Powhatan-Renapé "princess" who helped the Virginia colonists
" . . . I will bee for ever and ever your Countrieman. . . . "
The story of Pocahontas, a Powhatan-Renapé "princess," is one of the earliest and most deeply rooted legends of American history. According to the legend, Pocahontas saved John Smith (see entry), one of the founders of the Virginia Colony, from being executed by her father, Powhatan (see entry). If the story is true, Pocahontas may have decisively influenced the course of English settlement in the New World (a European term for North America and South America). Her friendly and generous relationship with Smith and the English settlers helped preserve the colony through the long winters when the colonists were threatened with starvation. With the benefit of hindsight, many Native Americans have criticized her for preventing Powhatan from killing off the colonists. Had she not done so, they say, the English might never have colonized North America and many Native American cultures might have been preserved from extinction (no longer existing). On the other hand, Americans of European descent regard Pocahontas as a savior of their own race and a fore-mother of the United States.
Pocahontas saves Smith?
Most of the existing information about Pocahontas's early life comes from the writings of Smith, an English adventurer with the Virginia Company. The company had been licensed by King James I of England to explore the coast of North America and exploit its natural resources. In May 1607 Smith and his party established the settlement of Jamestown, named after the king, on the shores of the James River in present-day Virginia, near Chesapeake Bay. Initially the progress of the settlement was thwarted by jealousy and disagreement among the leaders. Smith himself was imprisoned for some time for insubordination (disobedience to authority). In December 1607, Smith embarked on an expedition up the Chickahominy River, exploring the region for new Native American trading partners, places to prospect for gold, and possible access to the Pacific Ocean. He apparently went too close to a treasure house belonging to Powhatan, the chief of the local Powhatan group, which was part of the Algonquin tribe. Powhatan's agents captured Smith and took him before the chief.
In a letter to Queen Anne (wife of James I), dated 1616, Smith claimed that Powhatan sentenced him to death. Then, Smith declared, "at the minute of my execution, [Pocahontas] . . . hazarded the beating out of her own braines to save mine." Writing about himself in the third person, Smith gave a fuller account of the event in his Generall Historie of Virginia (1624). He wrote that Powhatan fed him well, but then "two great stones were brought before Powhatan: then as many [of the Indians] as could layd hands on him [Smith], dragged him to them, and thereon laid his head, and being ready with their clubs, to beate out his braines, Pocahontas the Kings dearest daughter, when no intreaty could prevaile, got his head in her armes, and laid her owne [u]pon his to sa[v]e him from death."
Is the story true?
Some modern historians have questioned Smith's version of the events that took place in Powhatan's camp. They believe that Smith, a self-promoter, created the story of Pocahontas to enhance his own prestige. In fact, in Smith's earliest description of his meeting with Powhatan, he mentions neither Pocahontas nor an execution. According to an account Smith wrote only a year after the incident, he was brought before Powhatan and the king questioned him about the presence of English settlers in Native American territory. After Smith gave his reply, Powhatan simply sent him back to Jamestown. On the other hand, nothing in Smith's story of Pocahontas can be disproved. For instance, when young Native American men were initiated into full membership in a tribe, they often went through a ceremony that involved a mock execution like the one Smith described. At some point during the execution a sponsor had to speak up for the young man. If this was Smith's initiation ceremony, then Pocahontas served as Smith's sponsor in the tribe. This interpretation makes her later assistance to the English colonists more understandable.
"the willful one"
According to historical documents, Pocahontas seems to have earned her name, "the willful one." Smith believed Powhatan indulged her and refused her nothing. William Strachey, the official secretary and historian for the Jamestown Colony, called Pocahontas "a well featured but wanton young girle." He added that she frequently engaged in provocative (tending to excite or provoke) behavior: When she was about the age of "11 or 12 yeares, [she would come to the fort and] gett the boyes [to go] forth with her into the markett place and make them wheele [turn handsprings], falling on their hands turning their heeles upwardes, whome she would follow, and wheele so her self naked as she was all the fort over." The spectacle of an unclothed, preteenage girl turning handsprings in such a public place did not fit English ideas of ladylike behavior.
