Why is Pocahontas famous?
Who was Pocahontas?
Pocahontas was one of the first Native Americans to visit Britain. She married an Englishman. She helped her people make friends with colonists who had come to America from Britain.
When did she live?
Pocahontas was born in 1595. Elizabeth I was queen of England at that time. Pocahontas met James I, who became king in 1603 after Elizabeth died. Pocahontas lived at the same time as the famous writer William Shakespeare.
Why is she famous?
Pocahontas tried to keep the peace. She was brave, because she left her home to cross the ocean to Britain. A famous story tells how Pocahontas saved an Englishman named John Smith from being killed by her father. It's a good story, even if it may not be true.
Life in an Indian village
Where did she live?
Pocahontas lived in the eastern part of what is now the United States. In 1607, English explorers made a colony here. They called it Virginia.
Indians and Native Americans
Native Americans are sometimes called American Indians. When Christopher Columbus first sailed to America in 1492, he called the people he met 'Indians' because he thought his ships had landed in 'the Indies' in Asia.
Who was her father?
Pocahontas was like a princess. Her father was leader of a tribe, the Powhatan. He was an important chief, who led other tribes in Virginia. His real name was Wahunsonacock, but he was known to the colonists as Powhatan.
Pocahontas had 3 names
- Matoaka, or in English 'little snow feather'
- Amonte, her parents' name for her
- Pocahontas, or 'lively or naughty one'
What was her home like?
Pocahontas lived in a wooden 'long house'. Long houses were made of wood and bark. Inside was a fire in the middle of the floor. A long house was big enough for several families to share. An Indian village had several houses, with a fence around them all.
Children in the village
Pocahontas and her friends played in the village and in the forest. Boys learned to hunt with spears or bows and arrows. Girls learned to cook, make baskets, and make clothes from animal skins.
Children played games, such as football and lacrosse. Children didn't wear adult clothes until they were about 7.
Meeting the colonists
The Native Americans at first welcomed the strangers. Pocahontas learned to speak some English words.
Her people traded with the colonists. She carried messages from her father to them. The Native Americans showed the colonists how to hunt and grow food. They showed them maize. They ate bread made from maize flour.
Pocahontas and Captain Smith
The most famous story about Pocahontas was told by John Smith, leader of the colonists. When Pocahontas was about 12, she saved his life.
After a quarrel, Powhatan took John Smith prisoner, and was going to kill him. He raised his war club. Then Pocahontas ran forward. She begged her father not to kill the Englishman. Powhatan set him free.
John Smith told this story in a book, after Pocahontas was dead. No one knows if it is true.
Who was John Smith?
John Smith was born in England in about 1580. He left his father's farm to be a soldier. He had many adventures. Once he was captured by Turks and made a slave, but escaped to Russia!
Later, John Smith went to America. He became captain (leader) of the settlers in Jamestown. They faced many dangers: disease, starvation and fights with Native Americans. Smith was not kind to the Native Americans, so they didn't like him. He later went back to England, where he died in 1631.
Pocahontas gets married
Pocahontas may have married when she was 14. Many Native American girls did marry at about this age. For three years the Jamestown colonists did not see her.
An English writer about the Virginia colony said she married an Indian chief. Perhaps he died.
War with the colonists
In 1613 Pocahontas was back in Jamestown. She was now 17 or 18. The colonists and Native Americans had started fighting.
Pocahontas ends the war
While she was a prisoner, Pocahontas became a Christian. She was given a new name, Rebecca. She met an English colonist, John Rolfe. He had started to grow tobacco, to sell and make money for the colony.
In 1614, Pocahontas and John Rolfe married. They had a son, Thomas. Their marriage helped stop the fighting between the Native Americans and the English.
Pocahontas in England
Sailing to England
In 1616, Pocahontas went to England. John Rolfe was sent to raise money for the colony. Pocahontas and her son Thomas went too.
Some other Native Americans went with her. They made the long journey in a small, wooden sailing ship, the 'Treasurer'.
A land full of surprises
Powhatan sent one of his advisors with Pocahontas. He was called Tomacomo. He had a stick on which he cut notches whenever he met a white man. Before he reached London, Tomacomo threw the stick away. There were too many white men to count!
Pocahontas meets the King
Pocahontas was a great success in England. Everyone wanted to see her. She and her family spent seven months travelling around.
A painter made a portrait of Pocahontas. In the picture, she is dressed as a fine English lady. She even met King James I.
Soon it was time to leave. But Pocahontas never saw her home village again. As the ship prepared to sail to America, she became very sick. She had caught smallpox.
The ship turned back, but Pocahontas died. A note in the church books in Gravesend in England shows Pocahontas was 22 years old when she died.
What happened to her son?
John Rolfe died in 1622. Pocahontas's son Thomas went to school in England, but returned to America. He became an important person in Virginia.