Real Pocahontas Story

Pocahontas was a popular animated movie that was released in 1995. The movie depicted the story of a Native American Princess who fell in love with an Englishman named John Smith. The backdrop of the movie was set during the height of struggle between the Native Americans and the British settlers. It showed a romantic love story between the two souls who could not be separated despite the strife all around them. Disney is known to create fictional tales out of real life events. And there were plenty of fictitious elements in the tale of Pocahontas. The real life tale of this Native American Princess is however a far cry from the Disney movie.

Pocahontas Disney

Pocahontas the Disney Movie


As the sources suggest Pocahontas was born in the year 1595 in the family of a Powhatan chief. Her original name at birth was Matoaka, she was also lovingly called Amonute. “Pocahontas” was her nickname which meant “spoiled child”. Pocahontas’ tribe was a part of a group of about thirty Algonquian speaking tribes situated in Tidewater, Virginia. When Pocahontas was a small child, the English arrived and there were frequent clashes between the natives and colonizers. John Smith arrived in 1607 as the Admiral of New England. He was capable soldier and a well-known explorer. One day, John was exploring the area around Chickahominy Rover and captured by a Powhatan hunting party. He was taken to the Powhatan base at Werowocomoco.

Pocahontas native American

Pocahontas the daughetr native American chief


What happened next varies from one source to the next. In the original letter, it is mentioned that John Smith later wrote a letter to Queen Anne of England claiming that he attended a large feast after which he sat and spoke to the Powhatan chief. He also mentioned how Pocahontas, the Princess threw herself across John’s body to save him from execution. Experts believe that the contents of this letter were made up and John simply wanted to gain the attention of Queen Anne.

Pocahontas in Jamestown

Pocahontas was held in one such Jamestown hut


In the Disney tale it is depicted that the young princess saved John Smith. But in reality, when John was captured, Pocahontas was a little child of 12 years. And there is no likely chance that a romantic relationship developed between them. Though it is known from many accounts that Pocahontas often visited the Jamestown settlement helping the settlers when there was a short supply of food. On April 13, 1613, an Englishman named Samuel Agrall captured Pocahontas and demanded a ransom from her father. She was held hostage in Jamestown for over a year.

Portrait of John Smith

Portrait of John Smith, The English Admiral


During her time in captivity, a tobacco planter by the name of John Rolfe was attracted to this beautiful prisoner and assured her release by deciding to marry her. In 1614, Pocahontas was baptized as “Rebecca” and married to John Rolfe. This was the first recorded marriage between a native and European. Two years later, John Rolfe travelled to England and took Pocahontas with him. He wanted to project her as a symbol of hope and peace for relations between British and Native Americans. It is also known that while in England, Pocahontas ran into John Smith but turned her head and fled. This is a drastic difference from the undying love project between the two in Disney movie. In 1617 Rolfe boarded a ship to return back to Virginia. On the way back Pocahontas fell sick. Some feel that she was suffering from Pneumonia, smallpox or tuberculosis while others hold the opinion that she was poisoned. She was taken off the ship at Gravesend and died there on March 21, 1617. Real life Pocahontas did not have a fairy tale ending.


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2 thoughts on “Real Pocahontas Story

  1. Wonderful story! I also studied real-life Pocahontas in History and Cultures of the US. It is a very interesting story and I often feel somewhat sad for the way that Disney and, in general, America tried to idealise the story like this to build a “better” past. Again, great blog!

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