Saves colonists' lives
It is a documented fact that Pocahontas saved the English colonists from starvation. During the early months of 1608, after their own stores and homes burned down, she supplied them with food. Smith recalled, "Now ever once in foure or five dayes, Pocahontas with her attendants brought him [Smith] so much provision, that saved many of their lives, that els for all this had starved." He continued: "James towne with her wild traine she as freely frequented, as her father's habitation, and during the time of two or three yeeres, she next under God, was still the instrument to preserve this Colonie from death, famine and utter confusion; which if in those times, [fit] had once been dissolved, Virginia might have [lain] . . . as it was at our first arrivall to this day."
Acts as negotiator
Pocahontas also served as a go-between for negotiations between her father and the English settlers. In April 1608, one of Smith's fellow captains of the Virginia Company had made the mistake of giving Powhatan tribesmen English steel swords in exchange for turkeys. When Smith refused to barter (trade) any more of his limited supply of weapons, the Powhatans began ambushing settlers and taking their swords, guns, axes, spades, and shovels. Smith then seized seven Powhatan hostages, who confessed that they were acting under their leaders's orders. In mid-May 1608 Powhatan sent Pocahontas to Smith as a negotiator, and Smith finally released his captives to her.
Despite Pocahontas's efforts, relations between her father and the colonists deteriorated. Powhatan was alarmed by the arrival of more colonists and believed that the English intended to take his land away from him. An attempted coronation (crowning) of Powhatan according to English rituals (a plan concocted by Virginia Company officials in London in the hope to gain Powhatan as an ally by making him think he was equal to their own king) did nothing to ease his suspicions. In the autumn of 1608, Powhatan finally forbade all trade with the English. Faced with another hard winter on inadequate rations, Smith decided to confront Powhatan at his capitol, Werowocomoco, and force him to trade under threat of war. In January 1609, Smith and Powhatan met on the banks of the Pamunkey River. According to Smith, Powhatan's major concern was when the English would be leaving: "Some doubt I have," Smith quotes him as saying, "of your comming hither, that makes me not so kindly seeke to relieve you as I would: for many doe informe, your comming hither is not for trade, but to invade my people, and possesse my Country."
Pocahontas again to the rescue
Recognizing that Smith did not intend to leave without the grain he needed, Powhatan decided to remove himself and his family—including Pocahontas—to the town of Orapaks, about fifty miles from Jamestown. Smith and his men were subsequently stranded at Werowocomoco when the barge they had brought to transport the grain was grounded by low tide. They were forced to spend the night in the partly deserted town. In the meantime Powhatan had made plans to attack and kill the English party. Smith and his men were saved once again by Pocahontas, who warned them of her father's intentions and told then to flee. Smith described the event in his Generall Historie: "For Pocahontas [Powhatan's] dearest jewell and daughter, in that darke night came through the irksome woods, and told our Captaine [Smith] . . . if we would live, shee wished us presently to be gone."
Smith tried to reward Pocahontas with some trinkets, but she refused the gifts. She feared that Powhatan would punish her if he found out what she had done. Smith wrote: "Such things as shee delighted in, he would have given her: but with the teares running downe her cheekes, shee said shee durst not be seene to have any: for if Powhatan should know it, she were but dead, and so she ranne away by her seffe as she came." Smith did not see Pocahontas again for about eight years. During that time Powhatan and his people ceased trade with the English.
At this point Pocahontas largely drops out of the history of the Jamestown colony. Evidence suggests that she helped hide occasional fugitives who fell into Powhatan's hands, sending them back to the settlement. Smith himself suffered a serious wound—some gunpowder contained in a pouch at his side exploded, stripping the flesh off one leg—and he went back to England in September 1609. He arrived there to find that several men he had exiled from Jamestown for various offenses had returned to England and had levied countercharges against him. He was required to give answers in London. Meanwhile Pocahontas assumed Smith was dead, and since her father had severed ties with the English, she never returned to Jamestown.
