca in 1607. John Smith was 27 years old. Truth is, they were never married, nor involved. John Smith made up stories of Pocahontas being madly in love with him, but this was not the truth according to oral Powhatan knowledge. The Powhatan children were very closely watched and cared for by the tribe, especially Matoaka because she was the chief ’s daughter. John Smith and the other colonists stayed near the Powhatan tribe, on nearby Jamestown Island, but later ventured out exploring the territory. The native people feared him because he was known to enter villages and put a gun to the head of leaders demanding food and supplies. In the winter of 1607, Smith was captured by the Chief ’s younger brother.

Because the English and Powhatan feared the actions of the Spanish, they formed an alliance. According to oral history and contemporary written ac- counts, Wahunsenaca grew to like Smith, and recognized him as the leader (werowance) of the colonists. He also gave him greater access of land so the colonists could hunt game and catch seafood. According to history, Pocahontas was well known for saving John Smith’s life, but oral history dictates that, that never happened. Years later, Smith alleged that she saved him from being killed by the natives, but since the chief favored him, and bestowed an honor on him, there would be no need to have to save him. Also, children were not allowed to attend any sort of religious ritual similar to a werowance ceremony. History claims that Pocahontas defied her father and brought food to the colonists in Jamestown. Jamestown was 12 miles away and the likelihood that a ten year old would travel alone was inconsistent with Powhatan culture. When they traveled to Jamestown, it was with many tribal members, not one lone girl. They went to show that they were peaceful natives and meant them no harm. By 1609, John Smith’s role as a werowance, leader, of the colonists took an ugly turn. The colonists made inadequate attempts at farming and when sup- plies were low, Smith once again, held a gun to nearby village leaders heads demanding food. Smith claimed that Wahunsenaca wanted to kill him and claimed that Pocahontas came to tell him of the plot, but winter weather and the fact that Pocahontas always had people protecting and watching her, Smith’s claim falls short. Smith’s letters, that were obtained during that time period, never once mentioned the plot to kill him or Pocahontas alerting him of the plot. Why Smith went on to fabricate his made-up stories that she indeed saved him two times in his book, General Historie of Virginia 1624, we’ll never know. The early 1600’s was a terrible time for tribes near Werowocomoco where Pocahontas lived. Native girls soon found themselves being targeted by English colonists. Young children were targets of rapes. The Powhatan people were shocked by the behavior and were horrified that the English government offered them no protection. During that time, Matoaka was around 14. During a ceremony, she chose to be called Pocahontas after her mother. She married a young warrior and soon became pregnant. When she was fifteen or sixteen, it was rumored that colonists wanted to kidnap her. An English colonist, by the name of Samuel Argall, went to her husband’s village. Her husband was not there at the time. They told the chief of that village that if they didn’t give her up, they would kill every- one. Reluctantly the chief gave her up with the promise that it would just be temporary. That was a lie. Pocahontas was forced to leave her child behind. Not much later, her young husband was killed by the Colonists. She was now trapped on an English ship and unaware that her husband was killed. According to a historian of the Mattaponi tribe and the custodian of the sacred oral history of Pocahontas, Dr. Linwood Custalow, soon after being kid- napped, Pocahontas suffered from depression and was growing more withdrawn. Her sister and brother in law were allowed to come aboard the ship to see her. It was there Pocahontas told them that she had been raped. As a result of this, she had a son she named Thomas. Whether or not John Rolfe was the father remains to be known. The colonists pressed Pocahontas to become civilized and dressed her in English clothes, which she hated. They converted her to Christianity and re- named her Rebecca. This is where John Rolfe entered the picture. He married her to create an Alliance with the natives so he could grow tobacco, but curing tobacco was a sacred practice not to be shared by outsiders. After a while, they eventually gave in and showed Rolfe how to cure tobacco and because of this, he became a sensation in England. He also saved the Jamestown colony from going under. The tribes soon suffered great losses of land by greedy colonists taking over and planting tobacco. Continued on page 15...

8 The Millstone Times

September 2021

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