This essay discusses the life of Pocahontas, mainly the contributions she made in creating a good relationship between her nation and that of the Englishmen who came from Scandinavia as colonists. Pocahontas was a daughter to a Powhatan paramount chief; it is claimed that she was very close to her father. Though her father had other children, Pocahontas was his favorite child, something that was so clear to everyone in his kingdom.
Pocahontas is remembered in the Indian American history due to the impact she made in the relationship between the Powhatans and the Englishmen. She was later married to John Smith, an Englishman, a marriage that was symbolic and marked a permanent peaceful relationship between the Indians and the Englishmen. She was brought up in a cultural setting whereby every aspect of life was greatly inclined towards the cultural traditions and values.
2. The Child Pocahontas
Pocahontas was a daughter to an Indian chief, Mamanatowic, who was the greatest chief of all Pewhatan towns. Her formal name was Amonute and she was the father’s favorite daughter. The love between Pocahontas and her father was a combination of filial and spiritual love that extended beyond the two of them to the people her father was serving. This father- daughter relationship was so strong to the extent of being easily noticed by the English colonists when they arrived in Powhatan.
It should be noted that Pocahontas had step brothers and sisters. The strong bond between Pocahontas and her father is said to have resulted from the fact that her mother had died while giving birth to her. Pocahontas’ mother was the chief’s first wife, a wife he married out of love and his own choice but not due to other reasons as the cultural traditions allowed.
When his first wife died, the chief was greatly grieved and devastated but finally found a spiritual connection of his wife in Pocahontas. Since her childhood, her father had great love for his daughter and did everything he could to protect her. This love reciprocated when Pocahontas loved her father equally such that nothing came between her and the love she had for her father.
3. Her Marriage to John Rolfe
She is greatly remembered in the American history because of the significant contribution she made towards assisting the colonial settlers in Jamestown. This was brought about by a meeting that took place between her and John smith in 1607.
These two people originated from two very different tribes, with different cultures and languages, and a different view of the world which made understanding each other close to impossible. Their encounter brought about bonds of peace in their two nations which had lived in chaos for a long time; this was triggered by her conversion to Christianity and marriage to John Rolfe.
The relationship between Pocahontas and John Rolfe is said to have started when a small group of English settlers came to James town. This relationship helped shape the American history in that it was the beginning of cooperation between Powhatan people and the Englishmen which led to a successful foundation of Virginia and later creation of a new nation.
This relationship led to Princess Pocahontas saving Jamestown from colonization. She would occasionally intervene on behalf of the colonists whenever differences arose between them and her tribesmen. She also travelled to the court of James as an American Indian representative and gave assistance to the Englishmen and in the process taught them on the reality of the existence of Powhatan.
There was a time Pocahontas was held hostage in Henrico. It was during this period that she became acquainted to her husband to be John Rolfe. John Rolfe was a twenty eight years old gentleman who had lost his wife earlier; by the time they first met Pocahontas was eighteen years old. John Rolfe was an Englishman but his family had departed from England to Scandinavia long before the arrival of the other Englishmen.
He had won great respect both in Scandinavia and in Norfolk, his home country. John was a handsome man, whose height was above average. John had inherited gray eyes and short nose from the family he descended from. He was a graduate of Cambridge University and a grandson to Eustace who had made a significant contribution to the building of ships that defeated the Spanish Armada.
John Rolfe was a survivor of a ship wreck in Bermuda and arrived in Virginia in 1610. His immigration to Virginia was due to a desire he had to venture into tobacco business; he had plans to build a tobacco industry among the Indian Americans. He noted that he could only obtain tobacco from the Indians or cultivate it since it never grew naturally in the new world. He started by cultivating various kinds of tobacco in order to establish the best variety and by 1613, he was shipping over a tone of tobacco to the English market.
Ever since the first encounter between Pocahontas and John Rolfe, they made it a habit to meet regularly in church, at Mr. Whitaker’s home or in the tobacco plantations where John would demonstrate to her methods of growing tobacco. As they continued meeting, Pocahontas revealed to John Rolfe the possibility of her adopting the English lifestyle as well as conforming to Christianity.
It was at this juncture that the widower started conceptualizing the idea of a life together with Pocahontas through marriage. Just before Pocahontas transformed to Christianity and joined the Church of England, his fiancee composed a long letter to Sir Thomas Dale to request the approval of the English union in their marriage endeavor since he was aware that such a scenario would have attracted negative attention.
In the letter, Rolfe expressed his earnest desire to marry Pocahontas and also revealed part of her lifestyle through her young age up to her adulthood. Negotiations were also made with the Powhatan community in order to avoid instances of new hostilities.
Pocahontas and John Rolfe were joined in a holy matrimony on the morning of 5th April, 1614 by Mr. Bucke, who was the senior minister of the church of Virginia church in the company of Rolfe’s close friend. This event took place at a small wild flower decorated church in Jamestown. Among the invited guests were Pocahontas’ uncle Opitchapan who gave her away, her two brothers who acted as Powhatan’s representatives and other guests who were invited to the church.