Lives with Patawamakes
According to English records, in 1610 Pocahontas married one of her father's supporters, a man named Kocoum. He may have been a member of another tribe, possibly the Patawamakes, who lived farther north on the shores of the Potomac River. Whether for this or some other reason, by 1613 Pocahontas had left her father's territory and was living with friends among the Patawamakes.
Meanwhile in Jamestown, Smith's position was largely taken over by a sea captain named Samuel Argall. The colonists were still suffering from the trading sanctions (prohibiting of trade with his tribe) imposed by Powhatan. The chief had also been waging a guerilla war (a type of unplanned, or unconventional, warfare that involves surprise attacks) against the English for years and taking captives. In late December 1612, while looking for new trading partners, Argall made contact with the chief of the Patawamakes, a man named Iapazaws. When Argall learned that Pocahontas was living with the Patawamakes, he theorized that Powhatan might agree to resume trade if he knew his daughter was being held captive by his enemies. Argall therefore coaxed Pocahontas on board his ship and sailed off with her to Jamestown.
Refuses to rejoin Powhatan
Even though the Englishmen were holding Pocahontas, their negotiations with the Powhatans did not go smoothly. Powhatan was willing to release his English hostages, but he would not give up the guns, swords, and tools he had seized. He claimed they had been stolen from him. Powhatan conducted most of his negotiations through his brother and successor, Opechancanough, who distrusted the English and was ready to fight them. Following an attack by Opechancanough, Argall and acting Jamestown governor Thomas Dale brought Pocahontas on shore to conduct negotiations with the Powhatans. She refused to meet with her father's representatives, choosing instead to remain with the English. According to a letter by Dale quoted in Purchas his Pilgrimes, Pocahontas "would not talke to any of [the Powhatans] . . . , [claiming] that if her father had loved her, he would not value her lesse then old Swords, Peeces [guns], or Axes: wherefore shee should still dwell with the English men, who loved her."
Marries John Rolfe
At least one Englishman did love Pocahontas. His name was John Rolfe (see entry), and he had come to Jamestown to grow tobacco. (Tobacco was the colony's first successful cash crop, and the basis for the Virginian economy for nearly the next three hundred years.) A devout Christian, Rolfe had courted the captive princess while she was in the care of the Reverend Alexander Whitaker at Henrico, a new community near Jamestown. Whitaker presided at Pocahontas's baptism when she took the name "Rebecca" as a sign of her conversion to Christianity. Rolfe carefully considered his position. He then wrote a lengthy letter to Dale, stating his desire to marry Pocahontas "for the good of the Plantacon, the honor of or Countrye, for the glorye of God, for myne owne salvacon." Both Dale and Powhatan ultimately approved the union. Pocahontas and Rolfe were married at Jamestown in April 1614, a union that spurred the Peace of Pocahontas—a friendship between the English and Powhatan tribes that lasted for many years.
Honored by English royalty
The young couple prospered for three years. In the winter or early spring of 1615, Pocahontas bore Rolfe a son named Thomas. The London owners of the Virginia Company, recognizing that the colony owed its survival to the princess, voted to award her an annual pension for the rest of her life. In addition, they decided to bring her and her family to England to be presented to the king and queen, and to serve as a living advertisement for the company's success. In 1616 the Rolfes sailed for London, accompanied by Dale, who had retired, and Powhatan's representative Uttamatamakin (also Tomocomo). Pocahontas was soon the talk of the town. She met Queen Anne and was later received by King James I. Rolfe did not share in the honor, however, partly because the king was upset with Rolfe for marrying a foreign princess without his permission. Also James did not approve of Rolfe's association with tobacco, a plant the king despised.
