Person Sheet

Name Pocahontas "Motoaka" (Rebecca) POWHATAN
Birth 17 Dec 1595, Werowocomoco,York River, VA
Death 21 Mar 1617, Gravesend, England
Father Wahunsonacock POWHATAN
Mother Winganuske or Amopotuskii NO SURNAME
1 John ROLFE
Marriage 6 Apr 1614, Smiths Plantation, VA
Children: Thomas (1615-1675)
Notes for Pocahontas "Motoaka" (Rebecca) POWHATAN
Pocahontas was Matoaka's nickname, meaning "naughty one" or "spoiled child". The myth about her saving John Smith's life is false. In 1607 when the incident allegedly occurred according to John Smith she would have been only about 11 or 12 years old at that time. In the following year, 1608, when John Smith posted his report of his winter stay with the tribe he never mentioned the incident and it wasn't until 17 years later that the story was first told, 7 years after Pocahontas had died. In John Smith's original report, he stated that he had been kept comfortable and treated in a kindly fashion as an honored guest of Powhatan. Most scholars believe that Smith told the story of his being saved from being clubbed to death by Pocahontas in order to gain more fame and favor with the English royalty, and to help provide justification for a war against Powhatan's Nation. Smith was described by his fellow colonists as an abrasive, ambitious, self-promoting mercenary soldier. The true story has a sad ending. In 1612, while on a social visit to the English colony, she was treacherously taken prisoner and held hostage for over a year while the colonists tried to leverage more food and goods from Powhatan as ransom. During her captivity, a 28 year old widower named John Rolfe took a special interest in the attractive, young prisoner. As a condition of her release, she agreed to marry Rolfe. Thus in April 1614, she was baptized "Rebecca", and became Rebecca Rolfe. Shortly thereafter the couple had their only child, a son, Thomas Rolfe. Two years later in the Spring of 1616, Rolfe took her to England where the Virginia Company of London used her in their propaganda campaign to support the colony, especially the use of tobacco. Bacause she had been given royalty status as a princess, she was wined and dined and taken to theaters. It is recorded that on one such visit to a theater, she encountered John Smith whom she had previously thought to be dead. She was so furious with him that she turned her back on him, hid her face, and was gone for several hours. When she met Smith for the second time she called him a liar and told him to leave. In 1617, John Rolfe, "Rebecca", and their son Thomas, set off to go back to Virginia, but "Rebecca" had to be taken off the ship at Gravesend, England when she became ill. She died there March 21, 1617, at the age of 21. It
was only after her death and her fame in London society that Smith found it convenient to invent the story that she had rescued him. John went back to Virginia to further the development of the tobacco crops, and Thomas stayed in England with relatives. History tells the rest of the story. In the following year, 1618, Chief Powhatan died and the Virginia colonists turned upon the people who had shared their resources and had showed them friendship.
During the next 40 years, Powhatan's people were decimated almost to extinction and dispersed and their lands were taken over. This set a pattern which was to be repeated over and over again with the rest of the American Indian tribes.
Last Modified 21 Jul 2002 Created 7 Dec 2002 by P. J. Wigington Mahan