However, her father had refused to attend the ceremony but he sent her a gift. After Pocahontas and John Rolfe were declared a husband and wife, they went to live in a house at the shore of James River which was given to them as a gift by the Powhatan. This house was located between Henrico and Bermuda Hundred and they named it Varina, a named they had derived from a tobacco variety that John had imported from Spain.
4. The Significance of Her Marriage
This marriage symbolized a lasting union between the Englishmen and the Powhatans as it was evident from the commitments shown by Whitaker and Dale shortly after the marriage.
Whitaker wrote to his cousin in London testifying how Dale had contributed to the establishment of peace between the two nations. On the other hand, Dale wrote to the Bishop of London John King, explaining his hope upon this marriage and the impact it had upon the two nations.
Pocahontas belonged to the Mattaponi tribe of the Indian American. This was the tribe that was referred to as the tribe of the Powhatan people. The cultural traditions of this tribe gave a clear distinction between childhood and adulthood, where by Pocahontas was not an exception.
The distinction was laid down depending on the physical appearance as well as the kind of behaviors that were permitted between the children and the adults. The physical appearance was dependent on the dressing code and the hairstyle; children would be seen walking without clothes and shoes and also their hair was only cut when crossing over from childhood to adulthood. Also, children would not be allowed to take part in some cultural events.
Though Pocahontas was his father’s favorite daughter, she was not exempted from the cultural traditions that were expected of the Mattaponi tribe. Actually, children from the noble people such as the great chief of Powhatan, were expected to be brought up under high supervision and training in order to be correctly disciplined.
The same case applied to the rest of the children of Powhatan where they were protected all the time from the possibility of any kind of harm. Pocahontas received even more security due to her favored relationship with her father.
In other cultural traditions of the people of Powhatan, traditional leaders would marry maidens as a way of strengthening relations among communities. These marriages were alliance marriages but not love or choice marriages whereby a woman would be requested by his tribe to be married by a paramount chief.
However, no woman was forced to marriage and though it rarely happened, a woman would decline the offer once in a while. Incase such a case happened, the position would be quickly filled by another woman who would be willing to be involved in the alliance marriage. This culture shaped Pocahontas to a respectable person who could be listened to by the natives as well as settlers during peace negotiations as well as her marriage with John, who was respected both at home and in Powhatan.
5. The Role Pocahontas Played on Peace Issues
Pocahontas’ contributions towards the welfare of the two nations were quite significant especially after the marriage. However, her efforts are seen right from the arrival of the Englishmen in Powhatan. It is recorded that she fed some colonists who had ill motives and after being taken care of they are said to have changed their minds.
She would occasionally intervene on behalf of the colonists whenever differences arose between them and her tribesmen. She also travelled to the court of James as an American Indian representative to help the Englishmen understand the culture of the Powhatans.
The efforts of Pocahontas had a great impact on the relationship between the Indian Americans and the English settlers of Jamestown. They saved the town from the ill motives of the English colonialists and brought about a peaceful relationship that is remembered in the American history. Her marriage was considered a symbol of a lasting relationship between the Indian Americans and the Englishmen. Throughout her life, Pocahontas was a symbolic lady.
The story of Pocahontas is mainly remembered in the history of the Indian Americans as a love story that ended up in binding up two very different nations that could have otherwise lived in hostility. This is because one nation had come to colonize the other thus their relation began in a soar way but Princess Pocahontas came in to save the situation.
She was brought up under the watch of the cultural traditions and she later on met her husband to be John Rolfe. Throughout her life, Pocahontas made significant contributions to unite the Englishmen and her people.
Bruchac, Joseph. Pocahontas. Florida, Houghton: Cengage, 2005.
Calloway, Colin. First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008.
Custalow, Linwood & Daniel Angela. The True Story of Pocahontas: the Other Side of History. Colorado, USA: Fulcrum Publishing, 2007.
Pewewardy, Cornel. “The Pocahontas Paradox.” Navajo Education, 1996, http://www.hanksville.org/storytellers/pewe/writing/Pocahontas.html (accessed February 18, 2011).
Woodward, Grace. Pocahontas. Oklahoma, USA: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969.
Bruchac, Joseph, Pocahontas (Florida, Houghton Mifflin Harcour, 2005),p1
Custalow Linwood & Daniel Angela, The True Story of Pocahontas: the Other Side of History (Colorado, Fulcrum Publishing, 2007), p5
Ibid, Custalow Linwood & Daniel Angela, p6
Ibid Brunchac, Joseph, p3
Woodward, Grace, Pocahontas (USA, University of Oklahoma Press, 1969), p1
Ibid, Woodward Grace, p161
Ibid, Woodward Grace, p161
Ibid, Woodward Grace, p165
Calloway, Colin G., First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History, Boston MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008.
Ibid, Custalow Linwood & Daniel Angela.
Pewewardy, Cornel. The Pocahontas Paradox, (Journal of Navajo Education, 1996). http://www.hanksville.org/storytellers/pewe/writing/Pocahontas.html