Pocahontas's health fails
Pocahontas apparently enjoyed court life. However, in the late winter or early spring of 1616–17, her health began to fail. Rolfe moved her from London to the village of Brentford outside the city. At Brentford, Smith came into her life again. He visited and, "after a modest salutation," Smith wrote, "without any word she turned about, obscured her face, as not seeming well contented." Several hours later Pocahontas regained her composure and confronted Smith: "Were you not afraid to come into my fathers Countrie, and caused feare in him and all his people (but mee), and feare you here I should call you father. I tell you then I will, and you shall call me childe, and so I will bee for ever and ever your Countrieman. . . . They did tell us alwaies you were dead, and I knew no other till I came to Plimouth." Historians speculate that by this statement Pocahontas meant that she would not have married Rolfe had she known Smith was still alive.
The Rolfes embarked for Virginia in mid-March 1617. By that time, however, Pocahontas was critically ill, probably with tuberculosis (a bacterial infection of the lungs) or pneumonia. She was able to travel only as far as Gravesend, toward the mouth of the Thames River. She died there and was buried on March 21, 1617. She was twenty-two years old. The site of her grave has since been lost. John Rolfe returned to Virginia, where he married for a third time. In 1622 Pocahontas's uncle Opechancanough launched a full-fledged massacre of the English, killing about a quarter of the Jamestown population. Rolfe died in the fighting.
For further research
Barbour, Philip L. Pocahontas and Her World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969.
Bataille, Gretchen M., ed. Native American Women. New York: Garland Publishing, 1993.
Holler, Anne. Pocahontas: Powhatan Peacemaker. Broomal, Pa.: Chelsea House Publishers, 1996.
Hudson, Margaret. Pocahontas. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann, 1998.
James, Edward T., and others, eds. Notable American Women, Volume III. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971, pp. 78–81.
Pocahontas: Jamestown Rediscovery.http://www.apva.org/history/pocahont.html Available July 13, 1999.
Pocahontas: Savior or Savage?http://theweboftime.com/Poca/POCAHO_l.html Available July 13, 1999.
Shaughnessy, Diane. Pocahontas: Powhatan Princess. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group Inc., 1997.
Born: c. 1595
Gravesend, Kent, England
Native American princess
Pocahontas was the daughter of a Native American chief in Virginia at the time when the British came to settle in the area. Her marriage to an English settler brought eight years of peace between the Indians and the British.
The "playful one"
Pocahontas's real name was Matoaka. As a child, she was also called Pocahontas, meaning "playful one," and the name stuck. Her father was Powhatan (c. 1550–1618), the chief of a group of tribes that bore his name and spoke the Native American Algonquian language.
In 1607 English colonists founded Jamestown. They had been sent by the Virginia Company, a company in London that had the English king's permission to set up a colony in the area for trade with England. As a young girl, Pocahontas often played at the Jamestown fort. She became friends with some of the boys there and charmed the settlers by turning cartwheels with the boys in the Jamestown marketplace.
Relations between the Native Americans and the settlers were not always smooth, but Pocahantas's friendship with the settlers may have helped keep peace. Captain John Smith (c. 1580–1631), who was the leader of the Jamestown colony until 1609, reported that Pocahantas saved his life when he was captured by Powhatan's warriors in 1608. According to Smith, whose story is not believed by all historians, Pocahantas's actions kept Smith from being killed by Powhatan's men. Saving John Smith also saved the Jamestown colony.
Life with the English
Despite the incident with Smith, tensions between the Native Americans and the colonists in Virginia remained. In 1613, while Pocahontas was visiting the village of the Potomac Indians, she was taken prisoner by Samuel Argall, captain of a ship named Treasurer. Argall wanted to use Pocahantas as a hostage to exchange for Englishmen who were held by Powhatan's group, and for tools and supplies that the Native Americans had stolen. She was taken to Jamestown, where she was treated with respect by the governor, Sir Thomas Dale (–1619). Dale was touched by her intelligence and by her proper behavior. After being instructed in the Christian religion, she was baptized (admitted to Christianity and given a Christian name) with the name Rebecca.
