Pocahontas's father was Powhatan, the leader of a group of Indian tribes. They lived in an area of Virginia they called Tsenacommacah.
Historians think Pocahontas was born around 1595. Many people think of Pocahontas as a princess because her father was a chief. Still, her childhood was probably average for someone in her tribal group. She learned how to gather food and firewood, how to farm and how to build thatched houses. She also helped with preparing feasts.
Like many Indians who spoke her language, Pocahontas probably had several names. She used the name Pocahontas as a child.
Saving John Smith
Pocahontas was linked to the English colonists through Captain John Smith. He first arrived in Virginia in 1607. Later that year, Smith was captured by a Powahatan hunting party and brought to Powhatan's home.
In his 1608 retelling of what happened next, Smith ate a large feast and met with Powhatan. He did not meet Pocahontas until a few months later.
In 1616, though, Smith changed his story. He described Pocahontas' act of selflessness: "... at the minute of my execution", he wrote, Pocahontas risked "the beating out of her own brains to save mine." Instead, Smith wrote, she convinced her father to let him go. Smith added to this story in a book he wrote years later.
Historians do not think these later versions are correct. It is also possible that Smith was not going to be killed at all. What he experienced may have been a ceremony to make him a part of Pocahontas's tribe.
Pocahontas became friends with Smith. She often brought the colonists food. But there is little proof to suggest she and Smith were in love.
In 1609, John Smith returned to England for medical care. The English told the Indians he had died. According to another colonist, Pocahontas married a warrior called Kocoum before 1612.
Captivity And Later Life
Pocahontas was captured the next year, during a war between the settlers and the Powhatan. Captain Samuel Argall and some Native Americans working with him tricked Pocahontas into boarding his ship. He kidnapped her and demanded the release of English prisoners and supplies. Chief Powhatan refused.
During Pocahontas' year as an English prisoner, a minister named Alexander Whitaker taught her about Christianity and helped her with English. Whitaker baptized Pocahontas. He gave her a Christian name, Rebecca.
In March 1614, there was a conflict between the English and the Powhatans. The English allowed Pocahontas to talk to her Powhatan family. According to English sources, Pocahontas told her family she wanted to stay with the English.
Pocahontas met John Rolfe while she was a prisoner. In a letter, he said he loved Pocahontas. He said he believed Christian marriage would save her soul. It is not known how Pocahontas felt about John Rolfe. Rolfe and Pocahontas got married on April 5, 1614. In 1615, she gave birth to her son, Thomas.
She and her husband traveled to England in 1616. She was treated very well there.
In March of 1617, the Rolfes boarded a ship to return to Virginia. Pocahontas soon fell ill. She was taken ashore and died of her illness, possibly pneumonia or tuberculosis. Her funeral took place on March 21, 1617, in Gravesend, England.
Not very much about Pocahontas is known, though she is written about a lot. She was important to the Europeans. Her story helped them show something to the other Europeans. She showed that Native Americans could change. They could become more like the Europeans.
Some of the stories about Pocahontas are made-up but she is still one of the most famous Native Americans in history.