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The Complete Story of Pocahontas

March 19, 2019
Emmetsburg News

Editor's note: This is part one of a two part editorial due to its length. Look for Part 2 in the March 26 Reporter.

We have all learned the story of Pocahontas and how she saved the life of John Smith in the early 1600s I found this piece of history to completely believable and didn't think about it again until I got older.

Believe it or not, there is so much more to the story of Pocahontas that we are taught in school.

When Jamestown was founded in 1607, Pocahontas was an extremely talented and lively 10 year old girl. She was the daughter of the Great Powhatan. Powhatan ruled over numerous tribes in the Chesapeake area, which the Powhatans called Tsenacomaca. Pocahontas was chosen by her father for a special role because of her intelligence and personality. Later John Smith would say it was her "wit and spirit" that made her stand out.

A short time after the colonists arrived in the area, John Smith was captured by indians who brought him before the Great Powhatan. Surrounded by men with clubs, Smith was ready to have his brains beaten out. Suddenly Pocahontas intervened by laying her head on his. this is where the story gets even more interesting that a simple 10 year old girl saving an Englishman she had never met.

According to a Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles (1624), Smith wrote tha Pocahontas risked her own life to save his. Modern scholars think that she was playing a role that was scripted out for her and that it was some kind of adoption ceremony. After this incident, Powhatan called Smith his son.

I find it most intriguing that Chief Powhantan chose a 10 year old girl to play this role if indeed it was scripted.

It was after this life-saving episode that Pocahontas began traveling to the fort. She never went alone however. She always came with a group and her presence signaled that they came in peace.

Many years later, the English learned that Pocahontas was only a nickname. Her real name Matoaka, had been concealed because the indians were afraid the english could do harm to Pocahontas if they knew her real name.

The colonists were exchanging tools and weapons to Indians for badly needed food, the English colonist presented Powhantan with a newly-arrived boy, 13 year old Thomas Savage. Powhantan renamed the boy Namontack. Such exchanges were common in relationships in this region. The boys could learn the customs and language of the natives and serve as go-betweens in the future.

It was during this time that Virginia was in the worst drought in 770 years and the colonists constant demands for food became too much.

In early in 1609, Smith led a party to visit the indians and everything seemed to go well. In the middle of the night, Pocahontas snuck away from her village to warn Smith and the colonists of a plot to kill them. When Smith tried to reward her with things she delighted in, she refused to take anything and with tears rolling down her face she told them if she were seen with the English presents, "she were but dead."

It can't be known if she was acting on her father's instructions or if she truly risked her life to warn the settlers.

Already, the story of Pocahontas has some twists and turns that are not taught to us in history class.

I have never heard that Pocahontas was not a real name but a nickname or that the only time she went to visit the fort she always came with a group.. What surprised me the most was the 13 year old boy that was given to the indians and that this was a common practice.

I can't imagine how frightened those boys must have been to be taken away from their families only to be sent to a group of people that have different beliefs and customs and not b e able to speak the same language. A lot happened in only two years. Imagine the next eight.



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