John Rolfe (1585–1622), a gentleman at Jamestown, fell in love with Pocahantas and asked Dale for permission to marry her. Dale readily agreed in order to win the friendship of the Indians, even though Pocahontas may have already been married to a chief named Kocoum. Chief Powhatan also consented, and the marriage took place in June 1614 in the church at Jamestown in an Anglican service, following the Anglican branch of Christianity that had been developed in England. Both Native Americans and Englishmen apparently considered the union a bond between them. Pocahantas's marriage to Rolfe brought eight years of peaceful relations in Virginia.
A princess visits England
In 1616 the Virginia Company invited Pocahontas to visit England, thinking that her visit would aid the company in securing investments from the British. Rolfe, Pocahontas, her brother-in-law Tomocomo, and several Indian girls sailed to England. There Pocahontas was a great success. She was treated as a princess, entertained by the Anglican bishop of London, and introduced to England's King James I and Queen Anne.
Early in 1617 Pocahontas and her party prepared to return to Virginia. However, she became ill while in the village at Gravesend. Pocahantas had developed a case of smallpox, an infectious and dangerous disease caused by a virus and leading to high fever. Pocahantas died from the disease and was buried in Gravesend Church. Her only child, Thomas Rolfe, was educated in England, and later returned to Virginia.
Pocahantas was one of the first women to play an important role in what became the United States. Her friendship with the English settlers helped ensure the success of Jamestown, which became the first permanent English settlement in America.
For More Information
Fritz, Jean. The Double Life of Pocahontas. New York: Putnam, 1983.
Holler, Anne. Pocahontas: Powhatan Peacemaker. New York: Chelsea House, 1993.
Mossiker, Frances. Pocahontas: The Life and the Legend. New York: Knopf, 1976. Reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1996.
Woodward, Grace Steele. Pocahontas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969.
Pocahontas (ca. 1595-1617) was the daughter of a Native American chief in Virginia at the time of its colonization by the British. Her marriage to an English settler brought 8 years of peace between the Indians and the British.
The real name of Pocahontas was Matoaka. As a child, she was called Pocahontas, meaning "playful one, " and the name stuck. Her father was Powhatan, chief of a confederation of Algonquian tribes that bore his name.
In 1607 English colonists sent by the Virginia Company founded Jamestown. Pocahontas often played at the fort. In 1608, according to a story of debated authenticity, she saved the life of Capt. John Smith, who had been captured by Powhatan's warriors and was to be clubbed to death. The salvation of John Smith was the salvation of Jamestown colony.
Relations between the Native Americans and the colonists were not smooth in Virginia, however. In 1613, while Pocahontas was visiting the village of the Potomac Indians, Capt. Samuel Argall of the vessel Treasurer took her prisoner as security for Englishmen in Indian hands and for tools and supplies which the Indians had stolen. She was taken to Jamestown as a hostage. There she was treated with courtesy by the governor, Sir Thomas Dale, who was touched by her gentility and intelligence. After instruction in the Christian religion, she was baptized and took the name Rebecca.
John Rolfe, a gentleman at Jamestown, fell in love with her and asked Dale for permission to marry her. Dale readily agreed in order to win the friendship of the Indians, although Pocahontas may have been married earlier to a chief named Kocoum. Powhatan also consented, and the marriage took place in Jamestown in June 1614 in the Anglican church. Both Native Americans and Englishmen apparently considered this a bond between them, and it brought 8 years of peaceful relations in Virginia.
