Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhatan, leading chief of about thirty allied Algonquian-speaking tribes in Virginia. She was most famously associated with the English Captain John Smith, who arrived in America with other settlers in 1607. Whether she truly saved Smith from a death sentence is unsure, as his account of the events changed significantly over the course of several rewrites, but the two did become close friends, and Pocahontas often brought food for the settlers during points of near-starvation. In 1609, Smith returned to England after he was injured in a gunpowder explosion, but his companions told the Indians that he had passed away, a story that Pocahontas believed as well until the two met again toward the end of her life.

Later that summer, a conflict broke out between the Native Americans and English settlers, known as the First Anglo-Powhatan War. Pocahontas was kidnapped and held for ransom while her captors demanded the release of Powhatan’s prisoners and the return of their weapons and supplies. Powhatan did as was asked, but the settlers were not satisfied with the few tools they received, and a yearlong standoff ensued, during which time Pocahontas remained held at Henrico settlement in Virginia. While there, she improved her English and was baptized with the name Rebecca. When she finally had opportunity to speak to her people, Pocahontas rebuked her father for the standoff and told him she preferred to live with the English. Soon after, she had another reason to remain with the settlers: John Rolfe, whom she wed in 1614 before moving to his plantation near the James River. Their marriage promoted peace between colonists and Indians for several years.

When the Virginia Company of London learned of Pocahontas’ conversion and marriage, they determined to bring her to England as an example of the tamed New World “savage,” a supposed result of the company’s presence in America. Pocahontas and John, accompanied by several other Indians, traveled to London in 1616, where they met with the royal family and were entertained at several social gatherings. Pocahontas was also reunited with John Smith, with whom she spoke only briefly. In 1617, the Rolfe family returned to America, but Pocahontas fell ill while on the ship and died before reaching Virginia.

Key events during the life of Pocahontas:

Arrival of John Smith in Virginia.
Smith returns to England after an injury.
Captured by Englishmen during the First Anglo-Powhatan War.
Married John Rolfe.
Traveled to England.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Pocahontas  in  Fifty Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Ma-ta-oka of Pow-ha-tan  in  Historic Girls  by  E. S. Brooks
Virginia Colonized  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
The Story of Pocahontas  in  A First Book in American History  by  Edward Eggleston
Pocahontas Visits England  in  Story of the Thirteen Colonies  by  H. A. Guerber
Little Red Princess of the Forest  in  The Men Who Found America  by  Frederick Winthrop Hutchinson
Adventures of Captain John Smith  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
How Pocahontas Took a Journey over the Seas  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
Adventures of Captain John Smith  in  Historical Tales: American II  by  Charles Morris
Colonies  in  American History Stories, Volume I  by  Mara L. Pratt
Captain John Smith  in  The Awakening of Europe  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

Pocahontas shields him from their clubs
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Marriage of Pocahontas
 in Indian History for Young Folks

 in Indian History for Young Folks
Pocahontas carries venison to Jamestown
Pocahontas carries venison to Jamestown
 in A First Book in American History
Pocahontas taken prisoner
Pocahontas taken prisoner
 in A First Book in American History
The Wedding of Pocahontas
The Wedding of Pocahontas
 in A First Book in American History

Smith and Pocahontas
 in Story of the Thirteen Colonies

Marriage of Pocahontas
 in Story of the Thirteen Colonies

 in Historical Tales: American II

Portrait of Pocahontas Made in England in 1616
 in Builders of Our Country: Book I

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