Nov 8, 2017 in Literature

The Pocahontas Story

Nina Baym is the author of the book The Norton Anthology of American Literature among many others. She is an advanced study professor of English and a jubilee professor of Liberal Arts at the University of California. Nina Baym explains the roles played by Pocahontas, a young Indian girl, in the colonial era and how she influenced the life of the England settlers and the natives. There are many notable stories in the ancient American history, and most of them revolve around the interactions of the Native Americans and the settlers. A story of a young beautiful woman by the name Pocahontas is one of the most prevalent ancient stories. Her interactions with the English settlers staged the relationship between the English settlers and the Native Americans living along the coast of Virginia. Pocahontas largely involved herself in romantic relations with the settlers, but factual evidence shows that she had a significant influence on how the English settlers perceived Native Americans and early relationships.

Pocahontas was the favorite daughter of chief Powhatan, who ruled Tsenacommacah. After the birth of Pocahontas, her mother returned to her tribe leaving her behind. Hence, Pocahontas had a Native American childhood. Children in her tribe were given names which could change with time. Her first name was Mataoka, which later changed by Amonute. These names translated her behavior or nature. Settler Captain John Smith was captured. In his letters, he reveals how a ten-year-old Indian girl saved him from the hands of Openchacanough, a warrior related to Pocahontas. John Smith was to be killed according to a decree given by Pocahontas’ father, but she risked her life to save him. Pocahontas’ intervention convinced the chief to release John Smith to his hometown, Jamestown.

 Pocahontas continued to have relationship with the settlers at Jamestown. There are true accounts of her befriending the colonists and playing with the settlers’ children. Through the friendship between Pocahontas and the English settlers, many of them survived starvation. She brought food to the settlers regularly saving them from starving. However, as the settlers expanded their town, conflicts ensued with the local tribes over the threat of losing their much-coveted land.

The settlers later arrested Pocahontas in 1963. The conflict between the Jamestown settlers and the locals continued for several years; in the process, the settlers acquired a part of the James River. Captain Samuel Argall made a peace agreement between the settlers and patawomecks. Pocahontas was arrested and accused of ransom. The settlers demanded the release of English captives and return of weapons and goods stolen from the settlers for them to release Pocahontas. Settlers refused to release Pocahontas; instead, they held her captive at Henrichus. While there, she met a local minister, Whitaker, who taught her English and Christianity. She was baptized and changed her name to Rebecca. During a confrontation between the locals and the settlers, Pocahontas blamed her father for valuing goods and weapons more than her; moreover, she remarked that she would rather remain with the English settlers other than returning home.

While in captivity, Pocahontas met John Rolfe, an English widower, who was a tobacco farmer. They fell in love. On April 5, 1614, they married and lived on the tobacco plantation for two years. The couple was blessed with as son. The marriage helped cool down the tension between the settlers and the Indians. Virginia Company of London planned a visit to England for Pocahontas. The company’s main aim was to convert Indians into Christians through a good example of Pocahontas. She was presented in England as a princess in June 1616 through printed engravings and materials. She was presented to royalty throughout England and remained there for a year while receiving visitors and being entertained. Pocahontas died in March 1617 on their way back to Jamestown. It is not clear what killed her, but there are that she died because of food poisoning or diseases. 

It is not clear whether her life details are true or not, but stories of Pocahontas is a crucial chapter in colonial history. Her life influenced the settlement of Jamestown. She also had impact on early relationships between the Native Americans and the English settlers. She showed her heroic character saving the life of John Smith. It is true to say that Pocahontas held together the Indians and the English men in many ways.

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