In 1616 the Virginia Company wished Pocahontas to visit England, thinking that it would aid the company in securing investments from British financiers. Rolfe, Pocahontas, her brother-in-law Tomocomo, and several Indian girls sailed to England. Pocahontas was received as a princess, entertained by the bishop of London, and presented to King James I and Queen Anne. Early in 1617 Pocahontas and her party prepared to return to Virginia, but at Gravesend she developed a case of smallpox and died. She was buried in the chancel of Gravesend Church. Her only child, Thomas Rolfe, was educated in England, and he returned to Virginia to leave many descendants bearing the name Rolfe.
The best biography of Pocahontas is by Grace Steele Woodward, Pocahontas (1969). Other interesting works are John G. Fletcher, John Smith—Also Pocahontas (1928) and W. M. Murray, Pocahontas and Pushmataha (1931). Philip L. Barbour's Pocahontas and Her World (1970) is essentially a history of the early years of Virginia and written from the Indian point of view. □
European Connections. The daughter of Wahunsunacock, chief of the Powhatan people, Pocahontas (“the Playful One”) is remembered as the first native woman to marry an Englishman in the North American colonies. Her connection to the Europeans arose in the context of Native American foreign relations. In the autumn of 1607, when the newly arrived colonists at Jamestown were starving, the Powhatan chief sent corn to help them. The Powhatans viewed the English as potentially powerful allies although Capt. John Smith and the other colonists felt so powerless that they considered all native peoples as threatening.
Smith. In December 1607 Smith was captured during an exploratory expedition. The Powhatans staged a mock execution ceremony (designed to dramatize native power and friendship) by pretending to cut off Smith’s head. At the crucial moment, Pocahontas, then age twelve, intervened, throwing herself on Smith’s body. Smith and the other Virginians interpreted this as a spontaneous demonstration of love (probably divinely inspired) while recent historians see it as part of a cultural drama of power and an offer of alliance.
Rolfe. In 1613 Capt. Samuel Argall, a member of the Virginia council, led a raid against the Powhatans and captured Pocahonatas. John Rolfe, a prosperous tobacco planter, fell in love with the young Indian woman and asked permission from Gov. Sir Thomas Dale to marry her. Their union occurred during a time of few white women in Virginia. It also served as an attempt to improve relations between the whites and native peoples.
England. In 1616 Rolfe and Pocahontas traveled to England on a voyage to encourage future colonization of Virginia. The following spring, as they were preparing to return to North America, Pocahontas became ill, probably from pneumonia, and died at the approximate age of twenty-two. A statue in the cemetery of Saint George’s Church at Gravesend in Kent is believed to mark her grave. Her death, and that of her father, led to a deterioration of relations that resulted in war and the destruction of the Powhatan people.
Frances Mossiker, Pocahontas: The Life and the Legend (New York: Knopf, 1976);
Grace Steele Woodward, Pocahontas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969).
Pocahontas was a Native American friend of the settlers at Jamestown, Virginia . She was the first Native American woman to marry an Englishman, John Rolfe (1585–1622). She is well remembered for helping the settlers in many ways.
An Indian princess
It is believed that Pocahontas was born around 1595 in the area of present-day Virginia . She was the daughter of Chief Powhatan, or Wahunsenacah, the chief of the Powhatan people. Though she was called Pocahontas, for “playful one,” her real name was Matoaka.
A colony's friend
In 1607, a group of English arrived in the area of Pocahontas's home to establish a settlement at Jamestown. Pocahontas was known to visit the colonists regularly and formed a friendship with Captain John Smith (c. 1580–1631). It is thought that she often brought food to the hungry colonists and warned them of Indian attacks, though there is some question as to whether the story is true.
It is also said that Pocahontas saved the life of Captain Smith in 1608. Captured by the Powhatans during an exploratory expedition, Captain Smith was to be executed. Pocahontas stopped the event by throwing herself on Captain Smith and convincing her father to spare Smith's life. Her actions may have saved the colony of Jamestown. Afterwards, she continued to visit the colony, and relations with the Indians remained good. When Smith returned to England in 1609, her visits stopped, and the relationship between the two communities deteriorated.
In 1613, English captain Samuel Argall (c. 1572–c. 1626) took Pocahontas captive while she was visiting another tribe. He took her prisoner in hopes of securing the release from the Powhatans of several Englishmen and stolen supplies and weapons. She was taken to Jamestown while bargaining ensued. While several men were released, the Powhatan chief refused to return the supplies and weapons.
Pocahontas was transferred to another settlement, Henricus. Wherever Pocahontas went, she was treated with courtesy and kindness. At Henricus, she was converted to Christianity and took the name Rebecca. When a distinguished settler from Jamestown, John Rolfe, proposed, she accepted. Though the proposal was unusual, both Chief Powhatan and the Virginia governor, Sir Thomas Dale, granted permission. In 1614, they were married. Both communities viewed the unusual marriage as a bond between them, and eight years of peace followed.
With her marriage to the Englishman, Pocahontas embraced the European lifestyle. They had a son, Thomas Rolfe (1615–1675), in 1615. The Virginia Company invited the family to visit England, hoping that it would encourage more colonists and investors. A year later, the family traveled to England. Pocahontas was received as a princess and entertained by the elite of society. As they prepared to leave for America again, she fell ill. She died in early 1617 in Gravesend, England.
Pocahontas ★★★ 1995 (G)
It's 1607 and spirited Powhatan maiden Pocahontas and British settler Captain John Smith strike an unlikely but doomed romance in Disney's 33rd animated feature, its first based on the life of a historical figure. Lovely Poca, a virtual post-adolescent Native American superbabe, introduces the roguish captain (spoken and sung by Gibson) to the wonders of unspoiled nature and serves as peacemaker in the clash of European and Native American cultures. Disney puts its spin on history but maintains cultural sensitivity: several characters are voiced by Native American performers, including Chief Powhatan, spoken by American Indian activist Means, who led the 1973 siege at Wounded Knee, and Bedard as Pocahantas. Just don't tell the kids the real Pocahontas married someone else, moved to England, and died of smallpox at 21. Stunningly animated, but its mediocre soundtrack and decidedly somber tone leave it lacking in typical Disney majesty and charm. Premiered at New York's Central Park, for the usual theatre crowd of 100,000 or so. 90m/ C VHS, DVD. D: Mike Gabriel, Eric Goldberg; W: Carl Binder, Susannah Grant, Philip LaZebnik; M: Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz; V: Irene Bedard, Judy Kuhn, Mel Gibson, Joe Baker, Christian Bale, Billy Connolly, James Apaumut Fall, Linda Hunt, John Kassir, Danny Mann, Bill Cobbs, David Ogden Stiers, Michelle St. John, Gordon Tootoosis, Frank Welker. Oscars '95: Song (“Colors of the Wind”), Orig. Score; Golden Globes '96: Song (“Colors of the Wind”).
Pocahontas (pōkəhŏn´təs), c.1595–1617, Native North American woman, daughter of Chief Powhatan. Pocahontas, meaning
(her real name was said to be Matoaka), used to visit the English in Virginia at Jamestown. According to the famous story, she saved the life of the captured Capt. John Smith just as he was about to have his head smashed at the direction of Powhatan. In 1613, Pocahontas was captured by Capt. Samuel Argall, taken to Jamestown, and held as a hostage for English prisoners then in the hands of her father. At Jamestown she was converted to Christianity and baptized as Rebecca. John Rolfe, a settler, gained the permission of Powhatan and the governor, Sir Thomas Dale, and married her in Apr., 1614. The union brought peace with the Native Americans for eight years. With her husband and several other Native Americans, Pocahontas went to England in 1616. There she was received as a princess and presented to the king and queen. She started back to America in 1617 but was taken ill and died at Gravesend, where she was buried. Pocahontas bore one son, Thomas Rolfe, who was educated in England, went (1640) to Virginia, and gained considerable wealth.
See P. L. Barbour, Pocahontas and Her World (1969); G. S. Woodward, Pocahontas (1969).